It’s completely normal for a small business owner to have big concerns when deciding who to hire to design their website. As a local web designer that works almost exclusively with small businesses, here’s my honest advice.
I design custom WordPress websites for businesses in Woodstock, Crystal Lake, McHenry and all over Northern Illinois. I’ve made websites for healthcare companies, local retailers, real estate agents, tech companies and even a wonderful company that makes custom, one-of-a-kind gift baskets.
In some ways, every business has different needs. But there are still some key questions and concerns that everyone faces when choosing a web designer. In this post I’ll bring up some of those big concerns and offer some guidance to help you through the big decision.
Ready? Okay, let’s go!
Why Hire a Web Designer at All? Can’t I Just Do This Myself?
I hear this one a lot – along with, “Can’t I just use Wix or Squarespace? They’re so much cheaper than paying someone to do my site.”
Makes sense. If you can get a website done for nothing except the $10-28/month hosting fee, why not just do it yourself?
To be honest, if you’re a tech-oriented person and have a couple dozen hours to spare on building a site from scratch, it’s perfectly possible that you could make your own site. It’s certainly cheaper.
My concern is that a small business owner is going to decide to build their own site and then time becomes and issue. Or technical skill. Or the website looks like garbage because they don’t understand basic design and color principles. Or they build a site that looks okay but they don’t know enough about SEO to get it ranked on Google so people can actually find it.
The only thing worse than having no website is having one that turns off visitors because of poor visual design or a clunky user experience. As a web designer, I have seen many websites where the design is so bad that a visitor is actualy LESS LIKELY to buy because the website makes the company look sloppy and unprofessional. It’s a TERRIBLE thing when I know a business provides an awesome service but no one is going to hire them because the website looks so unprofessional.
If you want to make your own website and you have the time and skills to see it all the way through then yes, do it. But, if you can’t spare the hours or are lacking the background, it is my honest opinion that you are more likely to lose business than to gain it through creating your own site.
Hiring a Web Designer is Expensive and I’m On a Tight Budget. Is This Worth the Investment?
Unfortunately, this is the biggest concern most business owners I work with have. My prices are VERY reasonable but still, no small business owner wants to take on a website expense for something they don’t know will pay off.
I’ll give you a simple way to look at this. It’s exactly the thought process I go through with all of my clients.
-How much do I make off the average customer service appointment or sale?
-What is the average number of appointments or sales transactions a customer will have with my business over the course of our relationship?
-How many additional people does my average customer refer to my business?
Example: A salon might make $60 off the average customer visit. That customer might use their services 20 times over the life of their relationship. And that customer might refer an average of 5 people.
Then multiply those numbers. What you get is the lifetime value of a new customer. In the example of the salon, it would be $60 x 20 visits x 5 referrals. Which equals $6,000 ($60 x 20 x 5).
So, if your new website helps you get 1 new customer you wouldn’t have had otherwise, that is worth $6,000. 2 new customers is worth $12,000. 3 new customers, $18,000.
That’s a lot of additional revenue. Revenue that you risk losing is you have no website or a lousy one.
Conversely, if your website turns off one customer, that could mean $6,000 in potential revenue lost.
So is it worth the investment? If you hire a quality web designer who delivers professional results, then I think it’s definitely worth it. I personally get clients regularly because they see my website, think it looks awesome and then they trust me enough to hire me.
And, if the budget it tight, just ask your web designer if they can break up the fee into payments. I regularly do that for clients and I’m sure many other agencies do as well.
How Do I Vet a Web Designer to Make Sure They Know What They’re Doing?
This is a huge concern. I’ve talked to business owners who have spent significant chunks of change with a lousy web designer and then are hesitant to use my services because they’re worried they’ll just be throwing another couple thousand dollars down the toilet. And, sometimes I get to see the sites they paid for and they’re just horrible.
That’s why you absolutely have to screen your website designer because hiring them.
This actually shouldn’t be that difficult. Just follow these steps:
- Take a look at their company website. How does it look? How easy is it to navigate? Is the messaging clear? If a company can’t even make their own site look good, how could you possibly trust them to work on yours?
- Ask for examples of their work. Again, look through it and get a feel for how comfortable you would be with them making a website of similar quality for your company. Some design companies have a portfolio of their work displayed publicly on their website but others prefer to keep their clients private (often for good reasons).
- Check out their online testimonials and reviews. If they’re been in business for any length of time, they should have reviews up on Google or Facebook or elsewhere. Take the time to read through them and learn from others’ experiences.
- Meet with them. Ask them all your tough questions. Ask them about their strategies and experience and how they can guarantee results. Ask their timeline, pricing and what to expect over the long term course of your business relationship.
If you follow those 4 steps, you should be able to vet your designer very thoroughly. Then, at some point, you just have to take the plunge. No company is perfect but you find one that matches up to your needs as well as possible and then you have to take action.
How Can I Ensure the Website Accurately Reflects My Company?
The last thing you want is to have a designer go off and create a website that doesn’t accurately represent your company brand, look or feel. The key to avoiding this is to work tightly with the designer in the initial planning stages and then have regularly scheduled check-in sessions.
Website design take a lot of time so you want to be sure to the project doesn’t progress too far before having to make a course correction. I personally like to check in with my clients every week or two – usually a 15 minute video chat where we can screen share to look over the site progress. I wouldn’t go any longer than that between check-ins or you might find that the site is going way off course.
You also want to make sure you’re providing the website designer with everything they need to create a site that accurately reflects your company. High quality logos, company pictures, ad copy, testimonials, lists of services and products, brand colors, brand story, etc. If they ask for it, you need to make sure you get it to them.
What If I Pay All This Money and Then No One Visits My Website?
What if you spend all that money and never get any business from the site? That is a very real concern and you need to work with a designer who also knows how to get your website in front of eyeballs.
There are a few pieces to this. The biggest one is proper SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the technical process that gets your website showing up on the first page of search results on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. This is a very technical skill and you want to make sure your web designer knows what they have to do with your site to get it ranking. Be sure to ask them about this.
Additionally, it is beneficially to work with a designer who understands social media marketing. Because social media marketing is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to drive traffic to your website. If the company you use can handle both of these tasks, it will be well worth the money to engage in both services.
Should I Hire a Local Web Design Company or a Larger National Agency?
Virtually 100% of the time, you want to use someone local. You want someone who can meet with you in person, get to know your business, walk through your actual brick and mortar, help you with branding and taking pictures and getting to really know your needs as a business owner. A local designer will also know a lot of the specific target audiences of your local business – who they are, where they hang out, what they’re into and just the general lay of the land. You’ll also have the advantage of being able to ask around about them with your peers.
There are some fantastic national agencies. I actually partner with several international agencies. But I do it sparingly and greatly prefer working with someone where I can shake their hand and look in their eyes and develop a tight working relationship.
I hope these tips and ideas have been helpful. If you’re looking for a web designer yourself (even if you’re not in my Woodstock, Crystal Lake, McHenry and Northern Illinois web design region), please give me a call. I also work nationally when it makes sense for both myself and the client.