Do you need a small business website for your small business but no idea how to go about it? Here’s some advice.
I was considering the other day just how hard it would be to choose a web design company if I wasn't in the industry. I’ve been a digital project manager for over 10 years so I know a bit about websites. But what if I didn’t? Where would I start?
A Google search throws up hundreds of products, companies, prices but who do you choose?
I also speak to quite a few businesses who ask me the same question. Whilst the sales side of me would like to say "Just choose us!". I try to be objective so have put together the following advice:
- Get recommendations. Ask friends, acquaintances and other business owners what experience they have had, who they used, who was good, who wasn’t. Posting the question on Facebook or LinkedIn is a good idea but be ready for the deluge of names, sales calls and emails which may then follow.
- Research the recommendations. Look at their websites and social media see if they have any reviews. Look at their portfolio of work and contact the ones you like - make sure you contact at least 3.
- Compare and contrast the responses you get back. Note the ones which come back to you promptly and courteously. From there, ask the ones you still like to provide a name of a current or recent client you can talk to direct.
- Arrange a meeting. A reputable company will definitely want to talk to you, preferably face to face to find out your requirements, as well as to explain their process to you. They will encourage you to talk about your business, your customers and your own personal likes and ideas. From this meeting, you’ll get a good idea as to whether your personality will fit and how professional, knowledgeable and friendly, they are.
- Costs. When it comes to costs, you will find a vast range from £199 to costs in the thousands for the same website build. Whilst as a small business, you always need to keep costs down, cheaper is not always better. Cheaper could mean there are hidden costs along the way or it’s a template like thousands of other websites. Alternatively, it could be just one person, who may or may not be around/have the time in 6 months if you have a problem. It's best to try and have a budget in mind first, so you can see what's on offer.
- Contracts. No matter who you pick, before any work is commenced, agree a fixed price and what you're getting for that price, in advance, in writing. Most reputable web companies will have a set of terms and conditions for you to review and sign to protect both you and the web company alike.
- Payment. If a company asks for full payment in advance be very cautious. A lot of companies offer some type of staged payment plan throughout the development period - most will ask for a deposit. Make sure when you read the terms and conditions you specifically check the payment requirements if anything goes wrong, on either side.
- Gut instinct. There’s a lot to be said for instinct and if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. There really are plenty of businesses to choose from so find someone else that does feel right.
In summary, although choosing a company to build or refresh your website is potentially a daunting task, if you ask yourself these questions you should avoid any problems:
- Have I got a recommendation for this company?
- Have they got a website, a portfolio of work and do I like it?
- Are there any negative reviews on social media?
- Do they respond quickly? Do they seem friendly?
- How long have they been around?
- How many people make up the company?
- Will they provide a fixed cost? Are there any other potential costs?
- Do they require full payment in advance?
- Does it feel right?