So you are ready to take the jump and hire a web designer. But, where do you begin? There are many questions going through your head right now and we hope to help you so that you can spend more time running your business.. Before you choose a web designer from Radcliff, Elizabethtown, or Vine Grove in Kentucky, or even Paris, Texas to create a website that fits your vision, there are many things that you may want to keep in mind. There are great web designers, terrible web designers, and everything in between. We wrote this article to help you out with finding the web designer that will best represent your values as a business owner and to demystify much of what many web designers might hide in technical jargon. It is very easy to get a website built in today’s technical world and new code is being written all the time to assist in this. So what is better? Do you do it yourself or do you hire someone? We are going to assume for the purpose of this article that you just do not have the time to invest in building your own site no matter what tools you may use. Here are some questions that you will need to ask any web designer that you are thinking about working with, to help you narrow the search in finding someone to design a website that suits the needs of your company.

Are they willing to research your business?

A good web designer will make themselves familiar with your company so that they can create a site to fit your business and its goals. They will take the time to research the competition so they can determine what will give your website a competitive edge. They will look at your business’s portfolio, locations, and customer demographics and take all of this into consideration for their design. They will ask for input and understand how to handle the scope of a project so that you do not end up spending more than you have to in keying in the look for the website you want. For instance, in Elizabethtown, Kentucky a webmaster should at the very least understand what people are like that live in that area and what will appeal to the greater audience to get people to spend time on your site and looking forward to seeing your business. If the web designer is not a local that is not an issue. Through talking with you and conducting research, a web designer can still make your site have the small town or big city feel that you are looking for.

What websites have they created? Do you like their style?

If you are not happy with their design style, you may not be happy with what they come up with for your small business website. Also, you don’t want your site to look just like another Radcliff, Kentucky business’ website. You want a website that will stand out; your customers will remember you easier if your site doesn’t resemble other businesses’ websites. Being unique with design can be a challenge for any webmaster. Being unique in design and making sure that a website has the functionality you are looking for is even more of a challenge. A good webmaster welcomes this challenge and becomes part of your team regardless of where they are located in the world. So, make sure you check examples of websites and designs that the webmaster has done in the past. Do the designs all look the same just with different pictures and text? Does each business and personal site built for a location like Paris, Texas capture the feel of that city and their business?  Do you see designs that call out to your business?

Does the webmaster outsource any work?

This question is as important as any other. Have you ever played the telephone game where one person tells someone something and then as it passes from person to person it all comes out different in the end? This game can exist in web design and usually is an area where things can go wrong. Web designers many times will hire independent contractors and pay them to do some of the work (if not all) that you have hired them to do. Outsourcing is common and not an issue but the webmaster should be upfront about companies and people they might use or at the very least be able to answer your questions about how the secondary designer will understand what you are looking for. There may be extra fees involved as well if they did outsource and you might not find out until they bill you for their work. It is just best to know everything up front. If they do not outsource but also do not offer a service you need, they might be able to recommend a reputable designer that knows what they are doing.

Will they keep a record of all of your discussions?

A good web designer will not only take detailed notes on what you are looking for but also refer to emails, chats. and phone calls keeping in mind what you have already talked about. What is their planning process and can they walk you through it? Does it seem like the web designer has a clear way that they achieve all the steps to complete a website? A good web designer will have a client “sign off” on each step of the project to keep the project in scope and on budget. The sign off signals that the client is happy with that part of the work and ready to move forward. (Going backwards after signing off usually requires extra money.)

What do they know about marketing online?

Small businesses need to have a presence online. If the web designer knows how to make your website stand out among the competition, they can help you and your small business to reach even more potential clients in Hardin County Kentucky and in other places. SEO (short for search engine optimization) is an expensive game. Most of the time this game does not lead to the results a client is looking for. The truth is no one knows the algorithms used by search engines like Google and Bing and they are everchanging. A good web designer knows how to design using “best practices” so that if a client hires someone for SEO there is not an immediate issue with needing a redesign to keep from getting negative points in a search result.

For instance: A search for “Pizza Elizabethtown Kentucky” into Google will give results for pizza places. If you are the owner of a pizza place in a location you want to try to be the highest result for this search phrase. What can hurt this from a design standpoint? Bad code and loading speed are your enemy in this example. So a good web designer will design a site with speed in mind following good code practices.

How much will the site cost? Are there any other fees to pay, like a deposit?

Web design is expensive. As of 2016 the median price for a small business to get a custom HTML/CSS website built was three thousand dollars. This would be the smallest package available but good for many small businesses. The cost goes up significantly for user managed systems and content management systems.  A good webmaster will tell you everything upfront you need to know about cost and how to stay on budget with their web design business. A deposit is almost always required to get work started. The final payment of the site design costs usually will signify that the site’s code now is licensed indefinitely for your business’ use and that images are owned by your company including design concepts. Make sure you KNOW what rights you get in the design before paying the deposit.

Now, a bit of a story for you if you would indulge me for a moment.

In 2004 David and I were major sellers on eBay. We had product filling almost every part of our house and garage. We were shipping over a hundred packages a day. We built a rather successful business online. The market we were in (selling vintage items we bought at auctions) became saturated as everyone got into the game. Our a hundred a day shipping habit dropped to four a day on average. We had the bug however and wanted to keep making money online. So we decided to put all of the rest of our product into our own online store. Where did we start though? We first decided to have a website built. We knew nothing about it and we were charged over four thousand dollars for a website with an interface that was very hard to update with products and payments. Today, we know that the site we had built, David could have done in about five hours. This is what started us on the path back to college and restructuring our business as we learned.  As David learned web design and became obsessed with it he found out how much many web designers really are overcharging for work. At our weekly business meeting he outlined what he wanted to do for small businesses in Paris, Texas and Radcliff, Kentucky, and even Columbus, OH. The rest they say is history.

What is the moral of this story? Do not let your lack of knowledge about web design make you pay thousands of dollars your small business cannot afford. At the same time, do not be afraid of it.

When will you be billed?

Make sure that you and the web designer know and agree on when you will be billed. In the story I told you in the last question, we had to pay a thousand dollar deposit. We were left to assume that the rest would be paid after the site was launched and tested. However, the webmaster after six months (remember it would have taken David less that five hours) would not launch the website without final payment. So, can they stick closely to your budget? You have to find a web designer that will design a site that helps you make money, not lose it. Setting a budget is essential so that your small business’ hard earned money is not being poured into the web designer’s pocket, without you seeing any benefits. Locate a web designer that knows how to keep to your budget and deliver a website you can be proud of. This is accomplished with a clear outline of how things are done.

Do they have real testimonials?

Web designers can show a portfolio of their design work but do they show any reviews or testimonials? If they do, are they real?  Most of this is left to a web designer being honest. There are ways to check though. See if their testimonials line up with projects in their portfolios. If they say that “Joe says: They are honest and really did a good job” but you see no website built for Joe’s business in the portfolio I would ask why that is. It could be because that business is no longer around or had a redesign by another company or relative,  (this does happen often) or for still other reasons. Still, you should ask to make sure.

Will they maintain or host the site once it is finished?

You may have to hire someone else to maintain your company’s website. Or you might find a web designer that handles the hosting and maintenance. That also includes keeping your site up to date and any updates that you want them to make to your site, to keep it fresh. Claxton Web Design offers website design packages that include hosting and maintenance for small businesses.

Do you own your website and the domain?

Make sure you own your website and domain name according to the contract. If something went south or you wanted to move your site in a different direction, this makes it easier for the web designer you are going to work with in the future, to update your website. Also, if the web designer went out of business, you would not be in danger of losing your domain or access to the site itself. And, make sure that you understand all rights to codes and designs in your contract so that you don’t run into any issues later on. After all, web designers are not immortal.

Do you like the web designer and think they will behave in an ethical manner?

You should never have to hire a web designer that you do not like talking with. You will find working with them even more difficult. And if you do not get along, they may not be able to convey the image of the site you want to represent your small business. This should become apparent right before you are willing to pay the deposit. By this time, you should have had a chance to get to know your designer some to help you make the decision that this is who you want to build your business website online. This is actually one of the advantages in hiring a local design company because most times you can meet them in person. If you are not able to meet in person, you can always arrange to talk via Skype or Facebook Time so that you can get a feel for each other and decide whether or not to proceed.

What is the website deadline? Can they meet it?

Make sure that your designer knows what the website deadline is and find out if they can have the site finished on time. Deadlines are a must. If your small business is having a grand re-opening in Cecilia, Kentucky, it would only make sense that your website be ready in time for the opening. Web designers that can follow and stick to a solid deadline will do what they can to make sure that your website is ready to go when you need it. However, if your designer is unable to meet a deadline, what does that mean to you? This should be clearly outlined as well in any agreement.

See why we are different

Let Claxton Web Design and Marketing located in Radcliff, Ky move your business forward in the technical age without confusing you and making things hard to understand. We know where you are now and know how to help you.

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