Hiring a web designer isn’t easy, but you need to do it.
Your business is up and running, you have the traditional marketing materials like business cards and brochures, and now you face your last start-up hurdle: your website.
Your website, otherwise known as your online storefront and virtual brand, is how you will present yourself the to the world. The entire planet Earth will be introduced to your business via this website. No pressure, right?
So, what’s a new business owner to do? You want the best site possible, so you need to ask a web designer for help; should you do a quick Google search and hope for the best?
There are ten things you should do first before taking that route:
Instead of that random Google search, it’s time to use your professional network to find a web designer.
Ideally, you want one that comes highly recommended from someone you know.
There are millions of web designers worldwide that can help you create a website, but if you are the kind of person that wants to sit down with someone in-person rather than on Skype, your network might help you find them.
If you can’t find someone local, or you don’t mind hiring someone virtually, then you can tap into the online web designer pool to find a good match.
This is where Google can help: simply searching for “web design help” will direct you to freelancing job websites that connect business owners to freelancers looking for work.
Better yet, find a website in your industry that you like, and contact the web designer directly. Most designers leave a little “Designed by” link at the bottom of websites that they’re proud of!
Know your website goals and priorities
Before engaging a web designer at all, ask yourself: will your site sell products and/or services, or will it exist to simply provide information?
A web designer can help you answer questions like this one, but they will most likely charge you to have the conversation.
Instead, search online for websites you like and ones that could potentially represent your brand from an image perspective. This is also the time you will begin to draft an outline of what you want your website to accomplish, but we’ll get into that later. For now, figure out why you want a website in the first place to create a starting point for your project.
Create a Vision Board
Vision boards aren’t just for 20-somethings who are unsure what they want to do for the rest of their lives; they also help new business owners decide how to create the best look for their business.
Your board could be a virtual one or an actual board sitting in your office. It should include things like colors you want incorporated into your brand, preferred font choices, slogans or phrases, and graphics you intend to use when marketing your business.
Make a Design Wish List
Do you need a designer to build a website from scratch, or do you have a site already that needs updating? Both are entirely two different conversations: one focused on creating and executing a vision while the other focuses on improving an existing one.
If you don’t have a site already, make a list based on your research and vision board including the number of pages, headers, buttons, menus, or any other visual element you plan on including on your website.
Also include any social media buttons or brand icons you will need to promote yourself online. All these digital assets will add up, and creating this list can help a designer give you an estimate regarding the time it will take, and the money it will cost, for them to produce your vision.
Building a website is much like building a house: it always costs more than you anticipate.
Don’t let this scare you; just be prepared! Do your research and find out what the going rate for web design work is in your area before you speak with potential designers.
The best resource to find out this information is to ask other local business owners in the area who they hired to create their website, and the total cost involved. If you find yourself loving a specific website that isn’t local, reach out to the owner and ask if they would mind sharing the contact information of their designer. They will appreciate the compliment, and most likely would share that information.
Knowing your budget is so important, Tony wrote a blog about it: Seriously, We Need to Know Your Budget. Here’s Why.
Give Each Page a Purpose
How many pages do you want your website to have? What is the goal of each page? How much copy, or words on each page, do you anticipate?
These are just a few of the questions you need to ask before approaching a web designer who will most likely charge you by the hour to help you answer these questions.
Again, the best approach is to find websites in your industry you admire and try to emulate (not copy) their structure to create something similar.
If you don’t know how many pages you’ll need, start with these five pages that your customers expect to see:
- Product or Service Details
Your website will be a fluid marketing channel for your business, meaning you can update it as time goes on to keep it current, if the structure exists to support it.
Keep in mind that adding pages, changing the format, or making any significant design changes to your website will take additional design work. Meaning, it will cost you more money for a designer to update your site. The goal should be to create a baseline site that you can easily update with information and doesn’t require structural changes.
- Have Your Copy Ready
You might be surprised to hear this, but you should have the words for each page ready to go before your designer begins work on your website.
These aren’t just ideas; you need the final polished copy for your site. If you have no clue what to say or feel uncomfortable or unable to write it yourself, hire a writer to do it for you.
The goal should be to hand over this final copy to the designer at your first meeting. This way they can design around it. This will save you money since the designer doesn’t have to walk you through copy creation, and it will help speed up the process overall.
Establish a Creative Process Before the Meeting
Chances are you already are creating and managing your marketing using tools like Google Docs or Dropbox to manage files. Since easy online collaboration is key when working with a web designer, create a folder online to begin gathering ideas and storing key pieces of information they will need to access for your project.
Here are some of the items you will want to store in this online folder:
A shared file is a great way to create draft copy for multiple people to review simultaneously. By using software to track changes to the document, users can view changes made in real time. This can be a great way to speed up the creative process.
Images, graphics, and pictures
Any image owned by you for your website should go in this shared folder. What does it mean to own an image? We’ll cover that in #9 below.
Do you remember in grammar school putting together an outline before writing a story? This is the same approach you need when planning your website. It makes sense since this is your brand’s digital story about who you are and why you matter.
Each subset of this basic planning sitemap should include the page name and give you a sense of the layout of your site.
Web design agreement and contract
When designing your website, it is critical you and your designer are on the same page regarding expectations. Since you hired a designer chances are your knowledge of all things web design isn’t equal to theirs. Accept you may not grasp the time involved in designing a site.
You may think it should take a few weeks to create a website and get it up and running. However, the reality is, the design process can take several months based on the intricacy of the site.
Before any work begins, sit down with your web designer and create a mutually-beneficial contract that sets the terms of your relationship. This should not only include the budget and timeline, but also expectations of communication.
Would you like progress reports daily, or weekly? How often will you meet? Is email or text the best way to correspond?
Establishing expectations will help ease any administrative stress the project may cause. Keeping the focus on producing an awesome website.
You will want images for your website including photos, logos, illustrations, and animated gifs. This is where copyright comes into play. Any image on your site needs to either be created by you or obtained through professional help or purchased outright.
What does this mean? Well, it means you don’t copy and paste pictures from websites and then claim them as your own! There are many other ways to acquire the visual assets you need for your site:
- Take your own pictures or hire a professional to get the quality shots you need
- Purchase stock photos from Shutterstock, iStock or similar services that sell images for commercial use
- Hire a designer to create custom illustrations for your website
Images will tell your story as much as the words on your website. Make sure they look professional, compelling, and brand-specific to have the most impact.
Create a Launch Plan
Once your hypothetical website is ready, what’s your plan?
Before you even begin designing your website, you should consider how you will use it to your advantage upon completion. Some owners make an event out of the launch of their website to create some buzz about their brand. Others line up their best customers to give testimonials on their new site via copy or video content so they, and these customers, have something to say and share on social media.
Once your website is ready for public consumption, remember these three things:
Make sure it is grammatically correct
Check, double check, and then re-check it to make sure there are no spelling or punctuation errors. There is no better way to lose a potential customer than by making a poor first impression over a typo.
Test your links
Do you have an email associated with the site? Make sure it works by having friends and family send you emails through the site. If you can order products directly from your new website, run several test orders through to check your system is working correctly.
View your website on a mobile device
How does it look?
You want visitors to easily scroll through the phone via their mobile devices. Be sure to view your site from multiple devices to see how it looks and test the functionality of the site.
Send your website link to your friends and ask them for their opinion regarding how it appears and works.
Once you have considered these ten points, you’re ready to hire a web designer. They will have the information they need to design and you will get what you want: an outstanding website at an affordable cost.