Let’s take a look at small business website design and your options.
There are quite a few options when it comes to getting a new website for your small business. Whether you’re looking for a website refresher for your 2004 coffee shop flash website or your brand new tech startup one-pager, it’s important to research your options. Here we’ll over 3 popular options and their pros & cons.
Now, there are two major first choices before we dive into specific platforms, and that is; to build it yourself or not to build it yourself. This may be an easy decision for the tech startup and those of you who are in that industry will need to look at comparisons between web building platforms. However, for those of you with a brick & mortar location, aren’t tech savvy, or simply just don’t have the time to spend on learning a platform to build it yourself – we’ll dive into a couple of your options. Keep in mind, we are really focusing on website design for small business.
Hire a Freelancer:
So, let’s start with what not to do first.
Hiring a Freelancer.
This is something we really, really do not recommend. No, we don’t hate freelance website designers, and yes they can be very good at coding and building websites. The problem comes down to the whole package. If the freelancer you hired is very good at website development, perhaps a specific CMS like WordPress, then they probably only specialize in website development. More likely than not they are going to lack expertise in branding, video production, SEO, and other marketing requirements. You simply need access to a team of specialized professionals that are experienced in their specific field. It’s a bit tempting to go on Upwork (previously Odesk) and look at website design freelancers that promise to get you a website at $250-750, but again there’s an entire laundry list of issues and critical aspects of your website that you will be neglecting. Another unfortunate trend is that they could simply stop working on your small business website midway through and ghost you, this happens far too frequently.
Let’s go ahead and dive into a few of those aspects you’ll miss out on:
Support – This is generally a common issue among freelance website designers and this obviously stems from them being a one-man-show in a mercenary marketplace. Maintaining a great response time and making changes in a timely manner is already difficult, but becomes nearly impossible as an independent freelancer.
Hosting – Unless your one-man-show freelancer has an abundance of clients, your hosting options are very limited. If you get really great hosting on your own accord, it’s very expensive and you probably won’t maintain the latest security updates unless you hire a professional IT team. If your freelancer does not have an abundance of clients, then your hosting is likely going to be on an inexpensive, slow, virtual private server or small dedicated machine.
Security – Commonly, websites designed by a freelancer will be overridden with blog spam, user signups, unwanted traffic, and injections to compromise your website. As a one-man-show you simply don’t have time to research all of the new attacks, compromises, and new options to combat these issues. Most premium website design companies will monitor security such as sign-in attempts, block unwanted traffic, and scan for injections.
Backups – You will most likely have to pay more for a full site backup on some third-party service. With premium website design companies, backups can go back to a month or more and simply (should) be included with your monthly hosting fee.
Analytics – Freelancers tend to incorporate Google Analytics into your small business website and leave it at that. We rarely see a freelancer that can properly optimize web pages based on where your users are actually spending their time and rework the user flow to increase sales. Here at Odins3 we use a specialized analytics tool to see how clients interact with your website, even diving into where a mouse is moved on screen and where users are clicking.
Custom Integrations – This is one of the most important issues, when pointing you in a direction a freelancer is simply not capable of having all the skills and resources required to implement custom integrations across the board. For instance: At Odins3 we have implemented custom CRM systems into construction companies and custom Point-of-Sale systems specialized for wineries that require a host of knowledge and experts that a freelancer simply doesn’t have access to.
We like to equate building a new website for a small business to building a new house. If you hire a freelancer and simply ask for a website to be put up, all you’re going to get is four walls and a roof over your head. Sure, it looks great from the outside. Practically like every other house on the block, but you paid half the price! It’s not until you bring company inside this new house that the real issues become apparent; your freelancer never hired an Electrician. Oh, and you want water? There’s a communal well outside. Just as you would need to hire outside SEO services, security & backups, and more – there is just so much missing from getting a website designed by a freelancer. Not only this, but once you go grab these third party services for your small business website, you will have spent more money upfront and become anchored with a greater monthly fee as well.
Overall we cannot recommend this option because of the drawbacks above, we can only recommend an overall package where your small business will benefit and that you will end up happy with.
Hire a company within your small business niche:
This is a great option, but not quite the best, and I’ll explain why later on. Let’s go back to the coffee shop with that aged (not well) 2004 flash website real quick. Imagine you’re this small coffee shop looking to gain an edge against the tyrant, we will call “Starblops” across the street and your website from 2004 just isn’t cutting it anymore. You could go out and hire someone to build you a nice shiny new website but this really won’t differentiate you in any meaningful way. However, what if you purchase a Coffee Shop website from, let’s say this imaginary company called AwesomeCoffeeShopWebsites, not only do you get a shiny new website but it comes bundled with a digital stamp card, drink saving (remembers clients drinks), and more fun features. Now this would give you an edge on Starblops and you’ll be approached by Mr. Franchise wearing a suit and tie in no time. This doesn’t just apply to our coffee shop but to quite a few industries as well. We can apply this to winerys, which could go with an industry specific web designer to incorporate an established wine club system, point-of-sale, and more. So many can benefit from a designer or company that specifically develops within their industry.
How do you find these industry specific companies? Just ask us! We’ve been in the game for a while and have pointed clients to companies for services where they will best thrive. This isn’t the best overall option, however it is the best option with a tight budget. An industry specific developer can stretch your dollar a bit more than the option below for the same price.
Price: Generally you’ll see good industry specific options range from $1,000-3,000 upfront and $50-100 monthly. Unfortunately this option can come bundled with more monthly options, likely eating more and more of your profits as you grow.
Hire an Digital Agency or Website Design Company:
Perhaps there isn’t a great option in your industry for an industry specific option so the above doesn’t apply to you and your business friends have told you their bad experience with a freelancer. This brings us to the best option: Hiring a Digital Agency/Website Design Company. We’ve bundled the two together because we aren’t getting into the nuances between the them within this article, however generally speaking a more premium Website Design Company and Digital Agency can be used interchangeably. We’ll call it a Website Design Company from here on out for simplicity’s sake.
It’s hard to go wrong with a Website Design Company. Both specialize in website development/design (granted the latter is better) and both are usually quite scale-able.
Here is what you want to make sure of when hiring a company for your small business website design: They do keyword research for SEO, and offer great branding. Let’s dive a little into both of these points.
Firstly, SEO is a big issue. If you’re not properly utilizing your home page, outdoing your competition for the most searched long-tail keywords specific to your geographic location, and properly tagging all of your images you simply won’t rank in Google these days. Don’t forget social media posting, and frequently! You need to be sharing your articles on all your social media accounts as this is factored into Google’s algorithm.
Next is branding. If you have ever tried to build a website you know how important branding is. No matter what you do text wise, if the images and logos on your website don’t jive or look modern it is impossible to make a appealing website today. Imaging, video production, and the overall feel and design of a website is extremely important. Speaking from a small business website design perspective, there is nothing more important than branding, we generally spend the most time on this and it is the hardest aspect of website design. In this day and age it is becoming the only differentiation between companies. If the website design company doesn’t have a website that you would be proud of having yourself, don’t hire them.
Hiring a website design company is, in our opinion, the best option. You get the absolute best for your online presence, typically have custom options available, and get pointed in the right direction for other useful services. With a website design company, overall branding tends to be the most customizable and it is tailored to your organization.
Price: Generally you’ll see premium Website Design Companies & Digital Agencies start at $2,000-$10,000 but can go above $100,000 for custom enterprise level solutions.
If you’re a small business looking to get a new website and you remember one thing from this article, let it be our emphasis on the whole package. No matter the industry you are in, your small business can benefit from a properly done website and all of the small, yet important additions that will set your business apart (or above on Google).