So, you finally decided to hire a web designer to do the web design for your small business. Great. What took you so long? Oh, right. You were confused about finding and choosing a web developer, not sure if you had everything ready for the project, and didn’t understand what your level of involvement would be both before and after the site gets published. Yeah, those are normal things for non-website people to hesitate over. But you know you need a site. It nags at you night and day. We better tackle these issues and get your site born.
Finding and choosing a web developer is the first hurdle. There are essentially two ways to go: hiring a firm, or hiring a guy. I am a web guy, so guess which route I am going to recommend? Especially for small business owners, who make up 90% of my clients. In my opinion, a firm only makes sense for large businesses. A small business website is prone to get lost in the storm at a large web design company, and they are understandably not going to be able to offer the level of personal care an independent web guy like me can. They will also likely attempt to sell you an expensive SEO package as an add-on, which will not be cost-effective (and probably not very effective at all). Good independent web guys can custom-tailor a package just for you. The relationship will be feel much friendlier compared to being a small client in a big pool. Web guys like me understand your plight, because I am a small business myself. Finally, an independent developer working from home doesn’t have the overhead of a firm, so should be significantly more affordable.
Great, you made a choice and hired a web designer. So, what do you need to provide them? Most of my clients send me a few files to get started which typically include:
1) Logo art
2) Images for the site
3) Documents with written content such as articles, blurbs, product or service descriptions, and a short bio on either yourself or your company
4) Examples of other websites you have seen and like the layout of
5) A list of important elements the site should have
Here again we encounter another reason a web guy may be better than a firm. If you lack any of the items on the above list, an independent developer will be much more prone to helping you economically create them. Logo creation and image acquisition are easy and inexpensive services to provide or outsource, but a large web design firm will be more likely to refer you to outside services and simply wait for you to provide everything on the list. Small guys like me can do it all. I have, in fact, done it all many times, creating everything on the above list for clients, even for no extra charge at times when the requirements are fairly basic. Many independent web guys, including myself, are also internet marketers and/or semi-professional content writers and can write better content and descriptions for your site than you are likely to come up with on your own. You’re good at your business. Let us be good at ours.
Bottom line, a good web guy can make you a great site even if all you provide is a description of your business or service. Your level of involvement prior to the site going live should be only as much as you want it to be. Of course, if you have exact specifications, that works, too.
Your after-publication involvement is a more serious consideration. Who is going to maintain the site, you or your web developer? How often will changes or updates need to be posted? Do you want to be able to edit your pages and publish updates yourself, deliver them to your web guy to publish, or just send the developer an occasional note describing what changes to make? You need to decide this before hiring a developer, and come to an agreement on a possible site maintenance plan if need be. If you are a hands-on kind of person but lack website experience, you may need to take a little time to learn the skills and procedures for the level of involvement you desire when it comes to maintenance.
Getting your site indexed in the search engines after publication is a simple step any web designer should include in the development package. It should be built to current “SEO best practices” as far as the site structure goes, so the search engines will respect its structure when discovered. Getting the site ranked highly for specific search terms, however, is another matter entirely. Sadly, the standard SEO packages sold by most web design firms are woefully antiquated and no longer effective. Don’t waste your money. If you want your site to rise in the search engine rankings, you need to publish regular fresh content, preferably both on your domain (as in a blog added to the site) and off of it. It is particularly important to post original relevant articles off your domain that link back to your site on respectable blogs that accept guest posts, and then establish some cheap links pointing at those articles, too. Sharp independent web guys who are also internet marketers are the only ones keeping up with the tools and resources to be able to do this economically.
This article was written by Andrew Kasch, a professional internet marketer and all-around web guy available for hire at Orange County Web Design.