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What to look for when hiring a local website designer
Hiring a local website designer can be one of the more challenging things that small business owners do. Typically this isn’t something you do every day and, if you have a good designer, it isn’t something you have to do regularly. And to make it worse, here in Mebane and the greater Alamance County area, we have a number of people that work with businesses to create websites so you are forced to make a choice and then wonder if you made the right one.
But making sure that you at least know some of the things to look out for when you are hiring a local website designer can be a great tool in making your selection an easier and more confident one. So, here are some things to look for when hiring a local website designer.
Number 1. How Do They Communicate?
We hear stories all of the time about small businesses, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits who hire local website designers who couldn’t speak to you if their life depended on it. Or worse, absolutely hate speaking with business owners.
If your website designer isn’t willing to sit down with you and have a conversation about the challenges that your business is facing, how could you ever expect them to be able to provide a solution?
Your website designer should be in constant engagement with you, asking for feedback, making suggestions and offering you some type of guidance on how the process is going. If you hire a designer and they don’t speak to you on a regular basis and provide some type of mechanism for them to reach out to you that isn’t just an email or support ticket, then you have hired the wrong person. Putting your head down and going into a little hole to create a website with minimal interaction with and understanding of a business is never going to create a problem-solving website.
Projects like a website design require ongoing back and forth communication between the designer and the business. That doesn’t mean that the web designer is always breathing down your neck trying to get information, pushing you to over-communicate, and causing you not to be able to focus on your business. It just means that they are available to you and you feel like you are able to reach out to them if you have any questions, want to provide any new feedback, information or guidance, or if you just need to feel secure about the investment you are making in your business.
Make sure that your local website designers project manager are available for you to communicate with and is actively engaging with you.
Number 2. Be sure that your website designer is actually local
Many small business owners don’t know that their local website designer actually isn’t local at all. They are actually farmed out and outsourced to overseas people for a fraction of the cost, driving up the profit margin of the person.
I am 100% behind entrepreneurs who have found this as an opportunity to grow their own business, offload some of the design work and make a buck. But, in our Alamance County community, we have a huge number of small business owners who pride themselves on only buying and selling American made products. We have farmer’s markets and restaurants who only serve locally sourced products. And when they buy from a local company, they believe that they are supporting the local community and economy when they hire a local website designer.
In addition to the general local commerce implications, there is another HUGE problem in hiring a website designer who isn’t building the website locally.
If you need changes made to that website in the future, there is no guarantee that the person you hired will actually be able to make the changes that you need to be made to your website. And, they may not be able to get in contact with the person that they hired who built the site in the first place. That forces them to hire someone else which drives up the cost to YOU.
On top of all of that, you also have issues in terms of the ability for that outsourced person to be able to speak to your audience. Our community here in Mebane has created a way of life. So making sure that people who are being hired to speak to your potential clients and customers actually know HOW to speak to them and what they need to hear in order to make a buying decision becomes very important.
Ask your website designer if they outsource projects or if they keep it in house.
Number 3. Cheaper never means better
Unfortunately, like in many industries, there are always people who are willing to do it cheaper. But understanding that IT doesn’t just mean putting together a newer looking website.
In the web design industry, there are a number of freelancers or one-man-shops that just turn around and sell a theme that they bought in a theme store for $45 back to customers for $500-1,000. Taking this approach with your project is going to short change you before you even get started, will not solve the actual problem that your business has, and is shortsighted.
One rule of thumb that we always encourage businesses to remember is that if the person is unwilling to take the time to meet with you and spend a substantial amount of time in discovery and roadmapping for you, then they are not working for you.
Make sure that the website that you are having designed is built to solve your problem rather than just be art on the wall.
Number 4. But that doesn’t mean that the most expensive is best
In our area of Mebane and Greater Alamance, small businesses that are looking into hiring a website designer have a large spectrum of who they can pick from. And a lot of them do fantastic work. They create a solid product that is intentional and helps make our community stronger.
But for a small business owner, feeling as though you have a tremendous dollar figure that you need to invest in your project at the outset in order to be able to get any type of return isn’t necessarily true.
Making sure that you are hiring a local website designer who understands the value that the website brings to your business and that they are pricing accordingly is very important for setting and controlling your budget. They also need to understand the problem that they are working to solve for you and do their best to make the best decisions that they can for your money.
This isn’t an indictment on bloated web design prices. Different projects have many different requirements and also have a much different value proposition (think Coca-Cola getting a new website versus Hank’s Hardware). Just make sure that the value to your business is properly being reflected in the budget.
Make sure that your local website designer is able to articulate the value of what you are receiving and that they understand their responsibility to execute on their plan.
Number 5. Avoid the Generalist
While there are a lot of people in our area and across the web that claim to be experts at everything, the reality is that is largely impossible.
Different platforms and tactics around the web have different needs. If you are building a website, then you need to have particular abilities and experiences that allow you to do that. If you are a search engine optimizer, then you need to have specific knowledge and skills to execute on your promises. If you are a content marketer, then you need to be on the cutting edge of social media and content marketing trends so that you are able to flex and grow your client’s strategy accordingly.
Many website design agencies will claim that they are able to do everything.
Make sure that the person that is solving your problem is a specialist in the execution of your solution. Otherwise, your problem usually won’t be solved.
Number 6. Make sure you will be able to update the website and that they have some type of documentation to help you with that
If you aren’t able to update the content of your website, the pictures, the text, the blogs, the videos, etc., then you will never actually build your website into your marketing plans and strategy as a fully functioning tactic.
Making sure that you have a platform that allows you to easily update the information on the page is critical for small business owners and nonprofits. You don’t have a ton of time to spend parsing through code, waiting on ticket requests, or trying to reach their fly-by-night designer on the phone. So having the ability to make updates quickly and easily on the site becomes essential.
And if you are having problems? You shouldn’t have to do any of those things either and you shouldn’t be expected to go out into the wilderness of the internet to find the answers to your questions. So having tutorials, how-tos, a knowledge base and even videos to teach you how to use different elements of your site is a great customer support addition for you and certainly, empowers you to be able to do things yourself. Unfortunately, some designers choose to retain control so that they can charge you for updates and changes.
Make sure that your website designer has specific support mechanisms in place to help empower you to manage and update your website.
Number 7. Make sure that their design is intentional for solving a problem rather than just becoming art
When you are building a website, you need to make sure that you are creating a tool to solve a specific business problem. Website design, while being design, is not fine art. Austin Knight is the Senior User Experience Designer at HubSpot. In a recent blog post as well as in a talk at the Internet Summit in Raleigh he said ”
Creativity plays significantly different roles in design and art. Good design is not creative simply for the sake of being creative. It is creative for the sake of serving a purpose or solving a problem. Art, on the other hand, can be creative simply for the sake of being creative, because that is precisely the value that it provides.
Basically, art is creativity that has the ability to stand alone with any need for purpose. Meanwhile, design is intentionally used to achieve a purpose.
Make sure that your website design is oriented around solving a problem first and then developed with creativity that helps support that intended purpose.
Choosing your website designer can be complicated and can make you feel uncertain. When in doubt, ask to speak with some of their past clients and actually do so. If they aren’t willing to give you names and phone numbers of past clients that are willing to talk to you about their process and what it was like to work with them, then they are not the designer for you. Ideally, they should already have this information available.
We have put together a little checklist for you to keep this in mind as you are working through hiring a local website designer. Just put in your information below and we will send it right over. Keep this by the phone and with you while you are talking to designers. That way you are able to refer to it and know what kinds of questions you need to be asking.