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Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store, an ecommerce company, or use the web to promote other services, your website speaks volumes about your business. A poorly designed website with cheap-looking clip art and confusing navigation can turn off potential customers, because it gives the impression that you don’t care enough to create a high-quality site. On the other hand, a professional-looking website with clear choices and polished graphics gives customers a positive impression of your company. It can also feel like a natural extension of your brand or physical store.
The right web designer can help you create a website that gets noticed for all the right reasons, so here are some tips to help you navigate the process.
Figure out your needs first. There are many different types of websites, so save time by narrowing down exactly what you need. Will you need a cart and checkout so you can sell products? Or will a simple brochure-style site suffice? How often does your website need to be updated? Do you want to include a blog or Twitter feed? Look at other sites for ideas. Once you have a feel for your needs, you’ll be better equipped to find the right person for the job, because not all web designers are skilled in all types of websites.
Request referrals. One of the best ways to find qualified contractors or vendors is to ask other businesspeople you trust. When you see a website that’s similar to what you need or when you’re out networking other businesspeople, ask who designed their website and if they’d recommend that person. Getting a referral increases the likelihood that your web designer will not only create a site that you’re happy with, but will meet deadlines and deal with any issues that pop up later. If you aren’t able to get a referral, you can look for freelance web designers on sites like directory.freelanceswitch.com and creativehotlist.com. Alternatively, you could do an online search for web design firms or agencies.
Ask the right questions. Once you’ve found a web designer who looks promising, be sure to check out her design portfolio and ask lots of questions. For instance, did you design this sample site on your own or as part of a team? What is your typical turnaround time? Do you charge by the hour or a flat rate? If it’s a flat rate, how many changes or revisions are included? What if I want to update the site later? How much will that cost or can I do it myself? Could you help me with search engine optimization, too? Even if you’ve gotten a referral, it’s still a good idea to ask for references so you can talk to their other clients and see if they were happy with the designer’s work.
Once you choose a web designer, it’s wise to create a paper trail so that you both understand what’s included in the price and what the expectations are in terms of deadlines and technical requirements. Once your sparkling new website is ready for viewing, you’ll be glad you spent the time and money to do things right.
© Ali Brown, Ali International LLC.
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