6 Rules to Evaluating a Web Design Company


Web Design Company Checklist

Whether you are investing $5K or $50K in a website, you need to know your project is in the right hands. The best way to dial back on risk is to understand what qualities make or break a great web design and social media partner. Anyone can post a great-looking website with samples of work that wows. By digging a little deeper and asking the right questions you can smoke out the posers and know your hard-earned social media marketing and design dollars are in proven, capable hands.

Let’s start with a few basics. You’ve probably been wondering exactly what good web design and social media can do for your business, and how much does it cost to make it happen.

Q:  Will a new website bring me more business?
A:  Yes, if it is built correctly.  No, if it is not. A site in itself is just that: a plethora of pixels taking up space online. A beautifully optimized site turns that space into a beacon of lead generation, drawing customers to your site and converting them into buyers.

Q:  Will social media marketing (SMM) make a difference?
A:  Yes, if it is appropriate for your business.  Many factors need examining before you can have a definitive answer, but like web design, if done correctly, social media marketing can have a tremendous impact on your business.  

Q:  Can you guarantee me top ranking on Google and other search engines?
A:  No.  In fact, anyone who can guarantee that result would know more than the engineers at Google.  Run from anyone who claims this or any type of money back guarantee, because you’ll never see it.

Q:  Does design really matter?  
A:  Yes, design is art combined with function.  A good design communicates messages and allows the viewer to have a greater liking for you and/or your product and services.  It’s all about communicating and differentiating your brand and outshining your competition on as many levels as possible.  Be better on every level and you’ll be the leader.

Q:  Why would I hire a copywriter for my content, when I can do it myself?
A:  Original, professional and well-optimized content is what wins in the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and SMM world.  It also captures the attention of the site visitor. A professional writer knows how to create content that engages, skillfully conveys your brand benefits, and has the right keyword ratios to propel visitors to your site and converts prospects into buyers with well-crafted sales copy.

Q:  How much does a new website cost?
A:  Each site is built using custom design and coding unique to your site’s architecture.  Generally, a site with branding, logo design, SEO, editing tools, copywriting, and 4 pages with integrated SMM is $25,000.  Anything less than that for the same services and you’ll have to question the quality of what is being delivered.

Q:  I’ve seen websites and templates for $600 – $4,000 dollars and you’re talking about $25,000?
A:  Let’s break it down into hours.  A one man web developer show would need 70-90 hours to design and write the code for a 4-page brochure site with SMM and SEO integration. This includes setting up all the necessary accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, YouTube, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Yelp, etc. This also assumes that this super hero of web development is also doing the branding, copywriting, marketing strategy, logo design and communicating with the client and all necessary vendors.  Assuming that this superhero really exists how much would he cost per hour?  Could he charge as much as a lawyer or should he be paid as little as $8.00 per hour?  Understand that 70 hours is the minimum side of the time needed to produce, but for our superhero below are the calculations based on amazing speed and quality.

  • $400.00 per hour at 70 hours = $28,000.00 (Attorney)
  • $125.00 per hour at 70 hours = $8,750 (Experienced Freelance Graphic Designer)
  • $8.25 per hour at 70 hours = $577.50 (DC Minimum Wage)

A website should not just be a passive electronic brochure when it can be a 365 day a year international sales force actively generating leads and closing deals.  It should be created with a goal in mind, whether that’s generating leads, closing sales or boosting brand awareness of your company, products and services.

The Rules

Rule #1: Make Sure Your Site Will be Optimized for Search Engines

A website without SEO is like a hotel with all the lights off, no sign out front and zero advertising. Nobody’s ever going to notice it (until the For Sale sign goes up).  

A website must be found readily by a potential customer.  This is done with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  “Optimization” is an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible; specifically: the mathematical procedures (as finding the maximum of a function) involved in this…”  Therefore, SEO  must be actively made in order for it to be effective.

There are very specific rules that must be followed when designing a site.  Some of these include the use of title tags, meta tags, keywords, headers, fresh original content, number of quality incoming links, internal links and established social media integration.  The point of this is that for each positive action you take to enhance your site’s ability to be found by a new customer, the more opportunity you have to get your message across, whether it is to buy, to impart information, or to join you in a cause.  

A site will not come close to being on the first page of a Google search result in a highly competitive field unless these basics are in place and even then it is a challenge and requires real ingenuity depending on how competitive the field for that first page placement is.  This does not include a search for your company’s name.  It must be a search for something that you want people to have or do.  For example, (“best hiking shoe in DC”) may come up in the number one spot if your company is name is Best Hiking Shoe in DC, LLC, but if it’s not, then you are left to compete with large multi-million dollar companies like Hudson Trail Outfitters and Sports Authority and Zappos.  It is important to know what your potential customers use for search phrases.  If they are searching for “trail boots 20016 (a zip in DC)” then you will have to make some adjustment.

The question is, “how do you know if the web design company you are looking to hire will implement the very basics of SEO in to your company’s strategy?”  The answer is: you ask for it.  There is one simple way to determine if they will, and that is by the price.  To integrate SEO into a site for a simple four page brochure (a small restaurant, a small member law firm of less than 20 employees, a services company) the cost should range between $4,500 and $6,000 plus, the cost for the web design without any copy, branding or positioning statements.  This is a rare instance because most clients are too busy to create and might lack the know-how on creating engaging content that converts the lookers into buyers.  Larger sites cost more to optimize each landing page, item and/or blog post, but it is well worth it.

With little training and the right web platform, a non-tech savvy person could easily handle updating the SEO for a company for each of its new pages or products added and for any blog post or article written and published on the site once that person is trained.  

In a surprising survey of small web design companies it was discovered that they do not have their own sites optimized with, at least, the basics of SEO.  Further, in a sample of 100 simple brochure websites that were “professionally designed”, it was discovered that only 12% were SEO optimized.  It was difficult to ascertain the cost of each site, but of what was discovered, prices ranged from $3,800 to $12,000 with an average cost of $7,000.    

Rule #2: Great Web Design is as Smart as it Looks

Great design is about usability and the interaction that is created with it for your demographic of user.  Web design is tuned for the site visitor and their level of experience with navigation.

Web design must attract and hold the immediate attention of a visitor.  That includes the speed at which each page should load (anything more than a few seconds is too long with the average connection speed in metropolitan region being 765 kb).  It must be clutter free with little distractions other than an embedded guide map that ignites the visitor’s curiosity to explore further with interesting images and graphics.  Each web page must create a want to go to another page or a call to action.  Each visitor to a page should know instantly what the company is about or be curious enough to stay longer and discover it on their own.

Each page must be designed with SEO in mind. (See Rule #1)

Rule #3: Craft a Great Call-To-Action (CTA)

Does your Call to Action stink? It might, if it smells like a poorly concealed invitation to spam the nice visitor with unwanted emails cloaked as “useful information.”

CTAs require ingenuity.  The worst CTA is one that states “Hey! Sign up for my newsletter”. People aren’t stupid. Most people realize that “sign up” is simply code for spam me with garbage I don’t want.  Give them something they can use that really has some value or provides the proverbial carrot: “Sign up for my newsletter and receive valuable coupons or information or be the first to know.”  The best CTAs are short and sweet.  “See it in action”, “Free 30 day trial”, “Become a part of the Movement for Clean Air” or “Vote”…

CTAs have to be designed and placed, for the most part, on each page of site.  Some can be less intrusive than others, but all the while, they have to have a designed cohesive message.  Ask yourself what you want to accomplish.  Know how many times a visitor will come to your site before action is taken.  Adjust each CTA accordingly and if it’s in the budget, alter positioning, size and placement.  You can track which call to action button is most effective with easy to use monitoring software that is embedded in your site.

Rule #4: Make it Easy to Navigate

Where the hell am I and how do I get Home? If your visitors have to struggle to find what they want they are going to tell you and your website to get lost!

There is nothing worse than landing on a page that has no clear instruction on how to get more information or contact someone in charge.  Once on a page it must be extremely easy to navigate.  It’s a simple test.  When a visitor reaches for information or a product, hand it to them quickly.  If it can’t be done, you fail.  

The near perfect model of navigation can be found at Apple Corporation.  Every Apple product is packed full of product and for the most part very easy to navigate.  The company’s philosophy comes from a thinking of “design first”.  That philosophy is followed through every step of the buying decision whether you are in an Apple Store, navigating your iPad or downloading iTunes.  It’s a lot of choice and for the amount of information, it is easy to navigate.

Rule #5: Social Media Integration

Social media integration is essential if you want to create a website that acts as an active, effective sales machine and not an inert digital presence that has just cost a chunk of change.

Social media is the cornerstone of communication with your prospect.  It builds online communities of loyal customers and increases your site’s findabilty or ranking when conducting web searches.  It is also valuable because the more people that follow you and advocate your brand the easier it is to target a campaign directly to them.

At a bare minimum, your web design must link to a Facebook page for the organization, even if your customers aren’t using it. Do not forget about Twitter for both sites should be registered.  (It appears that a Twitter profile will soon be as essential as a business card once was for every business). It will take you 5 minutes to set it up and save you the heartache of having your name snatched up by a competitor.

You can build social media, but will they come?  No, not unless you are active with it.  There must be effort put into any campaign especially ones that are geared for 2 way communication.  You say something or have a blog post and you get feedback, you’ll have to respond.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll have to respond to each visitor, but if someone took the time to ask you a question, not answering it will demonstrate your company’s sincerity to customer service, or what they think of social media.  

Rule #6: Evaluate the Web Designer’s Site

It’s sorta like walking into a hair salon and the stylist greets you with a really bad mullet.

Do they practice what they preach?  If you come across a web design you like, find out who made it.  If it follows all the rules above as near as you can see, get a quote.  If you like the web design company’s approach and they have the talent to back up what you are looking for, there is no harm in obtaining a proposal.  The important thing to remember is that in order to make a good decision you should know what to compare.  I remember when car buying was based solely on the looks and price of a car.  Now it has to do with many factors, but the good news is you can compare each of those factors without going to the dealership.  With web design, it can be a challenge without the right information to be able to compare!

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Internet Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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