Main Street Web Group - web design for small businessA good website is critical to the success of most businesses today, but it’s hard to know who to trust with the design job.

Prices for a basic business website can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  There are no licenses or professional certification for web designers, so there’s no easy way to tell is the designer is qualified.

In order to choose a good designer, therefore, you need to know what to look for.

Web Designer Qualifications

First and foremost, the designer should be able to produce attractive, professional-looking websites.  Studies have shown that people today judge businesses by the quality of their websites!

  • Ask for samples of the designers work, to be sure they have a high-quality appearance.  If you’re looking for a particular style, ask the designer to see sites in that style.  Also look for typos or errors on the site…  signs of a sloppy designer!
  • Websites should display correctly on all major browsers.  This includes Internet Explorer 6 through 9, Firefox 3.0 and later, Safari 3.0 and later, and Chrome.  Ask the web designer how they assure that your site will be compatible with major browsers.
  • If your website requires easy access from mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, and Android), ask the designer for samples of mobile-friendly websites.  Note that there may be extra charges for sites optimized for mobile devices.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Internet Marketing are very important to most businesses.  Ask your web designer about on page search engine optimization services, link building, and social marketing services.  Ask for examples of sites that have good search engine visibility and high traffic.
  • You may also want to consider Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.  Ask if the designer is certified to manage PPC campaigns with the major search engines.
  • Once your site is finished, you’ll want to be able to track site traffic, to determine the success of marketing initiative.  Ask the designer about options to traffic analysis.
  • If you plan to sell products from your website, ask about options for e-commerce (shopping cart) software, and checkout and payment processing options.  Ask to see samples of sites built using the designer’s recommended solutions.

Be sure that the designer can provide good explanations and examples to demonstrate their capabilities in all of these areas.

Choosing the Right Design Firm

Choosing a designer is not just a matter of finding someone with the right skills.  In a way, your web designer will become an important part of your business, so evaluate the designer as you would a business partner.  Here are a few things to look for:

  • Look for a design firm that will be around when you need them.  Some designers charge so little that their business is not sustainable.  Ideally, you should find a firm that has more than one designer on staff, and has been in business for a few years.
  • Ideally, the firm should also be able to provide ad design, marketing collateral, and other services.  It’s easier for your business to deal with one firm that understands your business and can meet all your needs.
  • Ask your designer for recommendations for web hosting, but don’t allow the designer to host your site; you don’t want your business to be “locked in” to the design form.
  • If the designer sets up your domain registration or hosting services, make sure that everything is registered in your business name, and that you are given all login information, and expiration dates and renewal instructions.  Be sure to keep this information in a safe place!
  • You should have a written contract with the design firm.  The contract should specify exactly what will be delivered and what it will cost.  Payments should be tied to deliverables.
  • Also be sure that you will own all rights to the design when it is completed and paid for, and that the design firm guarantees that they own (or properly license) all artwork used on your site. (Copyright violations can get your website shut down, and potentially cost you thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. You should understand how copyrights affect websites.)
  • Ask for references.  Specifically ask about the design firm’s track record in working with the client to understand their needs, and meeting commitments and delivery dates.

A Fair Price for Your Website

Even small businesses spend thousands of dollars a year on newspaper and magazine advertising, listings in the yellow pages, direct mail pieces, and other forms of marketing and promotion.

While it’s tempting to look for the best price on your website, its worth paying for the professional skills that will make your website an effective “asset” for your business.  For a basic small business website – design, development, and Internet promotion – expect to pay a few thousand dollars (not the $300 student specials!).

For a professional and effective small business website, consider Main Street Web Group.

If you require a more elaborate web presence, possibly requiring custom web programming or sophisticated user interaction, we recommend LunaGraphica, a boutique Silicon Valley web design and development firm.

<h2?Further Reading</h2>

Small Businesses should also understand the basics of Internet marketing and Search Engine Optimization.


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