A web site can help you expand your business, but getting one up and running can be a major project. Below we’ve compiled a few tips to help you get started and steer clear of pitfalls.
Step 1: Research
Before contacting any web site designers, you should have some idea of what you’re looking for. A Google search of your industry should list a number of companies similar to yours. Browse these sites, and notice several things.
There’s no one way to create a good web site, so make a list of those you strongly like and dislike, and note why you feel that way about them. This list will be very useful to your designer as they try to create a site to match your business and your vision.
Step 2: Prepare
Once you have an idea what you like and dislike about other web sites, determine what information your web site should contain.
Make a list of these items. Laura Bruen, founder of Zinc Media Web Design & Development says it may also be helpful to include a.) a brief company description, b) information about your target audience, c) a paragraph or two about what you wish to accomplish with your site, and d) what features on your list are necessary and what features are just ideal. “While this does take some time, it’s a necessary procedure to ensure proper handling of your request” says Bruen.
Step 3: Compare
Once you know what you want, you’re ready to shop around for a web site designer.
There are many ways to find designers: If you like a particular web site, look for the name of the designer in small print near the bottom of the home page, or contact the company and ask who designed their site. Ask colleagues, vendors, and clients for referrals. A quick Google search is often times the easiest way to find a designer.
Review the web site designers’ online portfolios. Do you like their graphical style? Do they have experience creating the features you want?
Next, send your list of requirements to two to four designers. Ask for a proposal and estimate for the entire project. Review each reply and note several things. How professional is the reply? How long did it take to get? How thorough is it? Be sure you know exactly what is included. Are there additional fees for imagery? Who will make updates to the site? Who will host the site? Who will own copyrights? How long will it take to complete the site? What are the payment terms?
There’s no single way to choose one web site design company over another, but to provide some assistance, Ryan suggests you remember that great web site design companies are a combination of graphic, technical, marketing, and consultative skills. “When contrasting one company versus another, find out what the design process is” she explains, so you can “identify if you are dealing with a company that will deliver what it thinks is right for you or one that will take the time to truly understand the scope of the project and the market.”
As for cost, says Ryan and Bruen both have some cautions. They suggest that before automatically going for the lowest bidder, you ask yourself : What is the cost of a bad or mediocre site in terms of corporate image, revenues, and opportunity losses? “This is a risk that must be calculated” says Ryan. Adds Bruen: “Your web site is your company’s identity exposed to the world, and it’s hardly something you want to take chances on, so take this very seriously.”
Step 4: Enjoy your web site
If you’ve followed these steps, you’ve probably located a designer and your web site should be well underway. Good luck!
Julia Schaeffer is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She frequently writes technology-related columns and has had extensive experience searching for web designers for herself and clients. If you would like to write a web design related article for Xemion.com, please contact us.