In this article, I expose the ins and outs of how to choose a web designer for small business owners.
I show you how to determine whether you need a website design company to help you or if you can achieve what you need with a website builder yourself.
I also share a vast array of free software and tools that you can use to DIY your website if you think that is the right path for you.
Finally, I provide some detailed business analysis tools that help you understand how to evaluate the financial return on all elements of your website, whether you engage a web design company or you build your website yourself.
Table of Contents
- Why Do I Need a Web Developer?
- Do You Need a Website?
- But…We use Social Media Instead of a Website Because it’s Free.
- I get lots of word of mouth advertising, so I don’t need a website.
- OK, So I Need to Create a Website, How Do I Get Started?
- So, Why Do I Need a Website Again?
- DIY Website using Website Builders
- Value vs. Cost – Solutions Have no Value
- Website Builders and Lifetime Value of Customers
- Do Some Simple Website ROI Maths
- Is a DIY Website Builder the Right Solution to Solve Your Problem?
- What do Website Developers and Doctors Have in Common?
- Other Web Development Tools You Could use to DIY your website.
- More Tools To DIY a Website
- The Importance of Images, Software, Video
- Why Video Is an Important Inclusion in Your Website
- Choosing a Local Web Design Company or an Offshore Web Developer
- What About Outsourcing Web Development?
- How Do You Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Project?
- Web Development is More Than Just Code and More than Just a Website.
- Importance of Copywriting
- Do You Need Inbound Marketing to Make Your Website Work
- How Long Does it Take for Your Website to Start Producing Results?
- How Does Knowing This Help Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Small Business?
- Australian Small Businesses Need Help Online
- How Does Knowing This Help Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Small Business?
Why Do I Need a Web Developer?
It’s easy for non-web-developers to think that a website is merely the sum of its technical parts.
That is, what tools and processes are used to publish a website online so when your customers search for your business they find the information you’ve published.
A website is a sum of many parts, the coding, and technical components being just one tiny part of creating a useful marketing tool that:
- Grabs the attention of your ideal customers and generates leads
- Reflects your brand accurately to your target market
- Moreover, communicates the right message to the right customer at the right time.
Even though we are a web design agency based in Sutherland Shire in NSW Australia, these considerations, tips, hacks, and hints help business owners all over the world to make the right decision for their circumstances.
Remember, no one knows your business as you do.
Throughout this post I reference the report below which is linked throughout so you can grab your own copy
Do You Need a Website?
Picture for a moment the process you take when you’re looking to find a business or to buy a product or service.
Where do you go? Google? Bing? Social Media?
So why would you think your customers are any different?
The fact that you’re here reading this means that you think you do, or at least you’re doing some serious research to weigh up the pros and cons of creating a website.
Also, you may even be trying to figure out if you are going to be engaging a web design company or going it alone with a DIY solution.
Different industries and market segments have varying adoption rates of websites, but what is clear from the most recent statistics is that consumers want businesses to be online.
According to this 2018 report from Telstra, 48% of consumers stop considering you if you don’t have a website, yet 50% of Australian small businesses still don’t have a website.
If your customers can’t find you online then maybe they’ll find your competitors.
A business website is no longer about having it ‘because it’s a good idea.’
I saw a sign-written car just yesterday emblazoned with the company name and phone number in large, bold lettering and was visible at a distance.
The website URL on the vehicle was so small you could hardly read it. In my opinion, that company has missed the reason for creating a website and are not leveraging a serious marketing tool they have at their disposal.
A website is one important digital tool for your business to get found and attract the attention of your ideal customers and is used by customers in so many ways, including basics such as:
- A place where prospects and customers can find facts and figures about you, your product or service
- A place to start to start a conversation and encourage further engagement
- A place to buy, book-in online and take some action that generates a lead and potentially a sale for your business, (maybe even while you’re sleeping)
Its incredible in 2018, 50% of all Australian business owners have decided not to get online, and it costs them, customers.
In that same Telstra Australian Small Business report, 83% of consumers say that search is important or very important when finding or considering a business.
You need your website to get found online because your website is an interactive, engaging marketing tool, representing your business and stacked against your competitors.
It’s not a passive brochure that you hope people find, maybe, someday.
As we are talking marketing when we’re talking website design, here’s the best marketing advice I’ve ever read.
“Success in marketing hinges solely on your ability to identify exactly who is looking for your product, why they want it, and why they should get it from you. If you strive to please everyone regardless of their desires or motives, you end up diluting your message so much that it no longer speaks to the few people who are actually in your target audience. Ignore those who don’t matter, focus on speaking to the ones who do.”
Author: Unknown, Maybe Seth Godin.
This quote above describes how your websites should communicate with your ideal customers.
“But…We use Social Media Instead of a Website Because it’s Free.”
It’s true that social media is an incredibly valuable part of your business marketing ecosystem and should be a part of every business’ digital marketing strategy.
These social platforms also provide an enormous amount of value, for free, if not being time-consuming and appearing to be reduced in their organic effectiveness due to algorithm changes.
Choosing to create a website is a matter of control over your business and you selecting what is shown, how and when to whom. Social Media vs. a Website is an aging debate now, and we’ll turn to the stats again for support.
But first, consider this.
Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Snapchat. Those businesses control those platforms. Not you. They can, and do, change their algorithms, often with real impact on businesses that depend upon them for their livelihood exclusively.
According to Conversion Strategies you should:
“Be a Control Freak: You Need to Be in 100% Control of Your Online Presence.”
Yes, a website costs more, and yes there are other administrative actions needed to get your website live, like registering a domain name, organising website hosting and more.
I recognise that for many businesses, the social media platforms make it easy to post photos, write messages, run competitions, talk to the public directly and more.
And that is appealing to many as it is free and easy with a low barrier and steady learning curve.
Doing this simple search below on Google produces 147 million! results which detail the history of businesses scrambling to keep up with just facebook’s ‘algo’ changes.
Search: “stats on businesses affected by algorithm changes in facebook”
As the barriers to entry are so low on social media, everyone can set up a facebook page for example, in a matter of minutes ( yes I know that’s appealing, but stick with me…).
Yes anyone with internet access can make themselves appear to be something they are/are not for ZERO cost.
A website takes some time, money and foresight – and a lousy website stands out, where a bad facebook page – well they all look very similar.
The point here is credibility. A credible, professional business has a website. Someone running a hobby ( or a scam ) may not.
Again, I believe social media is a valuable and critical part of your marketing strategy but not the only platform or strategy.
Your website is your digital foundation.
It’s like renting or leasing a building to house your business or owning the premises.
The importance of social media for businesses is highlighted by the facts in Yellow Social Media Report 2018:
- 88% of Australians surveyed have a social media profile
- More than six in ten (62%) use social media sites daily with 34% checking in more than five times a day
- One in three say they will inspect a brand’s social media presence before making an online purchase if they have not purchased from their website before.
The point is this, with social media, control is not yours and never will, no matter how important Social is as part of an integrated marketing plan.
Back to those 2018 Telstra stats for a moment and credibility.
Remember the stats that demonstrate that 49% of consumers won’t consider your business if you don’t have a website?
The figure is 10% if you don’t have a facebook page.
That is, only 10% of prospects won’t consider your business if you don’t have a facebook page.
Yet 66% of businesses have a Facebook page compared to 50% having a website when websites provide a 40% greater influence over purchasing decisions!
Which do you think is more important to your potential customers?
I think Face to Face is best for my business; I get lots of word of mouth advertising, so I don’t need a website.
Finally, let’s address these common fallacies which may apply to businesses that have been operating for many years.
Here are the facts:
- 71% of customers want to contact customers through multiple channels (email, phone, face to face)
- Only 33% of customers say face to face is preferable to other communication channels
- However, 74% of small businesses use face to face communications often
See the gap?
What business think and what customers want are a long way apart here with respects to communication.
In addition to this, while word of mouth is a vital decision heuristic in making purchasing decisions, its ranked 3rd behind Search and Online Reviews.
Getting the picture?
The landscape has changed and if you are not willing to adapt and change you will lose to competitors who do.
OK, So I Need to Create a Website, How Do I Get Started?
The first step is to understand what you want to achieve with your website.
A good website design company starts by asking questions focused on you and your customers, not budget and pages.
Here’s a short list of reasons why they ask lots of good questions. Excellent web design firms want to know about you and your business first, and what you want from your website second.
- understanding you, your business,
- your goals, where your roadblocks are,
- how you want to serve your customers,
- how you want to serve your business
- and what problems you are aiming to solve ( or opportunities to leverage) for your customer and in your business.
If the first question out of a web designer’s mouth is how “much do you want to pay and how many pages do you want?”
You’ll likely get an online brochure that does little to generate leads and sales, not an interactive marketing tool.
If that’s your first question.
Go back to the beginning and ask yourself why you want a website.
While cost is an essential factor, achieving your core outcomes should be the focus of every investment you make in your business, including designing a website.
If you don’t know what to expect from a pricing perspective here is an excellent video which provides a web design pricing guideline.
While it’s in USD these prices translate to Australia well enough to act as a guideline and starting point.
When you’ve watched this video head over to this simple ROI (return on investment ) calculator to understand the potential benefit of your website investment.
If you don’t already have a website punch in the numbers (or projected numbers) and see what you need to do to get a return on your website investment.
So, Why Do I Need a Website Again?
Another way to ask yourself the ‘Why do I need a website?” question is to think about what you want your customers to be able to do while they are visiting and what you want them to do during their visits.
Most customers probably check out your business, your products, and services; looking for reviews from other customers; looking to contact you, book-in with you or buy from you.
Your aim, while you have their attention on your website, is to provide a CTA (Call to Action) that is congruent with their needs.
That is, give them what they are looking for and stop wasting time!
- email us here
- make a booking/ book in now
- call us now / contact us /email us
- learn more about our products/services
- download this information about…
- watch the video to learn…
- subscribe to our newsletter to get on the insider list/ be the first to know/ for monthly updates about…
If that’s what they are looking for, then give it to them as 88% of customers go elsewhere if a business is too hard to deal with.
Meeting your website visitors expectations is essential for your website to perform as an ROI positive marketing tool for your business.
These types of CTA’s are critical to online success.
Turning to Telstra again we know that 29% of customers stop considering you if they can’t buy or book online.
Almost ⅓ of your potential customers buy or book with a competitor if you don’t offer the solution. You’ve got to know who your customer is and what your customers want.
To help you get this understanding, if you don’t already have a website, or you have one but need a website redesign, a good idea is to ask all of your current customers / visitors 2 or 3 questions about what they would like to do on your website and how else your business ( as a whole ) can serve them better.
Ok Enough Already…
So let’s assume, you’ve made the decision that you need a website, what you’d like your customers to do and find while they are visiting and the how the website (tool) helps your business create profit.
Next, you need to ask yourself, do you build it yourself with a DIY website builder, do you engage an offshore freelance web designer or do you get a specialist web design company to assist?
DIY Website using Website Builders
There are a large number of DIY website builders available today, and this isn’t a review of these.
PC mag provides an excellent review of the most common website builders in 2018.
In my opinion, these website builders focus on simple, attractive design, which is fast to achieve simply and quickly, from a range of pre-built templates, at a low cost.
Some even provide the ability to get your eCommerce store online. One of the more popular current versions, WIX describes their services as:
“Our services offer our users the ability to easily create beautiful and highly functional online presence, to manage and promote businesses, content, and ideas, and have an overall great experience doing so – without being tech-savvy or a design guru.”
Sounds great… doesn’t it?
Value vs. Cost
Consider this. If 1 business pays $3,000-$5,000 for a website with ongoing maintenance and security fees, and an online website builder charges $50 a month total, which is better value?
The simple answer is the website that produces the best ROI, irrespective of the investment.
Your website is a marketing tool.
The purpose of marketing is to help a business define/demonstrate/make aware the value of its goods and services to the right ‘consumers’ at the right time so that they are compelled to purchase yours. (instead of competitors)
So whether you pay $500 for the year or $5,000, whichever produces the best return on monies invested is the best for your business.
Achieving value for money is everyone’s goal when choosing a website solution.
However, remember solutions have no value. Solutions derive their value from the cost of the problems they solve.
One of our clients, Bridge Auto Repairs, a mechanic in Taren Point, NSW, had customer leakage issue to mechanic workshops run by younger operators that were active online via websites and social media.
They also had an issue with motor dealers and potential misinformation about who can service a vehicle and still maintain your new car warranty.
The cost of their problem had been increasing over time and was manifesting itself via client retention issues and new client acquisition issues.
A website focused on informing prospects on the value of their business and the facts around new car warranties, providing the ability to book online and increasing local visibility through SEO and citations, while encouraging reviews to increase social proof has produced results.
They knew the cost of their problem.
Website Builders and Lifetime Value of Customers
Let’s say you decide that you need a website to generate more leads for your business and to convert more leads to sales.
Perhaps you have noticed that the traditional marketing you have been doing for many years, like ads in the local newspaper, have been declining in response and the demographics of your service area has changed.
More families with children have moved into the area, and pensioners make up a smaller portion of the population now. So fewer newspapers are read, and more of your prospect’s attention is online via their mobile devices.
(If you live in Sutherland Shire in NSW, take note and do some demographic research!)
Wherever you are, get access to your local population statistics – it can be liberating, frightening and insightful all at once.
Do Some Simple Website ROI Maths
You decide to spend $500 on a DIY website builder to create your website and get online quickly to access this new demographic.
How do you know if this $500 is going to solve your problem if you don’t know the cost of your problem?
Before making any decision about using a DIY website builder or engaging a web development company, you would identify the cost of this problem to your business.
If you have produced $25,000 less revenue this year, but are working the same hours or more and have spent the same on marketing, you have a $25,000 problem as a minimum.
Is a $500 investment a reasonable amount to solve that problem?
It might be a place to start but to return $25,000 (solve your $25,000 problem) your ROI would have to be 50:1!
If you can achieve this type of return, perhaps you can share your secret? I promise I won’t tell anyone!
Consider this as a straightforward example and a way to understand the cost of your problem so you can understand the investment needed.
- How many customers did I have last year and what was their average spend?
- How much did it cost me to get each of those customers?
- How much profit did I generate from each customer for each transaction?
- How many times would I service the same customer in the same year?
If you can’t do that at the granular level, then work on some simpler maths that helps you understand how much each customer is worth to you (profit) and how much it cost to acquire them (advertising costs), in a given period.
Because to understand value fully, you need to understand the Lifetime Value of your customers.
That is, over time, what is a single customer, on average worth to your business?
When you know that number, you know how much you can spend to acquire a customer and be profitable.
Here is a fantastic Infographic detailing how to calculate LTV (Lifetime Value of Customers).
Run the numbers and understand their value and the cost of the problem you need a website and digital marketing solution to solve.
++ Click Image to Enlarge ++
Source: How To Calculate Lifetime Value
Is a DIY Website Builder the Right Solution to Solve Your Problem?
13 questions to ask when determining if a DIY Website builder is the right tool for you and your business right now.
- How much time does it take to learn the tools, learn design, write compelling copy and create powerful CTA’s?
- How quickly do you learn new skills (like design) and adapt to software platforms
- What is your time worth? What is the opportunity cost of you doing this (What else could you be doing instead of this?)
- Do you want an online catalogue or a useful marketing tool, that is tweaked and tuned according to how your customers use it – once published?
- If that’s you, how much time can you commit to doing this?
- When your business grows, and you need something more custom or bespoke, can you take your site to another platform easily or do you have to start over?
- Is the whole website mobile first or at the very least responsive (Responsive means you can read comfortably on a phone as you can on a desktop computer)
- Are there ongoing charges and how do they compare to the alternate version of engaging a web design company?
- Can you install Google Analytics on your website so you can track your website statistics yourself to understand your customers?
- Where (location of web servers) are the websites hosted and how fast are they in Australia?
- Are the images optimised for performance and speed?
- Who does your keyword research, your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), your rank tracking, your competitor research? How often is this done?
- If it is you, how much time can you commit to doing this to maximize results and performance?
If you ‘want a website’ and these websites look ‘good-enough’ for you then…
Go back to the beginning and read some of the stats. If you want a website without knowing why or what you want to achieve, save your money now until you figure that out along with the cost of the problem/ opportunity.
The best performing websites ( read producing results for their owners) are not a publish- once-and-leave propositions.
- and tuned based on the type of customers you attract,
- the type of customers you want to attract ( your ideal customer who wants your most profitable products),
- competitor’s actions,
- market forces
- and trends.
This takes time and effort beyond the initial publication, and again the statistics from Telstra’s report tell the story that 62% of business owners know they need a website but don’t’ have the time to make it happen.
What do Website Developers and Doctors Have in Common?
Doctors of Medicine are said to be Practising Medicine, or they set up a Medical Practice.
CPA (Certified Practising Accountants) are practicing …accounting.
While web designers are not saving lives or developing critical estate plans, the best web designers have been practising their craft, often for decades.
Thinking that you can pick-up an online tool, publish a website and have it perform as well as a professionally created website from people who have been practicing for years is overreaching.
Yes, some can do it.
As always there are some outliers that friends, families, and associates use them as a success-reference. Again, outliers are the exception, not the rule.
It’s like referring to WEB MD and diagnosing yourself for some rare disease based on your symptoms.
You can’t depend on it. Its the umpteen intricacies that you don’t know, that WEB MD doesn’t know that makes the difference in the correct diagnosis.
While the website builders provide a low barrier to entry to get something that looks OK, online quickly, this is only a tiny part of the website puzzle.
A small, technical part of the puzzle.
If it was as simple as using an online tool to publish a website, get found by customers and sell to them overnight, why isn’t everyone succeeding?
The same is said for websites designed by professionals and its because there is so much more than the ‘code’ and process behind making the website appear online.
Publishing your website is the start of the journey, not the end.
Other Web Development Tools You Could use to DIY your website.
A large number of web design companies use what is called a CMS or Content Management Systems.
These systems speed up the process of web development, much like the website builder.
However, these CMS products have more flexibility in design and technology options, a steeper learning curve and a generally a need for ongoing updating.
These tools are also sometimes used by business owners who have a reasonable degree of technical knowledge themselves.
The more flexible the tools, the more sophisticated ( complicated) they become – depending on what you are trying to achieve.
Your website design cost are minimised when using one of these CMS platforms as a lot of the raw code is already written, plugins and extensions created which provide further advanced features without web developers having to write or rewrite this code for every website.
Finally, these are maintained by communities that are passionate about improving the web as a whole, workflows, and outcomes for web designers, customers, and clients.
I’m not going to cover the pros and cons of each of these CMS products as there many articles you can find yourself, but here is a great list of the most popular CMS products.
So here’s a great CMS comparison table.
When you choose to hire a web developer chances are they use one of these platforms as the basis of your website design. You can download any for free yourself and get started.
- Magento – (enterprise level ecommerce sites – biggest ecommerce platform with 29.1% of the total market share in March 2016 and boasts 250,000 live stores)
If you want to give these CMS platforms a try yourself before engaging a web developer you can set up a ‘web-server’ on your local PC or MAC.
This CMS approach allows you to create and test a website on your local machine without even being connected to the internet.
You can download another free software to do this called MAMP.
They sell a pro version too, but to being with, the free version will do. Go ahead and grab MAMP free for your MAC or PC.
More Tools To DIY a Website
If you still think a DIY approach is best, you’ll need some extra tools, software, and skills to make your website look the part.
Getting the right images for your website is an integral part of the design process, and most good web designers welcome client input in this regard.
Successful websites are visually engaging to visitors with a definite purpose. This is achieved through the design and user experience testing.
So, from where do all of these design elements and photographs come?
Most business owners don’t have quality photography they can use or repurpose for a website and will either need to have some taken or choose stock photography.
For certain businesses paying for professional photography for marketing materials can be beneficial. However, I am recommending the first step is to research the free image sites.
Sites like Unsplash which publish photographs submitted from photographers all over the world which are royalty free.
Yes, free to use. No attribution needed (but is encouraged).
Here’s a list of some of the best free photo sites where you can download photos and send them onto your web designer.
Once you’ve chosen your images, perhaps you’d like to manipulate and modify them before you provide them to your web designer – or if you’re still committed to doing this yourself, get them ready for yourself.
Rather than spending significant amounts of cash on professional design tools, that good web developers already have as part of their war chest of design tools, and you can work with a vast range of free tools.
I’ve provided a few of the best below so you can download yourself.
- GIMP – This is a free open source image editor and manipulation tool – Think a free version of Photoshop
- PIXLR Editor – A browser based tool which is more powerful than some desktop alternatives
- Photoshop Express – For PC and iOS Android devices
- CANVA – An Australian Innovation and browser based also – Easily create beautiful designs + documents. Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and professional layouts to design consistently stunning graphics. Great for social media graphics too.
Video content is some of the most consumed content on the internet, and it is estimated that 79% of all global consumer web traffic will come from video by the end of 2018.
Video can’t be ignored; it is easy to shoot with a mobile phone and easy to upload directly to Youtube. All for free.
Web developers have many different ways to integrate video into your website, and it is something I highly recommend for our clients.
If you’re doing it yourself, this is one of the easier mediums to integrate into your website.
However, creating the videos can be challenging for clients who have a different idea of what video is and how it should be made or used.
These are some common bottlenecks (excuses) clients comment about videos:
- Not everyone likes to be in front of a camera – or should be in front of the camera!
- “It costs too much to get the lighting setup right and everything perfect.” While getting the lighting just right and the angels just so can create a great result, it is not necessary and depends on the presenter, format, content, and business.
- We recommend don’t let not having everything perfect stop you from producing video, now.
Not all video is live motion and depends on the goals of the video.
For example, you can get 30 second and 60-second explainer videos made for a few hundred dollars.
There are quite a few browser-based video creation services around like Promo.
Promo is a paid service that you can join for free to play with before spending any cash.
It allows novices to choose from a huge selection stock videos, soundtracks and place text overlays and graphics in place to create 1 – 30-second video with an in-browser ‘editor.’
Publish to video formats for facebook and youtube, and your video is live in the wild.
Here’s a few we created for a customer on a budget.
Depending on your business you may need to provide customers with screen-casts or how-to videos of software in operation.
Loom is currently a free video service that records your screen and you ( if you like) through your computer camera. It’s essentially a free download that works as a Chrome Browser extension!
Loom stores the videos and provides you a link which you can embed in your website or send a link to customers via email. Right now they don’t record in HD, but I think their paid version will feature HD video recording in the future. ( > July 2018)
Why Video Is an Important Inclusion in Your Website
Imagine this; you start producing 1 video per week to share on your website and social media about your specialty business niche.
After about 6 months you get better at it, and faster at editing the video, so you increase that to 2 videos per week.
You learn how to optimise video for search results, getting the thumbnails just right and start getting some subscribers on youtube, engaging on Facebook and your website has a video section where all of your videos reside too.
At the end of a 2 year period of doing this, you have 182 videos!
Your competitors who choose to do nothing, can’t figure out why you are doing so much better than they are, so they start video too.
You have a 182 video head start. Well done!
Choosing a Local Web Design Company or an Offshore, Web Developer
If all of this is too much for you or you don’t have the time to execute, then you need to choose the right web design company for you and your business.
Do you go local, national or overseas to get your website developed?
What About Outsourcing Web Development?
One way is to possibly take advantage of geographic arbitrage, where your Australian dollars buy more value in a different country like the Philippines, India or some Eastern European Countries.
Primarily you can post your job or project on a range of different websites and these companies bid on the project needs.
You pay a deposit which is held in escrow by the facilitation company (who takes a small fee from either the developers or the advertiser) according to the agreed sum and milestone achievements.
Here are just 3 of the best ones we have used in the past for mobile app development projects.
Note I am not an affiliate for these and generate no income from these referrals.
To be able to do this type of website development outsourcing successfully you need some specific skills and knowledge about what you need doing.
- Exceptional project management and time management, often after-hours due to the geographic displacement of the people you have contracted.
- The ability to provide a very detailed and specific development plan or specification of what is required from a technical, graphical, user experience (UX) perspective
- Trust in the overseas developer’s abilities and intentions.
During some mobile app development in the early years of the iPhone, we learned quickly that what we assumed was a ‘given’ was different in Australia vs. others and that culture, language, and expectations vary significantly between countries.
If you choose to go down this route, dot all of your i’s, cross all of your t’s and spend the time up front to get your website design specification tight before you begin – with clear milestones in place for payments to be made, the site to be delivered, published and maintained for a period after initial publishing.
How Do You Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Project?
If outsourcing is not for, and you know that you simply don’t have the necessary time (and possibly skills) to create a website that solves your problem and achieve your goals, then you need to engage a web developer to help.
There are a lot of web designers and web design companies from which to choose. Also, the good ones have all the boxes ticked with respects to:
- Good online reviews – social proof
- Examples of their past work easily accessible for your review – more social proof
- Testimonials on site or the ability to provide customers to speak with if asked about the services provided
- An optimised website that is secure, fast, responsive and well designed.
- Do they have a process that limits interruptions to your business during the website development?
- If you need a “serious eCommerce” site, how many “serious eCommerce” sites have they completed?
- Are they prepared to make recommendations if they don’t have the skills/time/competency to undertake your project or do they hang up the phone/ say no?
- Plays well with others in the area and has an excellent reputation amongst competitors.
Don’t overlook this last point. If competitors respect one another, it is a good indicator of integrity and recognition of quality.
For these reasons, I recommend working with a local web design company. If your office is in your capital city, look at web development firms in the city and outer limits of the city.
If you’re not in the capital city but part of the larger city, like Sydney, look to work with a web development company that is local to your business.
For example, if your business operates and services customers in Sutherland Shire why would you engage a web developer in Hornsby?
Each region has its micro-culture and your business taps into that every day; people like to do business with locals.
Your website needs to mirror that sentiment and a good way to achieve that is to engage a website designer that understand this without having to have it spelled out to them.
This can save you and them time and frustrations.
Often you’ll find creatives group together in specific areas which can assist with getting a better deal or teams familiar with working with each other to quicken the process and or produce a better quality outcome.
If you live regionally in Australia these are the regional creative hotspots you can look towards for more competitive rates.
Supply and demand are still at play.
A lot of these decisions come to personal preferences and are subjective.
Web development companies that have teams of people and corporate offices like to show them off and speak to their importance, their size and their big brand clients.
Its part of the experience they offer clients for the fees charged.
Smaller teams or web designers that lead a project and then outsource locally, like to spruik different benefits.
Lower costs, how communication technology means offices are less a part of the future rather than more, and speak warmly about Jack, their latest client whose micro-brewery website they just completed.
I believe that no matter how thin you slice anything there are always 2 sides and I’m ready to argue like I’m right and listen like I’m wrong on this subject.
This decision is yours to make alone as there are pros and cons to each.
Ultimately its the outcome of the website that matters, how well it serves your needs, solves your problems and what ROI you receive.
Web Development is More Than Just Code and More than Just a Website.
A website is a sum of many parts that mesh together to create valuable marketing tools, which are visually appealing, with clear messaging written in the correct tone for your brand, all of which combines to produce your perfect outcome.
As your website is a marketing tool, engaging a web development company that provides services beyond just website design and deployment is another way you can set your website and business up for success.
These additional and necessary services and tools are varied and not every business or every website need all of them.
Some of these services are highly specialised too, and not all web development teams have the best people on staff.
What are the chances that the 2, 5, 20, or 50 people employed at any web design firm are th very best in their field? I’m not suggesting they are not competant, but working with A-players is mor easily achieved by selecting those best at specific types of work.
Instead, web developers know this and sub-contract, locally, to the best-of-breed professionals to ensure the best result.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of additional services to ask your web developers about to maximise the impact your website has on your business’s profitability.
- Graphic design and logo design
- Search Engine Optimisation Services – also known as SEO
- Directory Listings for Citations and Local optimisation including Google myBusiness optimisation
- Copywriting – the rights words in the correct quantity to elicit the correct response.
- Inbound marketing – also known as BLOGging – one of the most powerful methods I know to get found online by customers and prospects.
- Social Media Marketing – Curate your social media presence to complement your website, attract more customers and engage
- Email marketing – nurture your customers based on how they interact with your website content
- SEM Services – Search Engine Marketing – essentially paid advertising or PPC (Pay per Click) advertising
During your website consultation (which is ideally free for 60 minutes), the best web developers ask questions that help them understand if and how your business website can utilise these additional services.
All of these services can and are evaluated in the same way as the website as a whole.
That is, what is the ROI for including them.
Many excellent web design firms would not develop a website for a local small business without these services if that website were to have any chance of succeeding.
These 3 services are ideally included in the total website development price, and client’s understanding of the additional value of these services provides a level playing field when assessing design proposals:
- Directory Listings
That is, you need to understand very clearly what is promised to you, so if you tender to multiple web development companies, you can properly evaluate the value provided.
With these three services included as part of the initial web development, the ROI of the website and these services are evaluated collectively.
You as a client can have as much or as little input into the web development process as you like. This may include selection and provision of photos that you think to meet your brand’s image.
If the web developers don’t want to talk to you at all after the initial conversations and just want to ‘get on and develop your website’ – red flag.
If they are contacting you multiple time a day and interrupting your business – red flag.
If your web design company is skilled and has done their job right you get the attention of some prospects and customers, so the words they read need to entice and excite them to do business with you.
This is where copywriting shines.
Copywriting is the act of writing text for advertising or other forms of marketing, according to Wikipedia.
Copywriting has been described as the world’s 3rd oldest profession.
The right copywriting can be like adding rocket fuel to your business. The wrong copy can relegate you to the last place.
Does my Website Need a Blog?
But seriously… The internet is 2 things.
Content and Communication
We, us, humans, businesses use content to communicate.
There are 3 main ways we do this.
- The written word
He/She who has the best content wins…Alternatively, instead of the best content that engages with your target market best wins.
A number of our projects, key pillar blog content pieces receive 3-4 times more traffic than any other page on those websites.
Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.
How Long Does it Take for Your Website to Start Producing Results?
The answer is, it depends – on so many different variables that there is no precise answer – only comprehensive guidelines.
- Does it depend on what you define as results?
- Do you mean people are visiting?
- Do you mean people are converting?
- Are you paying for traffic or using an organic approach?
It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for your website to start appearing in searches organically.
However, you should be able to search for your brand name/business name and get a result in well under a week usually.
Caution, Curves Ahead
Small business often stops marketing one way and start another way with the same funds, which means that development of a website stops or reduces the number of marketing dollars invested elsewhere.
With this knowledge, its essential that the website performs – that is, generates leads and brings more customers into the business.
However having a website created and published by itself is unlikely to produce any instant results unless additional money is spent on PPC (pay per click ) advertising – like Google Adwords or Facebook marketing.
Doing either of these PPC tactics is a great way to lose money fast if you don’t have a proper strategy in place, thorough customer, keyword and competitor marketing research and a working knowledge of the ad platforms.
This is where a skilled web developer introduces some of those other services to you, to fill the customer gap for a period while your website does its thing with Google to rank for organic (unpaid) searches.
How Does Knowing This Help Choose the Right Web Designer for Your Small Business?
First, you have to narrow your list of possibles and probables.
This is an old football selection term that fits well into choosing the best web design company for your small business.
That is, with who could you possibly work?
- Do a google search and pick your top 10 – this may not be the 1st 10 – and copy and paste their URLs into a Google Docs Sheet.
- Try typing this into the Google search bar – web design + suburb – where suburb is your suburb or area – to find the local developers
- Remember you get many companies advertising at the top of the page, and that’s ok, you can identify them quickly as it says Ad to the left of the title.
- Try different variations – web designer +, web design company +, affordable website design + etc.
- Even though Google’s results are very good at providing users the most relevant results for the searches made, spend about 15-45 minutes collating a substantial list of your ‘possibles.’
From that list with who could you probably work? This is all simple common sense action you take when evaluating most purchases.
Now, narrow down the list by looking at [Google Reviews], have the developers answered them,
What’s proximity to you, and what are their past, and recent works – are the websites still live and still maintained by them?
- Choose 3-5 that you ‘feel’ fit your needs, industry, goals best.
- Create yourself an evaluation checklist and fill it in as you contact each including google review star-rank, the 1st impression you had from their website, do you like the examples they provide?
- Start with your #1 pick get in touch
- Work down the list to see how they respond and engage with you.
- If you call, do they answer?
- If you email, do they shoot an email back, do they call you and arrange a meeting; (do they do both?)
- Does the website developer try and sell you on the phone to ‘lock it in’ by talking price and pages?
- Do they answer with a video?
You get the picture. Move to the next one…
Sometimes when you meet someone, you get along. Sometimes you don’t. To some that doesn’t matter if the results are created.
We like to work with people, that like to work with us.
We believe that as we have a choice, let’s exercise that choice and work with people that we enjoy being around. Life’s meant to be enjoyed.
Australian Small Businesses Need Help Online
A quick Google search for web designers provides more than 100 million results.
Just about all of them on the 1st few pages of Google proclaim to be “One of Australia’s best,” “Australia’s top…”, “One of the most awarded.”
So how do you sort the chaff from the wheat?
I think this depends on your business, and more importantly the size of your business. In Australia, a small business is defined as a business whose turnover is $2,000,000 or less per annum and employs less than 20 people.
More than 50% of small business owners are sole traders meaning time is a critical resource they simply don’t have to get online.
The 2018 Telstra report backs these statistics with only 36% of Sole traders having a website and only 18% of these using SEO to find more customers.
This gap in expectations is having a direct impact on the survivability of these Australian small businesses.
Conclusion – How to Choose a Web Designer for your Small Business Website?
Ideally, when choosing a web developer for your small business, you need to choose 1 that has your entire business’ outcome at the front of their minds, not just your website.
They have the demonstrable technical and business skills to create a website that is one of the most valuable weapons in your marketing war chest.
GET A PROFESSIONAL WEBSITE FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS
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