This article has been updated for 2020 with the latest information.
Despite the Internet being nearly as essential as running water in most households, many businesses are yet to develop a strong web presence, or are ignoring the web all together. With customers swarming online to compare services or to find the lowest price, your online customer base might be larger than you think.
Finding a respectable designer or developer can often be unnerving, so here’s a quick list of the online essentials you should consider;
1. What will a good website cost?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer as there’s no “one size fits all” approach. Treat your website as your virtual storefront, how much do you spend on your current “bricks and mortar” establishment for your business? Do you want to look like an old rundown business or an upmarket, professional business? These are important aspects to consider, a professional site may increase your business and therefore be a much better Return on Investment (ROI) for your business.
The following prices are in Australian dollars.
Less than $100
A small business or sole trader could simply utilise a free WordPress theme, watch and read about WordPress setup for 6-10 hours and then spend another 12-24 hours worth of time to put the learning into practice. You can also find a number of paid themes to help expedite the setup for a very minor amount to give you additional functionality. This is a great, low cost way to get your website up and running if you’re willing to invest your own time into your website.
$500 – $1000
Beyond just buying a pre-templated theme, many web designers can install the theme on your behalf as well as customise the colours to suit your branding. At this price range don’t expect a custom solution but the web developer will do most of the initial work for you, but you’ll still have to add a lot of the content yourself. This is our recommendation for those on an extreme budget but without any spare time.
$1000 – $5000
In this price range, you can expect a website design to be custom developed just for you. Most designers will use an existing “framework” to speed up development, but this will still deliver a unique design for your site. With this price bracket don’t expect any custom developed functionality (such as a helpdesk module, RMA process etc).
Do you need a customised site with interaction or e-commerce? Anything that involves a lot of custom work or payment integration is going to ramp up the cost very quickly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re relying on the website to generate revenue then you certainly don’t want to skimp on quality. The cost of quality work isn’t cheap, so be wary of any business which claims to be able to offer it all for much less than anyone else.
2. How do I choose a designer?
With thousands of web designers out there, it’s very difficult to choose one to suit your needs. Always have a look at their existing portfolio on their website and more importantly double check that the live design matches their listing.
Like any industry, there are some designers who tarnish the reputation of the many professionals out there. Unfortunately as a hosting company we’ve seen some customers who have paid for a site and either left high and dry or weren’t delivered what they had asked for.
The good news is that nearly all of the designers we’ve worked with have been courteous and professional. There’s an amazing array of talent out there so we’re confident that there will be a business which can assist you.
Always have an agreed upon specification and contract
Most disagreements for websites come from the fact that there’s no agreed specification, nor an agreed list of services. This is common outside of any web development as well, when two parties both have differing goals in their head and not on paper it can be hard to make them align.
Always establish a formal agreement or contract so that the scope of work, timeframes and pricing are all clearly outlined for both parties to agree on. Break each component of the website out into deliverables so that you can clearly schedule and see progress. An example may be:
- Establish a scope of works for the project (1 week)
- Create a design for the website (2 weeks)
- Implement website design in WordPress (1-2 weeks)
- Migrate content from old website (2 weeks)
- Final acceptance testing (1 week)
Use milestone payments for large projects
If you’re undertaking a large project, we recommend breaking the payments down into milestone or staged payments. For the example above, it’s most likely that a contract would include one payment. If you have a larger project with multiple modules and custom coding, we recommend breaking this out into milestone payments rather than paying upfront.
Know your rights
We very highly recommend using an Australian based company so that you’re protected by the Australian Consumer Law. This legislation protects your rights as a consumer and no contract or terms and conditions can remove these rights. If you are buying a product then it must be “Fit for Purpose” and services must be delivered with “Due Care and Skill”. These are protected rights so if the product or service you’ve been delivered doesn’t meet these then you have grounds to challenge the supplier of the services for either a partial or full refund.
More info: www.consumerlaw.gov.au
3. What should I look for in a website design?
There’s a lot to consider for a website so it’s important to have a good idea of what you want before talking to a web developer. This way you can more clearly convey to them what you are after and what end goal you’re trying to achieve.
Look at your competitors and see what they’re doing! If they have a great website, think about the aspects which make it great. Do they have a clear message? Does the design of the site make them seem professional? What do they do differently to make them standout?
Conversely, you can also learn from your competitors which don’t have a great website. Look at the aspects which make it seem poor, does the design look dated? Does the message and content seem convoluted? Think about how you want your site to be better.
Believe it or not, the Australian Government website business.gov.au has some great tips and information available. Ensure you spend some time reading their guides and tips on creating a website to get the best possible outcome for your site.
4. What do I need to provide?
Here’s a basic list of things to provide:
- High resolution copies of your business logo
- High resolution copies of staff member photos
- High resolution copies of your products and/or services
- Content for the website
This last point is normally the most overlooked, especially because it takes a lot of time to put it all together. While web designers are very talented people, most aren’t copywriters and therefore can’t make up the content for you. Sometimes this can be outsourced to an external copywriter (at further cost of course) but ultimately the best person to talk about your business is you.
Consider the story you want your website to portray, have you been a long time business with extensive experience? This is what you want to convey on your website. Are you a young and innovative business with some new ideas or new products? Again, this is what you want to convey via your website.
Conetix has assisted many SMB’s with their website, from basic hosting advice through to referrals to some of our talented partners who trust their hosting with Australian customers. We have also published a number of blogs with tips and advice for your website covering many aspects of design, systems to used and ways to improve your site.