Your website will often be the first point of contact between a potential customer and your business. It needs to reflect the values of your business and be as professional, helpful and easy to deal with as you are in person. Get it right and it starts to build trust in potential customers that you can deliver what you are offering. Get it wrong and those customers will be going elsewhere before you’ve even spoken to them.
Find out more about technology that can help your business. Read on for more about getting the right website.
It’s not just what you say that’s important - design elements will have a direct impact on how much people believe what they’re reading. A 2004 study into health websites indicated that people were more likely to mistrust sites with:
- busy or complex layouts
- pop-up advertisements and flamboyant ads
- small print that’s hard to read
- boring web design/lack of colour
- slow website intros and load times.
What’s more, website design starts working for you even before your customers see your homepage. Design elements such as HTML page descriptions, keywords and optimised text can affect how your website performs in search rankings.
How do you get a website that works for your business?
Option one – build it yourself
If you feel confident about online content creation and editing, then you could try using a template available on sites such as wix.com, 1&1.co.uk or squarespace.com to create your website. You don’t need any coding or design skills, as these sites will guide you through the process, allowing you modify pre-existing templates to input your information.
These hosting sites will help you register your domain name and link it to your site. After the set-up process, they will host your site for a small monthly fee – typically in the region of £10 - £15.
If you require only a basic website and have some digital skills, this can be a good low-cost option. However, unless you can modify the template to your precise needs and update it regularly, you run the risk of ending up with a website that doesn’t set you apart from the competition, and you may not make the most of search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques and design or branding opportunities.
Option two – find a website designer
A quick search for a website designer local to your area will likely bring up hundreds of results. Web designers don’t need to have any particular qualifications and, with hundreds of agencies and freelancers in the market, the choice can be bewildering. However, there are some steps you can take to find your way through the maze.
Designers vs developers
When you’re looking for someone to create your website, you need to know who you’re dealing with. A website designer will specialise in the graphics, look and layout of your site, ensuring it is easy to use. A website developer, on the other hand, will do the actual coding to make the design come to life.
It’s unusual for one person to specialise in both areas. As a customer you need to find a website designer, as they will usually know developers that they work with regularly who can code the site for you.
As with finding any service, it’s a good idea to ask your network for recommendations. If you’re part of a business network or chamber of commerce, other members may well have experience of working with web designers. Look to see if any businesses have websites that you particularly like, ask your contacts how the project went and whether they’d recommend the particular designer.
If you’re unable to find any personal recommendations, look at other companies’ websites and see if there are any that stand out because of how easy they are to use, the way they look or their layout. You can always phone up these companies and ask them who created their website – then contact the designer or agency yourself.
Website designers will usually work either as an individual freelancer or within an agency. In each case, they should have a portfolio of sites that they’ve previously worked on to show you. Look for designers who have previously produced websites similar to the one you want to a high standard.
Ask any designers you contact for details of previous clients that you can speak to. You can then ask past clients directly how their project went – was it completed on time and to budget? How did they find working with the agency or freelancer? Was it easy to contact them during the project? You may want to ask about their working style, whether they arranged regular face-to-face meetings or communicated online, and so on.
As with any project, your budget will affect the level of service you can expect. It’s worth speaking to two or three designers to see what’s achievable within your budget.
Building a website can cost anything from a few hundred pounds to many thousands. Unless you’re dealing with a design student or a friend doing you a favour, you should expect to spend at least £500. Your website needs to clearly present who you are, what you do and how customers can contact you in a professional way. If your web designer can’t achieve these basics within your budget, it’s important to find out at the beginning rather than the end of the process, so talk to your designer early on about what’s realistic.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you’ll need a website that customers can find – so it needs to be optimised for search engines. This means working on the design, text and structures so it appears higher in search results. Again, it’s important to be realistic about what you can achieve within your budget. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is complex. It can take thousands of pounds of regular investment to rank highly for general search terms, such as ‘Cardiff plumber’. On the other hand, if you have a site name (URL) that is specific to your business, such as ‘fredbloggsplumbing.com’, after some time you can expect your site to rank highly for people searching for you in particular. Your web designer should be able to help you achieve the balance that works best for you.