You could say getting a new website is a lot like buying a car. You can spend a little or a lot. What you get for your money may get you where you want fast or it may end up costing you more money... more money trying to fix it, more money in lost business or more money buying another website that works. There's a wide range of function and quality available. Ultimately, you'll need to decide exactly what you want in a website and how much you're willing to spend to get it. There are four basic ways to get your new website:
- Your neighbor's nephew
Do-it-yourself website builders will save you money but give you less control and professionalism. Hiring your neighbor's nephew will probably give you similar results. And hiring a professional may not end in your favor, either. Understanding the fundamentals of a web design project will help you make a more informed decision and asking a few questions will help ensure your project runs smoothly.
Does Your Web Designer Have a Website?
This is pretty basic. The cobbler's kids theory doesn't apply here. If your web designer hasn't built him/herself a website, he may not have much experience in web design. If there is a website, does it look and function like a professional site should?
Does Your Web Designer Have a Portfolio or Example Sites?
This is also basic. If you can't see examples of your designer's work, you have no way of knowing if he/she is up to the task. You wouldn't hire a contractor to build a house without seeing past work would you?
Will You Be Getting a Custom Design or a Template?
A lot of web designers use templates to build clients' sites. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It saves time and money for you, but it means you get a cookie cutter site that's not unique to your look or brand. If you get quoted less than $1000, it's probably a templated site.
Does Your Web Designer Know SEO?
A beautiful website won't do you any good if your customers can't find it. Your web designer should understand and implement basic on-page SEO techniques along with basic keyword research.
Will Your Website Be Responsive or Mobile Optimized?
There's no reason now not to have a mobile friendly site. If your site doesn't render well on mobile devices, you'll likely lose business.
Will You Be Getting a Content Management System (CMS)?
You'll either need to be able to edit and maintain your site or you'll need to expect to pay someone every time you need updates. A static site with no CMS may save you money up front, but it may cost more in the long run. Drupal, Wordpress and Joomla are all common CMS platforms.
What Features and Functionality Will You Need?
Will you be selling products on your website? If so, you'll need e-commerce which can significantly add to the price. Do you need a blog? Do you need multiple user or membership accounts with member profiles? Any custom development can add to the price. Your designer/developer should be able to walk you through your website needs after listening to your objectives.
Will Your Web Designer Be Around in a Year or Two?
You want to make sure you're dealing with someone who will be around to make website software updates, add functionality should your needs change or just give you general support. The best way to ensure that you're getting stability is to hire someone who has been in business for a while.
What's Your Budget?
Good websites are expensive. A $500 website is not the same as a $5000 site. If you're getting multiple quotes that range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, make sure you know what is being promised and what your designer is capable of. It's tempting to go for the lowest bid but, like buying a car, that's not necessarily the best choice.
If you hire a company, expect to pay more. You may be paying for market research, user experience testing, search engine marketing campaigns and a number of other extras. These things can be beneficial if you can afford them. You can get a comparable site minus the extra research for a more reasonable price by hiring a freelancer.
Finding the right individual or entity to build your site can be frustrating but a little groundwork will help make it as painless as possible. Know your basics, ask some questions and you should end up with a great website.