When you start asking around, you’ll find that the offerings to build a website for your business are many and varied, from those that want to supply a quick “template” design to others that offer a fully customized website with all the bells and whistles.
So, what are the real considerations? Are web design companies that offer cheap template designs a worse choice over those that offer the full customized Monty, or is something in-between right for you? You’ll find that there are other more important considerations when making your choice.
The most important point I want to make here is that a website is not a stand-alone entity. It has many moving parts. The question really is whether the company that you choose to work with can handle all the various parts and whether the objectives that the business wants to achieve with the website will be reached.
What are the objectives?
That’s usually my lead-in question when I meet a new potential client. It goes deeper than: “I want more leads” or “I want a website that looks really flash”.
I encourage my clients to put real and researched figures to it. It’s unlikely that you’ll become the top-selling wedding-dress company, or the most popular business consultant, lawyer, real estate agent, IT company (insert your business category here), just because you have a flash-looking website. (There are very few exceptions).
When I discuss these objectives with my clients, I will usually have done some market research myself. Figures like the market size, the competitors, local and seasonal variation, etc. are valuable when placing expectations on the performance of a website.
The many components of a website
Setting out the objectives usually leads to the realization that there are many components that are linked to the website’s performance. For example, a website without rigorous SEO will simply not perform. Neither will a website with badly written, or irrelevant content, slow speed, low engagement, or incomplete and low-value link building. Equally, there are other components that should be considered in your choice of a web design company.
This list of components will lead to a list of questions that your web design company should have ready answers to. Let’s look at some of them:
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation
SEO is a vast topic and one that is easily misunderstood. SEO is so closely linked to the website itself that I believe that website build and SEO should be done by the same company or a team that works together closely. My advice is not to choose the website and SEO Company separately. Frequently, an action relating to SEO will require a change on the website and vice versa. Sometimes the content wording, sometimes even the hero-wording that is linked to the identity of the business will need to change. If there is a divergence in thinking between web and SEO companies it could be detrimental to the performance of the website.
Ask your web designer how they will handle the on-page and off-page content SEO.
Technical SEO can be complex at best and only and above average understanding will lead to an above-average website.
How well does your web design company understand technical SEO and how do they apply it.
Ensuring that your website ranks high in search engines is more and more reliant on good content. Keep in mind that this content has to be created, not only for the first instance of the website but also on an on-going basis. What’s more, the content has to be informative, relevant, and engaging. If you choose a web design company that is all about design and little about content, you’ll end up having a flash-looking website that no one visits because it does not rank for relevant searches.
Discuss in detail where that content will come from. Usually, the expectation is that the business will supply the content. Understand that there is a cost to that and one that is frequently underestimated. Someone with sufficient technical knowledge in your business has to supply this content for it to accurately reflect the product and service offerings of the business. Furthermore, it has to be written in a language that is engaging to your target audience and then distributed, not only via the website but also on relevant social media platforms.
Can your web designer take an active part in re-wording this content with an understanding of the complexities of your business and publish content on various platforms?
Keeping an eye on what works and what doesn’t, who visits the site, how visitors engage, where they come from, how they are referred and other analysis, is all-important. Since we started with objectives, it’s now prudent to ensure that the objectives are reached. Measuring website performance is as important as measuring business performance.
Ask your web design company how they will handle this, whether you get on-going reports and importantly, who looks at the report, works with you on the interpretation, and how the required changes to the findings will be implemented.
There are other specific questions. Importantly, initial and monthly costs should be clear. Understand how your web designer handles ownership of content and URL, hosting platforms, delivery timeframes, software integration, security, and training. Ask about previous projects and successes and get client references.
More and more I learn that being a good web designer has less to do with design and more to do with how I engage with my clients. Those that want a quick website and little else are unlikely to succeed on their website journey, whereas those that engage me as a part of their team, bounce ideas off me and allow me to lead the complete web journey, those that understand that a website is a living entity with many tentacles, are the ones that achieve success.
Ask your web design company how they will engage with your business during the build of the website and what their long-term approach is. Remember that for a successful website, your web design company will be part of your team.