Seven Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Web Designer
What you need to know and do to get the most out of your web presence
Your company website is perhaps the most critical component of your marketing plan. Yet, too often, it’s an afterthought put in place for the worst possible reason.
What does that mean?
Pay-per-click advertising is one of the most important tactics in the marketing toolbox these days, but without a website that can convert those clicks, it’s wasted money. The same goes for direct mail, SEO, social media and email marketing. Each is a critical component of a comprehensive marketing plan that depends on a website to convert visitors into leads and leadings into customers.
Despite how critical that website conversion is, the primary drivers of web development are often how it looks – or worse, what it costs.
Which is a bit like buying a beat-up car, installing new shocks, adding new tires, filling it up with premium gas, and completely ignoring the leaking, shuddering engine beneath the hood. It doesn’t matter how much you’re doing to improve your ride, if the car doesn’t get you to your destination.
As you can see, your business’ website is an integral part of the entire marketing system, and choosing a web designer is one of the most important business decisions you can make.
Before you hire a website designer, ask them these seven questions:
1. DO YOU USE TEMPLATES?
There is a massive marketplace of templates available to designers that all operate under the same principal: just drop in a logo, add some words and pictures, and you can have a good-looking website every time.
If your website designer is using templates, run.
Template-based web design has its place – think personal blogs – but is not effective for a business.
If you are using a template, you’re going to look like every other website built off that template. Marketing is about setting yourself apart from your competition, not looking like a clone.
More than that, if your designer is building from a template, it’s likely they’re not thinking critically about how to solve your business’ needs – they’re painting by numbers to make something look like what any given website should look like.
2. WHAT SUPPORT SERVICES DO YOU PROVIDE?
Websites don’t exist in a vacuum. That ship sailed long ago, with the advent of Google AdWords.
If all your designer can do is put a website live online, he’s doing the equivalent of putting up a billboard on a desolate backcountry backroad. No matter how great it looks, or how effectively it converts, if nobody can see it, it’s wasted money. In other words, look for a designer who is a member of a larger marketing team that can build an effective site, drive the right kind of visitors to it and convert them into customers.
That whole-team integration is critical in other ways, too.
For one, there’s the fact that if you have one team design the website, and another do your pay-per-click, and a third do your direct mail, you’re likely to end up with three different messages appealing to three different types of customers (unless you micromanage the whole process).
For another, single designers are typically experts in a single part of the website design process, leaving you (or other contractors) in charge of producing multiple parts of a single project. If you have to hire one person to design the website and another to write the website copy and still another to do the heavy graphic design, you’re going to end up with a motley collection of disconnected parts and pieces instead of a single cohesive website.
3. WILL MY WEBSITE BE RESPONSIVE?
Without mobile, you’re nothing.
That’s not hyperbole; if your website does not accommodate mobile visitors, you’ll turn away nearly half of your eyeballs. And that’s if they can even find you to begin with – Google prefers to show you results that are responsive in their search results.
Responsive design means your website responds to screen size to remain functional for the visitor, so the same website looks good (and is functional) on a smart phone, a tablet and a multi-display PC.
If your designer tries to tell you you don’t need a responsive site – walk away.
4. DO YOU OFFER PREMIUM PLUG-INS AS NEEDED?
Chances are, any website you purchase these days will be built on the content management system (usually, but not exclusively, WordPress).
This is where quality design companies separate themselves. Smaller, cheaper companies will use free versions of plugins to give your site functionality like appointment scheduling, video integration, shopping carts and more.
More professional firms, on the other hand – the kind that have a track record of building successful sites – will be more up front: user-friendly plug-ins cost money,, but it will mean a more effective website for your business.
5. WHERE WILL MY WEBSITE BE HOSTED?
Google and users agree: Slow sites are a turnoff. If your website design firm proposes hosting on the cheapest tier of hosting, you’re going to regret your choice sooner than later.
6. WHAT SITE MAINTENANCE DO YOU PERFORM?
A good developer’s job isn’t done when the site goes live. Because the internet is constantly evolving, they should offer continued support for your website. Whether it needs an update, new plug-in, or a photo to be swapped out, your designer should be available to you even after the project ends.
7. WHAT ARE THE STREGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF MY CURRENT SITE?
Here’s where your prospective design firm can truly set themselves apart.
Is their message to you about the look of the website, or is there an actual consideration for who your customer is and how your website works for them? Remember, website design is not simply about aesthetics; it’s about converting visitors into paying customers effectively and consistently.
Equally important, a prospective designer should be discussing your entire marketing plan and how their design fits into the larger puzzle. How does your business stack up to your competition online? And how can they help you compete beyond the website design and layout?
A website is not optional. But too many business owners treat their website like a box that needs to be checked, rather than an integral component of their online presence.
Like every other part of your marketing plan, your website should have a purpose. Make sure your website development firm can deliver an effective component for your entire marketing picture, not just a pretty layout that makes you feel good. Ask these questions, and don’t be afraid to walk away when they can’t deliver.