What Every Smart Small Business Owner Should Know Before Approaching a Web Designer
How to get a website that exceeds expectations (but not your budget), and blows your competition away.
You know you need a website for your business, but with so many web developers to choose from, how do you know if the outcome will be satisfying, successful and good value for your money?
Here’s the low-down on what you need to know to be a savvy client, read this guide to arm yourself before you make that call.
It’s a team effort
The biggest mistake that most small business owners make when it comes to website projects is not realising how much time and effort it takes for YOU and your web designer to produce a website.
The second biggest mistake, and one of the main reasons why a lot of people have had bad experiences with web designers, is not clearly understanding or defining what it is the website must achieve.
Having a website online does not mean that you will automatically get website visitors.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the website launch is just a part of the process. You’ll have to market the website to drive people there.
One way to generate traffic is to create valuable content aimed specifically at your target audience. Another way is by tweaking the web content to perform well in the search engines for specific keywords. You’ll need to discuss the topic of marketing with your web designer if it’s an important goal for you.
Social media is insanely important for online marketing, especially Facebook. You just can’t ignore it, even if you hate it. Make sure that you mention social media integration, social media links and social sharing buttons for your new website.
Where people go wrong
Budget v Expectations
Usually there are some great ideas about what the business owner wants to achieve from their website. The reality is that the budget doesn’t match the ideas. This is not the fault of the business owner, it is just due to lack of knowledge on how much time it takes to produce.
The best course of action is to be up front about your budget and what you’d like to achieve because it’s the quickest way for both parties to establish a realistic project that is within your budget.
People can be a bit funny about revealing a budget either because they have no idea how much it would cost or because they are afraid that the web person will take them for all they have.
Trust me on the latter, you are more likely to underestimate the cost rather than overestimate.
Just be honest about an amount that you feel comfortable investing and your web person will tell you what they can achieve.
The thing is if your budget is low, there are off the shelf methods to use that will reduce production time, therefore cost. The more budget you have, the more customised the final result. Get it?
Another common issue is not realising that you, the business owner, will be providing the content for the website. Content meaning any copy, photography, downloadable files, video, audio etc.
Unless you specifically ask for content writing your web person will be creating the website for you but not writing your content.
Most business owners think that it won’t be a problem to create the content but what I experience is a major roadblock when it comes to this part of the project. You either don’t have time because you’re busy running your business or the content you do provide is not up to standard.
Luckily most website providers will be able to either offer an add on service or will know a trusted partner who can help you.
Unhappy with the results
When business owners deal with web people things can get sour if there’s not a clear definition or understanding of what the business owner is paying for at the outset.
Example: business owner assumes that by creating a website, that website will be on Page 1 of Google even though the project was only for creating the website and not to optimise the website for Google. The business owner assumes that the website will be on page 1 and gets annoyed when it’s not.
Being clear about your goals for your website will help the web person to quote appropriately, this will provide a means to check deliverables and ensure that the end result meets your expectations.
So how do you make sure your website project runs smoothly?
1. Be prepared
Before anything else you need to establish several important core pieces of information such as:
- defining your products / services
- the main reasons for needing a website,
- what you want your website to achieve for your business
- the timeframe
- your budget
- whether you have content ready or not
- exactly who your target audience is and what it is that they want from your website
- feedback about your competitors and what they are doing that you could do better
Everyone wants a meeting as a first step. But unless you know the answers to the above points it will be a waste of everyone’s time.
The web partner in your meeting knows nothing about your business. It’s up to you to be able to provide this info.
In fact supplying this information before your meeting is even better to give your web partner a chance to research and prepare for the meeting so that you can all talk about it in more detail.
If you don’t know some or all of these then you’ll need to take some time to think about it or you could go through a Discovery session with your web designer to help you nut out the details. Expect that they will charge for this as it usually takes some time, depending on how much you need help. Your business mentor or business strategist may be able to help you also.
2. Allocate time
You’re working as a team with your web person so you need to realistic about the time needed to be invested in this project. It’s not up to the web designer to do everything. You are required to provide definitive information, give constructive feedback, respond to requests promptly.
There will likely be a timeline for your project and you both have a responsibility to keep the momentum going. The more focused you are, the better and quicker the project will be completed.
Try to be as decisive as you can, as any changes to the project after you have signed off any paperwork, functionality or designs can attract additional fees. This is totally acceptable as you are changing the goal posts and additional work will have to be completed to accommodate the changes.
Learn to take imperfect action. Websites are never finished, they evolve so don’t be too precious about providing content that you think might change because down the track, you can change it! It isn’t print or set in stone.
Keep the communication channels open. Your web person should be updating you every week on what’s happening with your project (or chasing you up because they are waiting on you for something).
Communicate with your web person if you need to ask a question or provide feedback. Make sure to do this in a way that is appropriate. For example don’t send hoards of emails with one point per email. Instead collate your points into one email and then send it.
No question is a dumb question, if you don’t understand something, ask. Then if you still don’t understand ask again. Web people can sometimes lose touch with what is understandable to people outside of the industry.
4. Establish what happens after the website launch
If you’ve chosen a good web person there will be a limited period of time after the website launch to iron out any issues and help you learn to use your website. Then after that, unless you have a plan in place any changes or updates you request will be at an additional cost.
Different people have different needs. Some people are tech savvy and want to be mostly in control of their website content and other people need support. Talk with your web person about what they can offer you and make sure you establish these details before you start the project, it should be in the website proposal.
5. Back-ups, software updates and fixes
Back-ups are very important and I can’t stress this enough. You must organise a regular back-up of your website in case anything goes wrong (your site could get hacked or break at any time).
Most people don’t realise that back-ups are important until it’s too late. They don’t imagine that the worst will happen to them until it does.
If your website is built using a Content Management System (CMS), that is if you can log in to a control panel and make changes to the website, then the software that runs the website should be kept up to date to maximise security and access the latest features.
The problem is that sometimes updating the software can cause conflicts and your website might break so be sure to have something in place, or someone who can fix it.
Talk to your web person about what they can offer you for back-ups, restoring the website, updating and fixing any issues on an ongoing basis.
The most important part of any website project has to be for all parties involved to take it seriously and do it right which means committing to the project and taking the time.
A lot of people think that commissioning the web designer means that everything is going to get done for them but that just isn’t the case at all.
Website projects take longer than you imagine. Looking at a finished website you don’t see the time spent planning, meeting, discussing, reviewing, designing, creating, coding, styling, testing etc. You just see the end result.