Who Should Build Your Company’s Website?
Congratulations! You’re about to design, or update, your company’s website! This is an exciting time, because your website nowadays is your image and presence on the Internet for any and all prospective customers to see and use. These days, your website is your business card, store front, receptionist, and representation of your business all wrapped up in one element.
Your website should be able to help all your visitors, provide the information they’re individually looking for, usher different visitors through different channels of information, establish your credibility, capture their contact information, and allow them to either purchase from you through the website or easily set up an appointment where you or one of your business representatives can help them with their needs and the solutions they’re looking for.
Will you use website templates or will you custom develop your website? This is a big question for many business owners. A website template can cost as little as $4/month through your web host, or can cost in the thousands when hiring a professional agency. All too many small business owners opt for a middle ground of paying hundreds for a one-off Content Management System (aka CMS, or Blog-site) theme that an inexperienced, out-of-work developer, or “friend of the family” puts together for the business owner for, say, $300. This cheap labor usually ends in dissatisfaction and wasted money on the business owner’s part, because they got what they paid for…a cheap website which doesn’t work.
How does the average business owner, who has to work overtime and sometimes 7 days a week in their business have time to work on their website or even know what’s most effective? Fear not, we’ll walk you through all the options right now…for free.
Flash Sites (“The big debate!”)
Flash sites, or sites which contained a large degree of Flash technology in them, were very popular in the 90’s and early 2000’s. These days, most modern sites and modern development techniques do not include Flash. As a matter of fact, with Mobile technology and usage growing at a pace almost similar to the speed of sound, you have to consider compatibility with modern Smart Phones and Tablets. Flash is not compatible with any mobile Apple product (iPhones and iPads), and is not fully reliable on Android devices (Motorola Droid and Xoom, HTC, Google Nexus, Samsung Galaxy, etc). The Android mobile devices state they are compatible, and technically they are, but the performance has been less than desired at the time of this writing, and very clunky at best. Also, Flash sites hinder (and sometimes almost prevent) any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you’re going to want to do with your site. For the most part, and Flash proponents will undoubtedly disagree, it is our professional opinion based on almost two decades of experience with online marketing and online business that you should NOT use Flash for your website, as there are far more negatives with it than positives. Adobe, the company which owns Flash technology, has even slowly started moving away from it. Plus, it’s very expensive to create and change. Bottom line. It’s probably just not worth it unless you’re creating a game on your website, Facebook Game app, or something along those lines.
Template Sites (“Would you like fries with that?”)
The advantage of a template site is that you don’t have to pay a developer, they’re mostly easy to change, and they’re cheap. That’s pretty much the end of the benefits with a template site. The disadvantages are limited ability to customize the site, the templates are more likely than not developed to be for generic use and not developed with your business category or company in mind. Also, the template website will most likely not be able to easily tie in to your social networks or capture leads and/or visitors’ information for you (unless you know a little bit of coding). Basically, you get what you pay for. A cheap solution which doesn’t advance your company’s brand, marketing, or business development effectiveness.
Cheap Labor (“My nephew does websites!”)
The advantage of hiring a cheap single worker is pretty similar to having a computerized generic template. You get an actual human to do the coding and development for you, so they’re more likely (hopefully) to be able to plug in some connectivity to eMail Marketing systems and Social Networks. However, once again, you get what you pay for, and hiring a non-professional will most likely mean you will be missing out on something else along the way, like effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO), professional blogging and content creation advice, semi-reliable technical knowledge, etc. You’re also not guaranteed to have an effective website which will work to drive business growth, because that friend of a friend, outsourced worker, or nephew most likely will not be a marketing expert who understands how websites should be used…to drive business growth, capture leads, drive up conversion rates, and create a stronger connection with prospective, current, and repeat customers to keep them all coming back over and over and over again.
More often then not, the business owner who tried to save money and cut corners usually has to redo all the work the cheap labor did, and spend more money the second or third or fourth time around to get the job done right. The business that is lost by trying to cut financial corners usually results in much more money in than it would have cost to hire an expert professional website design and/or marketing company in the first place.
Professional Website Design and Marketing (“Done Right…The First Time“)
The professional website designer and marketer will ask you about your business requirements for the website, and will ask what your typical customers are like. You should expect a document of what the site will do in full detail, an information architecture document (i.e. flow chart, site map layout, etc), and an expert to discuss with you the options for converting visitors into leads and/or customers.
The website’s graphic design should tie in nicely with your existing branding and feel like an extension of your business itself…because it is. The professional marketing company or website designer will also help you with the technical side of things such as determining which format to code the site in (for example WordPress vs Drupal), where to host the site (cheap host vs dedicated server vs cloud hosting), how to tie in all the Social Media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), and eMail Marketing plug-ins (like AWeber, ConstantContact, etc).
You should expect to see the website’s visual design, and all architecture documents before the site is launched, and expect a full walk-through which will show you how to use the site’s back-end system, update the content, and some instructions on how to blog for best conversions and organic Search Engine Optimization. The professional website designer will launch the site with you, check for bugs and anything that needs tweaking to work exactly as specified in the planning stages, and fix any errors or bugs for no charge. Beware of any company or “professional” who doesn’t show you website designs before launching and looks to charge you extra money to perform bug fixes. You’re paying for professional services, so make sure that you’re getting exactly that.
Here’s the key part of this blog post, which will make sure you’re not getting ripped off…
A strong indication of how good a company’s performance is will be the strength of their testimonials. Just looking at a page of a website which reads “Portfolio” and doesn’t contain any information other than a link to the live site is a red flag. A professional website marketing company will provide more than just a pretty picture. They should be able to tell you what they did to help that company’s image, brand, and business. They should be able to give you a case study on how that company went from concept to completion and what the results were from their work. Any company that just offers up a group of screenshots and links, without providing strategies and thought processes is either not telling you the whole story, or hasn’t performed all the necessary steps to ensure their work will be successful after the project has been completed. Look for a company which stands by it’s work, can explain their strategic thinking to you in speech you can easily understand, and which has a track record of success and long list of dynamic and impressive testimonials.
Look and sound expensive? It doesn’t have to be. Any professional company will work with you on the payment plans. Expect to pay a deposit, or start-up fee, initiation fee, etc. After that, you should be able to break up the balance in stages. If you found the company you trust and want to work with, and money is the only object, then make sure their main focus is on your company’s success and not just getting paid. Any company with integrity and which wants to work with you and your company will most likely be able to work with almost any payment plan you can afford in order to help your business grow.
Professional companies’ pricing for websites should start around the low four figures and go up from there, depending on the complexity and business goals and requirements of the website. Get a few quotes, but don’t just go with the lower price. Some companies are cheap for a reason (see the two sections above), and you could end up going through a rough situation and more headache to save a few bucks than just going with the most professional company which has your best interests, and the best interests of your company, at the top of the list.
Action Item: What kind of website do you currently have? What do you want your website to do? How would your website be improved with a new version? Do you have a professional designer or marketing company in mind? If you require any assistance whatsoever, give us a call or drop us an eMail and we’ll be happy to help you and your business out!