You want a Web site for your business, but you know you can’t afford a Web design company like that cool one in New York that wins Webby Awards every year. That’s ok; your site doesn’t need to be award-winning to meet your business objectives. It does, however, need to be professional and functional. So how do you find a good Web designer who can do all that without spending a fortune?
Step One: Determine Your Budget
If you don’t have a budget set aside for a Web site, then you’re not ready for a Web site. Stop right now and work on a Web budget. Why? Because a Web site is the modern day storefront. You’d expect to pay rent for space in a strip mall or building, so be prepared to pay for your Web space. You’ll need to pay for a domain name, hosting, design and ongoing site updates.
If you don’t currently have a large budget for your Web site, remember the mutability of Web design; web pages are easily updated at any time by a Web designer. Get a nice clean site within your budget and then add on to it as you business grows and you get your financial footing. But be sure to let your Web designer know your ultimate goal, so he or she can build flexibility for growth into the design.No matter how large or small your budget is, it’s important to go into it with a clear idea of what you plan to spend.
Step Two: Find a Good Web Designer
Now that you have determined what you can afford to spend on your site start shopping around for a Web designer. Ask people you know, look at your favorite sites and see who designed the site (a company name and link are generally displayed at the bottom of the home page) and do a search on your favorite search engine.
As you’ve talked with friends and family about needing a Web site for your business, you’ve likely come across a neighbor or other young person who’d be willing to do your site. Maybe even do it for free! But beware of the boy next door mistake.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the boy next door, who’s a bit of a computer whiz, would just love to create a site for you for free and that this will help you establish a long-term Web presence without having to spend a dime. You may hope that what you can get for free will be as good as what you pay for, but does it ever really work that way?
The boy next door may be fine, but he must meet certain criteria: Is he experienced or just messing around? Trained or self-taught? In the 11 years I’ve been in the Web design business I’ve been gainfully employed unraveling and rebuilding the work of wannabe Web designers; those folks with a copy of FrontPage and a desire to tinker around. Do you want a tinkerer or a professional? Remember that for many of your customers your website may be their first impression of you – if not their only impression of you. Are you willing to trust young Brandon or Billy with your company’s reputation?
Step Three: Get some Quotes
What will a real Web Designer cost? It depends on what you want your site to do and how you want it to look. Will it have basic pages with a logo or do you want moving images and sound? Will the content be mostly text or do you need to capture and store customer information, provide a shopping cart, allow visitors to search a store catalog? The more features your site has the more it will cost. Think of it like adding options to a car. The more options added to the base model, the higher the sticker price.
Every web designer is different, has different skills and specialties and therefore has a different price list. Some may price by project, others by features and some by the hour. So shop around and get some quotes (hint: know what you want first and this part will be easier).
Independent or freelance Web designers will be more affordable than a design firm. They have less overhead because they usually work from home. That savings is passed on to their clients. You may pay as little as $1000 for an entire site but set aside at least several thousand dollars for the project. Try to get a range of quotes; one high, one low and one in the middle. From there it’s a balance of which design has the right skills, availability and a cost that meets your budget.
Step Four: The Contract
Ask for a contract; some form of written agreement about what you want and what you will pay. This will protect you and the designer. If the designer is unwilling to do this, look for someone who is. A true professional will be comfortable writing and singing contracts with clients. A true professional will insist on it.
By defining your budget, carefully looking for a competent, qualified designer, shopping for a fair price for what it is you want to accomplish with your site, and then making sure to get it all in writing, you can find a good Web designer that will create a strong, professional Web presence without having to spend a fortune.