Deciding between building a website on your own and deciding to have it professionally created can be a very tough decision for a small business owner. Many small business owners often times do not even have the time to research the pros and cons of each and must opt to hire a professional. Like any other investment, a website has the potential to make a massive return and bring the business lead after lead. This is why it is important to choose the right online presence for your business. We will examine the ramifications of each decision and what pitfalls to avoid.
Benefits of Professional Web Design
If you manage to find a great web designer or company that fits your budget and produces quality work, then you will more than likely end up with a polished website that not only be functional and great looking, but will not need to be redesigned in the near future.
Professionally created websites share a few very important characteristics:
Completed in CSS
Ideally your web designer would create your site in fast loading, easily editable, and search engine friendly CSS. If you aren’t sure if your designer is creating your site in CSS, take a good look at the source code ( View > View Source in most browsers . Look for code to be enclosed in<div> tags vs <td> and <tr> tags. There will be times when the use of tables is called for, but the main goal is to ensure that the designer isn’t using the tables to structure the layout of the site. Tables take much longer to load in browsers and hurt your search rankings because search engine crawlers have to work harder to find out what your site is about. More info on CSS in the glossary.
SEO optimization is a process unto itself, but there are some simple things you can check on with your designer to ensure they are optimizing your site properly. Make sure they have inserted meta tags ( not a high priority but do have them), meta description, alt tags for each image, h1, h2, and h3 tags, and a CSS based layout.
Eye pleasing Design
This is another topic unto itself, but at the very least ask yourself if your website is pleasing to the eye and inviting. Compare it to the designer’s previous works or similar sites. Is the quality sufficient? Remember that honestly the
designer knows best when it comes to aesthetics, because that is their job. Just make sure that you aren’t sacrificing functionality or your customers for the sake of prettiness. Good web design marries form and function. Again, not only should your designer be doing research to get inspiration for your design, but you should be partaking in the process as well. Look at your competitor sites and other ‘professionally’ created sites for inspiration.
A well constructed site has a ‘call to action’. It invites the visitor to perform a specific action whether it be to click on a button or fill out a form. This should be the ultimate goal of your website if you hope to achieve success. It should also be easy to navigate and well organized. Be sure to scrutinize how your designer plans to layout the material you’ve given them because this will be very important in the long run.
Free yourself to work on other tasks – You are a small business owner, and having to research html, constantly update content, or learn ever changing software is only going to detract from what you are trying to accomplish with your business. Leaving these tasks to a professional web designer leaves you time to take your business. Hiring a professional will also more than likely decrease the amount of time it will take for you to get your business up and running if it is solely dependent on online revenue. Most designers will have a simple 5 page website completed in 30 days or less. ( Unless it is overly complicated)
Multiple Solutions – More than likely, your web designer will be able to create matching business cards or other promotional materials. This will prevent the hassle of having to hire another separate designer for those materials while you waste time trying to learn html and get the site completed.
Someone to guide you – A good web designer will be able to help you if you are stuck. You’ve heard of google ad words, ftp, twitter, etc, but have no earthly clue how it applies to your business or your website. They can explain these things to you and guide you along. If you decide to go it alone, you will have to research these things on your own, taking away valuable time away from building your business.
Selecting the right web designer takes time.
This can become a time consuming task, although an extremely important one. Taking the time to find the right person or company for the job will require some researching, phone time, and possibly reference checking. You can skip all these things, but it is definitely something that can come back to haunt you.
Expensive – Great work does not come cheap unless you get extremely fortunate and find an affordable, quality
freelancer or a web design company that is slashing prices to scoop up clients. Many top agencies or more popular web design companies locally will literally charge you an arm and a leg for a great looking website. These companies have large overheads and will charge upwards of $75 -$150+ and hour for design work.
Unless you have deep pockets, it is well worth seeking out a professional freelancer that can give you the same type of quality work for much less. If you really feel that you have something truly special though, it may be worth your while to hire a top design firm to provide you with top notch work that will lure investors and wow your customers.
Every business will have different needs, but the key here is to realize that a professional website will require a substantial investment regardless of who you hire. Be smart about who you ultimately hire.