There are a number of vital marketing tools that every business should have – besides corporate identity, a website is the second most important foundational element to market your business effectively – regardless of industry.
Let’s face it, in the 21st century, where else do consumers and businesses alike typically source products and services? Not having an online presence is business suicide, but what’s worse than not having a website at all? Spending your valuable cash (and time) on one that doesn’t achieve your goals.
When faced with the daunting challenge of selecting a web designer (and there are thousands out there), it’s important to find one that is not only technical and creative, but also strategic – understanding your business and client’s needs in order to develop a site that’s highly functional to fulfill its purpose and offer return on your investment for years to come.
To assist you in the selection process, here are 10 important questions that your prospective web designer should ask you:
1. Do you have an existing website?
A good web designer who has done their research prior to meeting with you would know the answer to this question, but this isn’t always the case, so let’s list this question none-the-less. If you have an existing site, why do you want to revamp it? Exploring your likes and dislikes of your current site, as well as what you aim to achieve with a redesign, will give the designer a guideline on your expectations and goals.
2. What is the primary purpose of your website?
A website can serve many functions, but what is the main call-to-action once your potential client clicks? To learn more about your products and services, to purchase a product directly from your site, to contact you? Defining the most important purpose and call-to-actions will determine your content, functionality, site map, navigation and overall design.
3. Can you describe your business in a few short sentences?
This is essentially an “elevator pitch” that will give your designer the key information that you would like to communicate to the potential clients. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, users spend on average 59 seconds on a website before exiting (AKA "the 59 Second Rule"), so it’s important to convey powerful, yet brief information to capture the user’s attention immediately and compel them to explore your website in more detail. You have less than a minute to captivate your potential customer – use it wisely.
4. Who are your key competitors?
Your designer should analyse your competitor’s websites to discover what works well, what doesn’t and what will set your website apart in the industry. This research is not only useful for your website, but the results can offer insight into developing strategies for your business’s other marketing initiatives.
5. Who is your target audience?
Understanding your target audience, and essentially what appeals to them, will provide a foundation for the entire design, look-and-feel, messaging, images and features. Equally important is where your potential clients will be finding and viewing your website (i.e. computer or mobile devices, through social media or Google).
6. Which functionalities would you like?
Today there’s such a vast variety of incredible technologies and features that can be integrated into your site to enhance the user’s experience, improve customer service and drive conversions. Online store, booking system, online payment, social feeds, blogs, FAQ’s – the possibilities are endless. It’s important to identify the most beneficial, as well as your non-negotiable functions up front to avoid the uncomfortable “it’s not possible” or “that wasn’t included in the quote” discussions later on.
7. Which websites do you like and why?
Your answer to this question will give your designer a clear idea of your vision for your website and is an important step in delivering exactly what you want. This will also open the discussion of what is perhaps not sensible or feasible to apply to your specific website – for example, you may like a website that is super visual and animated, but it only showcases 5 products. This won’t work well for your online store containing 100 products, as it won’t be user-friendly in terms of navigation and page loading time.
8. Who will be responsible for maintaining and managing the site?
If you have an existing site, this question will be relatively easy to answer, but what if you’re designing a website from scratch? How often do you want to update the content, monitor performance and how much time will this take per month? Do you have the skills or capacity to update the site internally? If not, ask your designer if they can offer you a management service. Bare in mind that you will need to update the site regularly to keep the content fresh and monitor statistics through reporting systems such as Google Analytics.
9. Which key phrases would you use to be found online?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the key to being discovered online. Your designer should ask you this as it will ultimately impact the site structure, copy, naming of images, etc. Phrases such as “Pet Friendly Hotel Cape Town” or “Used Car Dealer Midrand” are vital in driving the correct traffic to your site and ensure that you don’t miss out on any potential new business.
10. What is your deadline?
Often new projects begin with great enthusiasm and lose momentum as the weeks go by, because a timeline wasn’t established. A deadline is important to keep you and your designer on track and agree on realistic expectations.
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