So you're looking to design or redesign your website. Where do you start? How much should you spend? What can you expect from a design agency (or should you design the site yourself)? Read on for some helpful hints that will to assist you on your journey to creating the perfect website.
Doing It Yourself
Many people have taken this route. DIY websites are all the rage lately. For example, you can design a website on Wix for as little as $17/month (at the time of this writing). With many website agencies charging $5000 and up for a typical website, this option will definitely entice the more fiscally frugal among you.
Opportunity cost is described by The New Oxford American Dictionary as "the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen". Specific to designing a website, opportunity cost is cost resulting from choosing a design option that yields lower returns – in this case, designing yourself. In English: Will saving costs up front yield lower returns (income, customers) in the future?
The Hidden Cost of DIY
If you choose to design your website yourself, you should start by asking how much time are you willing to commit to the design and management process. What you save in money you will most definitely spend in time. So how valuable is your time and how much are you willing to spend for it?
Most people with some level of technical savvy can create a webpage on Wix in as little as a few hours. That said, the quality of the design is often significantly lower than if they hired a professional agency. What defines quality? A quality website will include elements such as:
- Clear site navigation and architecture
- Clear call to action
- Trust building
- Good SEO (search engine optimization)
- Fast load times
- Mobile friendly
- Strong color palette
The above list is abbreviated, but you get the idea. Ultimately, you want a website that generates business, right? Good web design agencies spend all their time learning how to do just this. A good web design agency learns to identify what types of people are coming to a site, what they are looking for, and what is the next step they want to take. In this way leads turn into customers.
On top of this, consider the time it takes to manage a website. Getting noticed on Google and other major search engines is a continual process, and one that the pros will charge $10k or more per year to implement. Why? Obviously there is great value in getting your site to the top of Google's search pages. Moreover, the time it takes to market a website is correctly is considerable – usually several or more hours per month.
Hiring a Professional Web Design Firm
If you are still reading, perhaps you've decided to hire a web design firm. Awesome! Here are some general tips for deciding who best to design your website.
Don't Hire a Designer
By designer, we mean a person or company that only focuses on the artistic aspects of a website to the exclusion of all else. This type of person or company will offer a spectacular portfolio of beautifully designed websites. They're pretty, but guess what? Most of the time these types of sites don't sell. That is, they don't generate business income. Look at the list of quality design elements above. The artsy designer will most often ignore them (well, not the color palette perhaps) in favor of fancy bells and whistles that do little except slow your page load times.
In addition, many artistic design agencies will have very little depth in coding (programming) and development, which results in all sorts of issues, including poor page performance and many other missed opportunities that whose primary outcome is lower traffic and ultimately fewer conversions (a.k.a sales).
Don't Pay to Little
There is a lot of work involved in developing a quality website. On average, our firm takes anywhere from 30 to 100 hours to complete a typical site. Expect to pay $2500 to $5000 for a 5- to 10-page website. While tempting to pay less, the opportunity cost will almost always be higher when hiring a "budget" design team.
Don't Pay Too Much
High-end local web designers can charge a lot more for a typical website. These are the guys with the gorgeous offices and slick sales people. In the end you are often paired with a junior developer and consequently will see junior-developer results. Whoever you decide to work with, check out their work and see if you like it. Trust yourself over the sales guy because he's probably not as much an expert as you might think.
Ensure Your Site Has a CMS
A CMS, or content management system, provides a way for a regular person to add and edit content. If you plan on managing even a little of your website after it's completed, then you must have a simple way to do this. Wordpress is the defacto standard of CMS applications today, and most websites are built on it. Ensure that your design firm will walk you through how to use the back end of the site to make changes.
Conversely you may want to let your web design company manage all your data. Ensure that they provide a good CMS regardless, as there may come a time when you no longer wish to work with them. Without a CMS, things might get difficult.
Own the Data and the Domain
When signing a contract, make sure that you have 100% rights to data, including copy (text) and images. Also check to ensure that the CMS program can be migrated to another hosting provider, if necessary. When you purchase the domain name (e.g. your-business.com), purchase it yourself. Many designers will purchase the name for you. While this is convenient, it is not unusual for these firms to go belly-up and dissappear overnight. Then you will find out the hard way how difficult it is to retrieve a lost domain name. A good place to search for and purchase domain names is Namecheap.
Wrapping Things Up
We hope this article helps make your time creating your website easier and more profitable. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send an email to email@example.com. We'll be happy to help!