This article appeared in the printed version of the Business Newsday today, Thursday 10th May, 2012.
In my last article, I spoke about the elements of a great business website: that you should have goals, a professional design, build trust, be search engine friendly, have strong useful content, collect visitor information and use metrics.
In this article, we look at how you work with your chosen web designer to develop a website that is profitable for your business. Your web designer is as important to your business as your accountant or lawyer. They are a partner in growing your business and being able to work effectively with them is key to that happening.
Get to know some basics
If you were hiring an accountant, you would probably have a very rudimentary understanding of what debits and credits are, what is a balance sheet and a profit and loss statement.
In the same vein, you should do your home work and figure out what you need to get online: a domain name, web-hosting and the actual website files. When the web designer is speaking to you about these basic but important items, you already have an idea of what they are and would not be totally baffled by the concepts.
Get on Amazon and seek out a book on the basics of Internet Marketing, targeted to business owners. I have not read it but a good starting point may be Web Marketing All-In-One For Dummies (http://amzn.com/0470413980).
Do your due diligence
Without turning this into a “how to choose a web designer” article, your due diligence should ascertain if the vendor is a good fit for you and your business. Have a look at their own website and their portfolio. See the types of websites they have built, if there are testimonials for good work or case studies.
Although a web design firm has a business listed as a client, that does not mean it has been a smooth ride. Do not be afraid to speak with their clients or ask for references. You want to know if the vendor has had any issues completing work on time and if they were easy to work with.
Search for them on Google and social media sites. If what they post is public, see what they say about clients they’ve worked with and if you’re comfortable working with them from what they post online.
Collaborate with your web designer
You have a huge role to play in the successful deployment of your business website. Spend time talking with the designer about what sites you liked and why, what features you saw on other sites that would make your site more useful. Do not leave it up to the designer to present you with all the ideas.
Then, give the designer ample information in a useable format. This information includes the text of a company profile or brochure that you would like replicated on your About Us page. Web designers have to deal with clients who hand them printed documents and then have to scan or type the text to get it on the site. When the client does this, it adds time and cost to the project.
Your logos should be sent as a vector file (such as in Adobe Illustrator’s .ai) so that the web designer can then create the correct size image to use on the website. If you are sending images to the web designer to use on the website, send it in a large size so the designer can then manipulate the image for their needs.
If the web designer sends a questionnaire, please take the time to complete it. The questionnaire serves the purpose of eliciting information from the client that will be used in deploying the website.
Don’t squeeze the project
Don’t squeeze a project for time or budget. If your web designer tells you that a site costs $5, don’t ask “Well what can I get for $2?” More than likely, you’ll end up with a $2 website. A $2 website won’t help your business and will hurt the reputation of the web designer.
If you believe that the $5 is out of your budget at the moment, speak to the designer about a different arrangement. Re-visit your site specifications and see which items are the most important for generating leads and just can’t be left out at the beginning. Talk to the designer about what can be delayed.
Sometimes a designer might be willing to amend the payment terms and stretch it out. You never know unless you ask.
Know what you’re paying for
Somewhere during the discussion stage, you would have agreed that the designer will – for example – present a site in 14 days with a website containing 20 pages, a drop down main navigation, using certain colours, with a lead generation form with 5 specific fields and an embedded Google map on the contact page.
Even if it is agreed with a handshake, you still must know what it is the web designer will be presenting to you. It is best to get an itemized list of what elements will be used on the website and what comes in the package.
Ensure that you know what support you will be getting and what it will cost. How much does web-hosting and domain names cost and how often do you pay? Are you getting personalized email addresses in your package and how many?
Know who owns what
When you hire the designer, you should agree upon who owns what. As the business owner, do you know who owns the website code? Whose name is on the domain name registration? Do you even have access to the server that your website files are being hosted on and can you make changes to the website yourself?
With regards to domain names, insist that you or a representative is listed as the registrant or domain name owner when the purchase takes place. For added security, purchase the domain name yourself.
Understand the designer is the expert
While you are the expert on blue widgets or services, the web designer is the expert on producing a website that’s fit for a professional business.
As the expert, the designer should be able to explain to you why they did things in a certain way. Have them tell you why a certain feature is necessary and what impact it is having on the website.
But since you are the expert at blue widgets, you need to explain to the designer that certain widgets are your best sellers, which are the most profitable and so which widgets or services make the most money for your business. These become front and center on your site.
Good web design projects are about communication and education. The web designer is not fully aware of your business and industry and so you as the business owner must educate them about it. The web designer must educate you about what they require to deliver a successful website for you. Do your due diligence and know what you are getting for the money you are spending.