Co-written by Michelle Drumm, Chief Operating Officer and Natalie Winslow, Director of Marketing for Commerce Kitchen and CWCC Member
In her blog post, “When You Should Hire a Designer for Your eCommerce Site,” (http://cwcc.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/when-you-should-hire-a-designer-for-your-ecommerce-website/) Becky Mulch points out the importance of knowing when you need to take the leap and hire professionals to build your website. Inexpensive web platforms like Wix can be fine starting points, but if your site is intended to drive traffic and create revenue for your company, you’ll need to make a serious investment in your site.
But what you can get when you hire a pro or a team of professionals can vary widely, and I was reminded of that in a recent conversation with a potential client. When I gave this gentleman some ballpark figures, he was startled – we were coming in at more than three times what his last website cost.
After taking the time to explain that at Commerce Kitchen we go through rigorous branding work, analysis of current site use, UX and UI planning and strategy, and build the site out to fit his company like a glove on both the front and back ends – and that the process would take two to three months – his response was something to the effect of “Oh – the last guy I hired just spun it out over a couple of nights after his day job.” Small wonder, then, that his site wasn’t meeting his expectations, and he was in the market for a rebuild! Once he understood the difference between what we were offering and what he’d received in the past, he was able to make a decision about whether or not a bigger spend was in order (he decided it was, happily!).
I often compare website builds to something concrete, like carpentry. If you want someone to build you a table that looks pretty, they can make it out of cheap wood with a coat of paint. But if you want to be able to dine and entertain friends at that table, if you want the table to hold up under a little bit of weight, then you’re going to need to make sure the carpenter is using the right tools and materials.
Website design and development is like this. A majority of your potential clients will check you out online to make sure that you’re a real business who’s serious about what you do. Your website should reflect this, not only in appearance and design but also in ease of use. When you’re picking a web designer, take some time to explore other sites that they’ve built. Can you easily figure out how to navigate these sites? Do they appeal to you, not only aesthetically but also functionally? Ask your friends and colleagues to take a look, too. See how difficult or easy it is for them to understand the goals of the site. Ask the designer what she knows about search engine optimization (SEO) and how she intends to optimize your site for that.
Another thing to consider is how easy it is to update the site. If you plan on blogging (great for SEO!) or regularly changing the content on your site to reflect events or specials, make sure you’re empowered to make those changes easily so that you aren’t always dependent on your web designer to do that for you. Decide what content you’ll need to be able to control on the site, and ask your potential web designer about the features included in their CMS (content management system – the interface that allows you to update the site without knowing code). If possible, ask for a demo of their CMS to make sure it provides you with the access you need.
Finally, before choosing a web team, ask them how they’ll make decisions about your new site. If your business has never had a website before, then find out what kind of research the company will do before they begin designing and building it. If you’re hiring them to build you a new site to replace an old one, then you’ll want to know what data they’re taking from your old site to inform the new build. Are they looking at site usage and analytics? Or are they taking an educated guess? Or worse – are they ignoring that data altogether?
What you’re willing to put into your website build will determine what you’ll get out of your website. If you have a small budget then pick one or two important features and know that you won’t be able to get everything you want right now. If, however, you’re willing to invest a little more in your site, then find a shop that approaches your business from a holistic perspective. Your site should not just be a pretty picture: it should help build your business by engendering trust and empowering people to interact with you in a way that is easy and enjoyable.
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