Deciding to build a website to launch your new business or to undergo a refresh of your existing site can be daunting due to the cost and investment in getting it right and the potential impact on your business if you get it wrong! Your website is, in most cases, going to be your ‘shop front’, the first impression customers will get about you and your brand. Therefore, finding the right website designer for you and your business is key.
But with so many designers to choose from, how do you find the one that will not only understand your requirements but build a site that reflects your brand and can be easily maintained as you grow? I’ve compiled my top tips and the questions you need to be asking to find your perfect designer.
Understand the types (and cost!) of website that are available
Many people aren’t aware of the different groups of platforms that are used to create websites and that designers will typically specialise in a particular type. You may like a designer’s work but the site they create for you may not have the functionality your business needs. Therefore, it is good practice to choose or have an idea of the type of platform first before selecting your designer. I’ve listed below the three main groups of platforms below:-
- Website builder platforms e.g. Wix, Squarespace – these sites are essentially owned by the overarching company and work on a ‘rental basis’, providing relatively customisable templates from which you can create your site for an monthly or annual fee. Although relatively user friendly they can be limited on functionality and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
- Templated Content Management Systems e.g. WordPress – with these templated platforms you actually own your own website and have greater capability to customise your site in line with your brand and business objectives. They are typically easy to manage and should you need to change web designer, you can usually find someone else to help with ongoing development. Cost wise, they are usually a bit more expensive than the website builder platforms.
- Custom Coded – this type of site is built without using any theme or website builder and as such, provides the greatest flexibility with regards to design, functionality and SEO. However, this does come at a cost, both for the initial build and typically for ongoing enhancement of the site. Also depending on the code used you could find that you struggle to find a replacement developer should you ever need to.
Make sure you know what you’re paying for
A price of a website can vary from £99 to in excess of £100K and everything in between! Some of the pricing will come down to what I’ve mentioned above, around type of platform and the level of customisation, but there are other factors such as integrations, special features and the experience of the designer that can affect price. In addition, there are several supporting items which you may assume are included in your price that can catch you out, these are:-
- Hosting – if you’re using Wix and Squarespace hosting is included in their annual subscription fee. With the other types of platforms I mentioned check with the website designer whether they also offer hosting and what this will cost you annually. All my website designs come with one years free hosting, but you can purchase this separately if you wish. Check out my pricing here
- Copy writing – most website designers will expect you to provide the copy for your site, so if you need help with writing make sure you ask for this in your quote.
- Imagery – as with copy, this is another item usually supplied by you, although the majority of designers will make an allowance for stock imagery.
- Content upload – some designers will add in all of your copy and images so that the end result is a fully finished site, but this is worth checking as the job may fall to you!
- Domain name – it’s usually assumed you’ll have a domain name but if not make an allowance to purchase one, this can vary in price depending on the name you choose.
- Cutover – depending on whether this is your first site or you’re re-developing an old one, you may need help with ‘cutting the site over’ to your chosen domain. Raise with your website designer whether they’ll help with this and if there will be a charge.
- Training – your website designer should cover the basics of how to add and amend your content, but it is worth asking if they provide further training for more in-depth website edits
- Ongoing support – a good website designer will make sure you are able to amend content that changes frequently yourself, keeping your ongoing costs low. However, do ask about ongoing support, as many designers will offer packages if you require more substantial changes or encounter any problems. Find out the cost of their aftercare, what’s included and whether it’s offered on a monthly or ad hoc basis.
- SEO – I’ve left this to last as it is a multi-faceted beast! Many website designers do not provide SEO as standard, particularly the ongoing investment in content that is required for a good ranking. However, they may offer SEO support centred around the set up of the site such as SSL certificate, title tags, meta tags, meta description and alt tags. It is also worth asking how they’ll incorporate your keywords and structure your content to give you a good base for search.
Check their creativity and flexibility
A good website designer will create and adapt a website that meets your brand and style requirements as well as thinking about the journey your customers will take through your site. The end result should be a unique online experience, regardless of platform. It is therefore important to get samples of a designers work. Several example sites looking the same should ring alarm bells and suggests they use the same layout template for every client which would leave little room for personalisation and alignment to your brand. If you would like to see some examples of my work, you can view them here.
Do your homework
Launching a new website can be stressful! Typically you’ll be engaging with just the designer so a good working relationship is critical. Take time to do your research; request their portfolio; read reviews on social media and Google My Business and ask to speak to current / previous clients. All these things combined should give you a good idea of not only the quality of their work but the relationship they have with their clients.