I have yet to meet a small business owner (including myself) who hasn’t been frustrated by the process of developing a new website. Website development represents a considerable investment and for most small business owners it’s well outside their comfort zone.
Based purely on anecdotal information, the common pattern seems to be:
- Find a web designer through a Google search or referral from a friend;
- Check out their website and be impressed by their gallery;
- Meet the web designer and decide they seem nice;
- Sign on the dotted line, expecting the web designer to do their magic;
- Everything takes longer and costs more than you ever expected.
Here are some steps I’ve learned (largely through painful experience) can avoid the frustration, disappointment and unexpected costs of a bad website design experience.
Ask for a demonstration of the Content Management System (CMS) up front.
Make sure that it will be easy and efficient for you and your team to update your website once it’s finished. Don’t wait for training at the end of the process – ask for a demonstration before you sign on.
In my opinion WordPress is the best choice of CMS for most small businesses. It is the most commonly used, which means it has plenty of plugins to quickly add functionality and it will be easy to find another web designer to help you if your original designer decides to retire (or you decide to retire them).
Be aware that designers use different themes and editors to construct WordPress sites, so the backend does not always look the same. So even if you are already familiar with WordPress, it’s a good idea to ask your designer to demonstrate the backend. (This is something I’ve been caught out on myself!)
Find out the ENTIRE cost involved with developing the website.
Make sure you are 100% clear what IS and what IS NOT included in your quotation before agreeing to proceed with a web designer.
- Most web designers do not include copywriting, photography or videos – get quotes on these before moving forward. You may be surprised how much this will add to the cost.
- Find out how many changes the designer allows you to make. Developing a website that you really like can involve a lot of toing and froing with your designer. It’s important to know if this is going to cost you and make allowances in your budget.
- Many web designers include hosting in their pricing. Be aware that it is not necessary to have your website hosted by your designer. In most cases the designer is using a third party to host your website in any case. Sourcing your own hosting may save you money and reduce your reliance on your designer.
Write a design brief, discuss it carefully with your designer and don’t accept anything outside the brief.
Don’t just show up at a web designers office with an example of a website you like. Take some time to think about what your business needs, and put it down on paper.
You can download a basic design brief here. Be as clear and specific as possible. If you know what you are looking for make sure you say so.
Insist on wireframes and pay close attention at this stage.
A wireframe is a drawing that sets out the functional elements of a website or page. At this stage you can get an idea of how your customer is going to navigate your website. Remember that a web designer knows about web design – YOU know about your business and your customer. Give careful thought when presented with wireframes and be confident that your customer is going to be able to easily find the information and resources they need.
Take charge. There’s nothing worse than design by committee.
Developing a new website is an exciting time for a small business. It’s nice to get your team involved in the process and it’s important to listen to your designer’s advice. But nothing kills a good design faster than management by committee. If you’ve done the thinking at the briefing stage, and paid attention at the wireframe stage, then trust your own instincts when it comes to the final design.
There will always be some frustration involved in the website development process, but follow these guidelines and you can avoid unwanted surprises and proceed with greater confidence.
Movers and Shapers project manages the entire website design process for our clients so they can focus on running their business. If you don’t have time to properly manage your web design, give us a call.