Not every savvy business owner wants to delve into the world of managing their own website. Websites like Wix, Weebly, or GoDaddy have very intuitive platforms for individuals to build their own website. The tools are pretty simple to understand and the templates provided make it even easier to launch your own website without the investment that comes with hiring a web development company or web designer. However, those two options of DIY or outsource hiring do have a logical path of different results.
A DIY site will give you a presence on the internet and may offer some basic promotional tools to get your site noticed by search engines. But that’s about the most you can expect. Hiring a web designer is a more involved process and definitely includes a lot more sophisticated possibilities to get your site generating leads and a ROI. Here is a good reference post that gives a way to measure ROI.
“Look past the aesthetic design and more into functionality of how a site works.”
Once you’ve decided the DIY route is not for you, then comes the search for a qualified web designer with experience.
Q1: What is the average cost of websites you have designed for other clients?
An experienced web designer should not hesitate to share budget ranges for various types of websites they’ve built for past clients. They should be able to give examples of some sites and the range of budget the client invested for the end product. This will help you establish if the web designer is able to provide you a quality site at a budget you can afford. More than the initial potential sticker shock of some prices quoted, you should definitely understand the breakdown of costs.
Many web designers are tasked with creating content for the site more than just coding and designing a layout. Things like images, video, PDF’s, testimonial quotes, stock photos, etc. are all elements a web designer will need to make your site more professional. Gathering those assets can be time consuming and add to the budget if the client doesn’t have them readily available. Even then, some pre-made assets a client may possess may not fit the theme or goals a site may have and new assets may need to be created. So when considering budget, understand that there may be many unseen aspects that go into making that budget up and it’s your job to fully grasp all the variables.
Q2: How will updates to my website be made?
So you’ve elected to bypass the DIY option and hire a website designer. That doesn’t mean the website designer is in the business of maintaining your website. From a technical standpoint, most website designers will ensure the code and 24/7 presence of your site are maintained so you don’t experience down time. Beyond that is the burden of keeping your site fresh with content or updates.
Considerations for Updates
For example, we have built websites and handed over the keys to a client to maintain with updates themselves. We’ve given them a back end access to the site so they can make regular updates. We’ve also worked with clients who don’t have or want to take the time to do content updates and asked us to perform that task for them. Either option will require someone in your organization to keep on top of “what” content should uploaded on a regular basis. Even changes in business hours, staff changes, new contact information, etc. may not be that difficult to handle, but someone needs to stay on top of keeping that information current on the site. Larger endeavors may involve adding new products or services, events, latest news, videos, images, etc. Those may be more involved and, again, someone in your organization will need to champion that maintenance aspect.
A webmaster is not going to randomly create content that is catered to your business or industry without having to invest time researching your market segment. That is more of a consultative web designer who doubles as a marketing consultant to ensure your site is relevant and current. The critical part of any updating of the site after launch will be ensuring that the content being added is also polished to keep your site search engine rankings as best as possible.
So just because you have an administrative assistant who can do the admin to update the site doesn’t mean what they are uploading or putting on the site is going to meet the SEO needs of your site. It’s something you should really investigate with the web designer and get their recommendation on how to keep your site maintained and not lose the SEO needed to keep your present in search results from sites like Google.
“Remember that time is important to your website visitor, so easy navigation to content should be a design priority.”
Q3: Is there a monthly cost after the initial design investment?
Surprisingly, many clients we’ve served since 1999 have not fully understood that having a website is not a one-time investment and then it just lives on the internet. Things like hosting, updating, search engine optimization, and even regular design refreshment is all reasonable to assume will cost. Like owning a home or car, there will be additional costs along the way that you need to prepare for. Ask the web designer what types of additional costs there will be once the site is launched. They may or may not offer hosting with their design, but chances are they do.
Hosting has a broad spectrum of pricing. Things like backups, firewalls, antivirus, CDN, or even software updates for the website platform may all require fees beyond the simple storing of the website files. Some hosts provide a certain amount of traffic bandwidth each month (the number of visitors and how often they may visit can increase your bandwidth) in their base price. If your site exceeds that traffic volume (good for you) then there may be related costs. It’s similar to your cell phone plan with caps on data use.
A good site that provides valuable content to the visitor can definitely become popular. Google, for example, can affect your site traffic potential simply by having a good SEO savvy web designer who codes the site to be ranking higher in search results. People may click to your site more frequently… increasing traffic… potentially increasing bandwidth use, etc. So be sure to ask this question so surprise fees don’t frustrate you after launching.
Q4: What sort of content should my website definitely have?
Sadly, a lot of websites may be designed well, easy to navigate, but lack in the kinds of information people want to get while there. For example, many companies never put pricing on their website simply because they want to avoid competitors gaining insight, but more so because they desire to have the sales negotiation process occur offline with an actual staff member. This isn’t necessarily a bad practice, but in some cases when a company is in a highly competitive industry, having your starting prices, for example, may quickly motivate a visitor to contact you for more information.
The average consumer, today, will spend 81% of their research time of a potential purchase using the internet to educate themselves before ever speaking to a company that offers the product or service they desire. What that means is a company’s website is a crucial tool to help a potential customer become both educated and confident in your brand before they will even speak to you live. So defining WHAT you should have online is very critical to ensure the site will serve your brand as good as possible to generate leads or assure consumer brand loyalty.
Well Planned Content Strategy
A competent web designer will have a basic outline of the main menu navigation items to include. Things like ABOUT US or CONTACT are common among all well designed sites. However, beyond that it may become a little more specific. A lot of smaller businesses are convinced that the website shouldn’t give away too much information so that it forces the visitor to contact them. This is a two-edged sword. While the intent is understandable, today’s consumer is too experienced in researching online to be willing to simply pick up a phone because of pretty pictures or the promises of true happiness a company claims.
Practical Lessons to Learn
We had a client whose owner was used to handshakes on a golf course to close clients. While that method certainly worked for a lot of the customers he added to his business, the ability to have that one on one connection was becoming harder and harder to repeat over the years. We explained that today’s consumer, even older and higher income buyers, were more dependent on the internet to eliminate potential products or services from consideration simply by scouring a website.
Unfortunately, this owner was skeptical about putting out too much content which would leave the customer no reason to call. Our counterpoint was that a customer would be more likely to call if you gave them enough information to compare your product or service to competitors. Obviously, the type of industry and demographic of consumer will affect this concept, but in general, it is a very important aspect.
Make sure to explain your business and industry as thoroughly as possible. Be prepared to show the web designer competitor websites, features, and content you appreciate. This type of input will help the web designer be more capable of developing a content plan that will suit your needs.
“Some clients get stuck with a website nobody else can update or fix if they part ways with the original web designer.”
Q5: If we choose to find a new webmaster, will your design and my website be transferable to someone else?
We’ve been in business since 1999 when the internet boom was really taking shape in the United States. Sure, sites like AOL were giving people access to internet content, but it was really the late 90s when the internet as we now use was at its infancy. HTML was a known language in coding but there were some people using languages like PERL and ASP to make websites. In fact, other languages like JAVA and COLDFUSION and PHP were becoming more and more prominent in creating professional websites. A web designer can be both a graphic designer and coder and that gives the client an advantage. Some coders are fantastic at coding a site but their designs are a bit stale and basic. Some web designers are great at the GUI (Graphical User Interface or the aesthetic look and layout of a page on a website) but their coding lacks the beef that makes the site good with search engines or multiple browsers. Because of these factors, over the years some businesses have outgrown their website designs and need to update them or redo them entirely.
Technology is a fickle friend. It boths helps us and annoys us because it’s always changing and becoming some new evolved child that doesn’t play well with older children but also introduces faster and more efficient ways of existing than before. Browser updates are a never ending reality with the internet. Some hacker finds a security hole and voila… a new update has to be added to your browser. Unfortunately, sometimes a browser company also introduces new ways to display websites that make your company site not appear as it should.
For example, a font or graphic gets visually messed up because Microsoft, in their monopoly minded ways, decides to have their browser interpret your coded website differently than Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. A web designer can only develop your site to accommodate the known older browsers at the time and the current browsers at the time. Over years, sometimes browser versions make older websites obsolete to view and it’s simply time to update the site. This is just one example of the shelf life of a website design.
Coding Language or Platform
Knowing what software the web designer is using to create your site and if that platform has a history or if there are a lot of other web designers out there who can simply take over the site if you part ways is a very important part of this process of investigating who to choose to build your site. Sure, a web designer want you to remain loyal to them, and hopefully their customer service and quality work yields that result. But sometimes web designers move on from their current company or go out of business or, heaven forbid, leave this earthen realm. You need to plan for the worst case scenario and protect your investment.
There are stories-O-plenty in our history as a company of clients who spent thousands of dollars on a website only to have it become obsolete or the webmaster who built it is no longer around. We certainly want our customers to remain loyal and we do our best to stay up to date on the latest technology changes to ensure our sites endure and have a long term usability. But the reality is that most of the dependable sites out there today are using coding and methods that have already been proven for a while and are stable enough for the mass market of web designers to use for their clients. If the web designer is nervous and not willing to decree their website technology as transferable, you may want to reconsider using them purely from a protected investment standpoint.
Remember that your website is no different than a piece of machinery you purchase to assemble your product or a computer to do the accounting for your business. It’s an asset. It is even considered an asset in IRS terms, so treat it as an investment and one which will be creating new business for you. Also, never forget that like a piece of machinery, you need to keep it updated and in good working order so it can help you be successful. Don’t have a site built and let it go on autopilot like many companies do. Keep the site fresh with new content regularly so your visitors see that you’re still in business. There’s nothing more scary than to see a website with a picture of the company picnic from 2014 as the latest news. Lol.