As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I have a ton of things to think about and many hats to wear. I have been the janitor, the IT department, the head chef and the CFO (and that was just on Tuesday!). With so much on my plate, it is easy to let less pressing matters sit on the back burner including building a solid web presence and getting my business out in front of the world!
No matter how busy you are, you cannot afford to let the design and implementation of your website be an afterthought. Even if your business is entirely offline, would-be customers will still turn to your website to get directions, find out about your hours and browse your product line. If those potential shoppers do not like what they see, they may never visit your business or make a purchase. To put it another way, a poor web presence, or none at all, could cost you money without your even knowing it.
While many small business owners and entrepreneurs choose to build and maintain their own websites, there are some pretty compelling reasons to seek professional help. Building a personal website may be fairly easy, but creating a functional, scalable, mobile responsive small business website is far more complicated and much more critical to your success.
Using a professional web designer to build your small business website carries a host of benefits, from superior design and quality hosting to an expandable format that is able to grow with your business. A professional website designer can also provide the ongoing support you need, monitoring system status and preventing costly downtime. Find someone with experience and they can help give you ideas and suggestions that may have never even occurred to you!
The use of a professional web designer is good for your small business, but how do you know the firm you have selected is up to the challenge? There are a number of factors to consider when shooing a web designer for your small business, from the payment structure and rate calculations to the experience level and professionalism of the design team.
Hourly or Fixed
One of the first decisions you will need to make is the pricing structure of the web design agreement. Web designers price their services in two basic ways – hourly and fixed rate. Each payment structure has its own set of benefits and limitations, and it is important to consider all the factors before making a final decision.
The complexity of the website design will definitely come into play when choosing a pricing structure. If your small business website is relatively simple, an hourly arrangement could work to your benefit, especially if you are working with an experienced designer who can do the work quickly.
If your website design is more complex, working out a fair fixed price for the work probably makes more sense. A fixed price agreement is also beneficial if you expect to make lots of changes or if your business is growing quickly and needs a scalable solution.
No matter which option you choose, it is important to research local rates in your area. The rates charged by web designers vary widely, and what you pay will depend on a number of different factors. From where you live to the nature of your business, many things will influence the cost of the web design work.
You may be able to save some money by working with your web designer remotely. That allows you to expand the search beyond your local area, possibly even to another country. You will need to make sure the web designer you choose is fluent in English, and you will need to be comfortable working with an individual who may not reside in the same country, or the same time zone.
Choosing the Right Content Management System
There is a saying in the online world that content is king, and that maxim has remained true throughout countless changes to search engines and their algorithms. If your website is to be successful, searchers will need to be able to find you, and that is where great content comes into play.
Without quality content and relative information, your website will simply not rank highly in search results, and that could harm your business before you even get started. The web designer you choose will need a solid understanding of both search engine optimization (SEO), the technology behind those high-ranking search results, and content management systems (CMS), the technology used to create relevant content and build it into your web presence.
There are a number of excellent CMS solutions on the market, and each web designer will have their favorites. No matter who you choose to design your website, you will need to be comfortable with the CMS solution the designer uses. Even if you will not be doing the updates and daily maintenance yourself, having a working knowledge of CMS and how it works will help you enormously.
WordPress is probably the best known of the CMS solutions, and one of the most popular among experienced web designers. If you have read a blog, you have probably seen WordPress in action. In fact, this PHP blog platform is the most popular on the market, and it can be an excellent choice for text-based websites.
WordPress is also a popular choice for non-technical business owners, since it is easy to update and simple to learn and use. The low learning curve is one of the main benefits of the WordPress platform, and this popular CMS solution underpins some of the most successful small business websites on the Internet.
SilverStripe is another popular PHP content management system, but it is more flexible and more easily configurable than WordPress. If your website is more complex or you expect your online presence to grow significantly, SilverStripe can be an excellent alternative to WordPress. It may not be as simple to use as WordPress, but the PHP platform makes up for the lack of simplicity with greater scalability and a more flexible approach to website maintenance.
The SilverStripe CMS also includes a number of other benefits small business owners will find useful, including robust version control and native support for SEO. That allows business owners and their developer partners to easily update content, track changes and keep their information relevant and useful.
Radiant CMS is another popular choice among web designers, and a good solution for small business owners. Radiant CMS is designed to be fast, flexible and easy to use, making it an excellent alternative to WordPress, SilverStripe and other PHP-based products. Radiant CMS is a popular choice for many kinds of websites, including shopping sites, informational sites and news sites.
Which Type of Website is Right for Your Business?
No matter what the nature of your business, you need a solid web presence to inform your customers, field questions and complaints and communicate with your vendors and suppliers. The nature of that website will depend on a number of factors, from the niche in which you operate to the size of your budget.
While there are countless iterations within the main categories, there are five basic types of web design – illustrated, flat, single page, minimalist and typographic. The illustrated option is a popular one for businesses with highly visual content. From displaying 3D models of your most popular products to showcasing your latest creative endeavors, there are myriad uses for the illustrated website design.
When you choose an illustrated website, you will find it easy to display all manner of visual content. From cartoons to drawings to photographs, the illustrated web design can host them all.
The flat website design is another popular choice for small business owners. If you are looking for a minimalist design and a clean user interface, the flat website design is a natural choice.
You have probably seen some real-world examples of flat website design, even if you do not realize it. Flat website designs incorporate simple elements like small icons and simple visuals. This approach creates a website that is intuitive, easy to use and highly navigable.
The single page web design is a popular one for simple websites, including sites for brick-and-mortar businesses whose owners need an online presence. As the name implies, the single page web design focuses on one page of content.
Designing your website as a single page may seem limiting, but with attention spans shorter than ever and customers leading busy loves, this design may actually be the most effective and efficient. Some of the most successful businesses have embraced the single page web design format, so they must be doing something right.
The minimalist approach to web design is more proof that less is sometimes more. Minimalism in web design has become more popular in recent years, and small businesses in particular have embraced its simplicity and clean look.
Minimalist websites are distinguished by their lack of extraneous elements – no cartoon bears or dancing logos. This is designed to eliminate distractions and let customers focus on what the business has to offer.
The last main type of web design is typographic, sometimes called typography web design. The typographical school of web design holds that first impressions are what counts, and the web designers who embrace it work hard to make that first impression a good one.
Typographical websites allow small business owners to tell the story of their companies, letting them go beyond the surface and delve deep into the firm, its history and all the great things it has to offer. If you want to connect with your customers on a deeper level, the typographical solution may be the best one.
There are many elements to consider when choosing a website design and a web designer for your small business. From the type of design and content management system to the limitations of your budget, there are plenty of things to think about and many different factors to work through. Doing your homework and paying close attention to your needs can help you choose the web design that will work best for your small business and bring you the best possible results.
Check the references.
Make sure you look at the designers portfolio and reviews from previous and current clients. A website can be a large investment, you want to make sure you are getting a qualified professional. Check out a few firms and freelancers and find someone who does good work. There are free services out there that can help you find a great web designer. It’s worth it to spend some time reading up on best practices and different technologies. Just remember, a website can make or break a business.
Best of luck with your new business, if you have any questions post a comment below and I will see if I can help you out.