It’s common for small business owners to outsource the technical work of building a website to a freelancer or agency. But even if you don’t know much about websites, you need to know enough to choose a good designer.
Rhett Power, author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions, learned first-hand the importance of asking the right questions when he started working on a new website for his speaking and writing business.
“When I first designed my site a few years ago, I didn’t give much thought to things like SEO, newsletters, and mailing lists for my customers,” Power said. “If you’re like me and have a site that isn’t customer friendly or that isn’t driving sales, then it might be time for a redesign of your site.”
Before selecting digital marketing vendors or design firms to interview, Power recommended first reviewing your current website. Identify what is and isn’t working. Take a look at your competitors’ websites. Think about the audience you want to target. Then, consider what your target audience wants to see on your website and how you want them to feel.
Once you know what you need, it’s time to start looking for a designer. Here are the eight questions Power recommends you ask all your potential web design vendors.
1. Will Our Approaches Work Together?
“No matter what line of business you’re in, [the designer] should help imagine the end user’s journey on your site,” Power said. You should make sure you and your design are on the same page about that.
2. Can I See Your Portfolio?
Evaluate a large range of their work—from websites related to your industry to those that are not. “What you’re looking for is the design, style, and most importantly, functionality,” Power said. “There are site functionalities that may appeal to you that you’d like to ‘import’ over to your website.”
3. Will I Be Able to Easily Manage Content?
Find out what platform your website would be built on and if it’s user-friendly. “You want to ensure that once the site is launched, you are not forced to ‘marry’ the developing company by committing to a long-term service with them,” Power said. “Find out what site functionalities you will have access to for future changes—from content to design, to turning functionalities on or off.”
4. Can You Create a Rough Mock Design of What You Envision for the Site?
“This should also include their vision for your ‘navigational layout,’” Power advised. After receiving mocks, determine if key website information is easy to find and how seamlessly customers could purchase online using the proposed design.
5. Will You Optimize the Site for Search Engines?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, will improve your website’s chances of being ranked highly by Google. This means identifying key search terms and words in your site that are important to your business and ensuring that the technical structure of your site follows SEO best practices. “This is critical for your business to be found by customers,” Power said.
6. Do You Have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System?
Consider integrating a system like MailChip or Constant Contact into your website to manage your customer contacts and mailing lists. “This will give you a way to gather more data about customers and potential customers,” said Power, and support your email marketing efforts.
7. What Analytic Data Will I Get From This New Site?
In order to understand your customers and how to reach them, “It is critical for you to get data from your site that helps you understand what your customers are looking at,” Power said.
8. How Much Will It Cost?
This is self-explanatory! Make sure you have an idea of your budget going into your interviews with potential vendors.
Launching a new website is one of the most important digital marketing decisions you can make for your small business. Armed with the answers to these questions, you can be confident that you’ll select the right website designer to create an effective online destination for your customers.