What is the purpose of your website?
As a business owner, in the simplest terms, it’s probably to get more business. You know who doesn’t usually know jack-diddly about generating more business? Web designers – especially free-lancers, outsourcers, sole proprietors, etc. Quite frankly, it’s easy to get fooled by a lot of smoke and mirrors – which means you’re wasting money for negligible results. We think that’s pretty unacceptable.
There are plenty of reputable agencies out there, but many web designers simply slap together some (hopefully) functional site and throw in online. They usually don’t know or care how to measure it’s impact on your business, much less how to position your business as a trusted authority in your market or how to market and rank your site with search engines and with your desired audience on social media.
Plus, let’s not kid ourselves. Any twelve year old with internet access can hop on YouTube, watch a video, and put a free website online in less than an hour. With the increasing role that the internet plays in consumer and B2B purchasing habits, do you really want to trust your hard earned, blood-sweat-and-tear sewn, beautiful business and sweet, sweet profit to someone with the technical skills and business acumen of a fifth grader?
Most people have good intentions, but…
It’s not that these people don’t want to build a good website that leads to an increase in business, it’s just that most don’t know how and tend to get lucky when they do.
These people mean well, they just need a paycheck and someone told them they could sell websites so voila – they’re a web designer.
And that’s not who you want to entrust with something as valuable as your business. So without further ado, here’s a few things to consider (some red flags, if you will):
RED FLAG #1 – They’re using Wix, Squarespace, or any of the other web builders you see in commercials on TV and online
These places (Wix, Squarespace, etc) are businesses. They sell the ability to create your website in a few clicks. Because business is totally easy and not supposed to be hard to get great results, right?
The websites built with these services and on their hosting, while attractive if built properly, are downright awful by just about any other metric. They function as the equivalent of a new office building for your business, but at the bottom of the ocean.
Analytics? Garbage. Customization? As long as you like their templates. SEO? Forget about it. Extras? Get ready to pay more.
So get yourself a real website that actively enhances your business in measurable ways.
Leave the services like Wix, Squarespace, etc and the “web designers” who use them where they belong: with the wannabes, the pretenders, the amateurs, and the people just happy to be there – not with a success-minded business owner like yourself.
RED FLAG #2 – They do not offer Search Engine Optimization as a service
Search Optimization is what enables people looking for your business to find your website through the search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, etc.
So if you want people to find your business online, then you need to build your website for two similar, yet very different, audiences:
1) Your target market.
2) The search engines.
Building a website that looks good is barely even scratching the surface of the ocean that is search engine optimization. If your “web designer” doesn’t understand that a website for your business starts with search optimization first, then you are probably better off ending your business relationship with that individual or organization. And if your web designer claims to be an “SEO pro”, then make sure to ask for a detailed plan or explanation for exactly how they plan to rank your website. If they hesitate or try to make it sound like it’s so complicated that you wouldn’t understand, move on. Your money is better invested elsewhere.
RED FLAG #3 – They charge a flat rate for websites (or another unbelievably incredible deal)
Your business is unique, unlike any other out there. And that means that you need more than some “one-size-fits-all” website.
Think about it – how could anyone promise to deliver something perfect for your business without even knowing your business, your market, or your intentions for your website?
Every website that serves a business purpose has unique variables that can only be addressed through a consultation or needs-analysis. A good website is an investment, usually in the range of thousands to tens of thousands, to potentially hundreds of thousands or more depending on your business needs. Anyone offering budget priced websites or any other offer that seems to good to be true should be avoided as your “web designer” at all costs. Caveat emptor, so they say.
Your customers get what they pay for in your business. You’ll get the same when choosing to become a customer of a reputable digital agency. And it’s a lot more expensive to undo a bad website than it is to simply build it the right way the first time around, so do your due diligence when selecting an agency.
RED FLAG #4 – They keep ‘nickel and diming’ you for various expenses and routine updates.
So maybe you already went with the budget “web designer”. Maybe it works ok. Maybe it doesn’t. As far as what you’re paying for…
Do you keep getting invoices you weren’t expecting for fees, services, updates, or other things you weren’t expecting when you get your initial deal? Does it feel like every few weeks or every month their’s another surprise with your billing? If so, it’s time to start looking for a more reliable arrangement.
A typical web design agreement with a reputable agency will cover a number of important things, and establish them clearly so that you have a good understanding about expectations for both parties and your obligations to one another. It protects your business from unexpected expenses, and it protects the agency from conflicts of interest, etc. This agreement usually includes some sort of initial building or design fee plus a monthly retainer or maintenance agreement based on your business’s individual needs and the options you choose for your website.
While you should expect to continue to invest money into your website (it requires maintenance, updates, etc like any other integral part of your business), you should have a clear expectation of what that investment is and what that investment gets you. As a general rule of thumb, maintenance and updates should be a flat monthly rate unless you specifically request major changes, adjustments, etc that aren’t covered in the initial scope of your agreement.
RED FLAG #5 – They don’t listen to you
It’s your business. It’s your website. That means your input is uniquely valuable. And communication is vital to ensure that your site is working to build your business.
If you ask for something on your website or ask questions about aspects of your website and are consistently met with some variation of “that’s impossible”,”not sure”, or just flat out non-answers, you may be dealing with an unqualified “web designer”, and your business is definitely suffering as a result.
These symptoms may manifest in another way, such as consistently blown deadlines, things falling through the cracks, etc.
The agency that you choose to do business with should be able to understand your needs and then outline and explain how to accomplish those goals in a realistic timeframe. After all, certain deadlines can make or break your business, so make sure your goals are realistic and in line with your business needs.