So your business is off the ground and you need to get a website.

Or maybe your business has been successful for a few years, and now you need a more professional website.

Whatever stage your business is at, it needs the right website to suits its particular needs.

Where do I start?

There are many places that can offer you a DIY template to build your website. With dozens of designs to choose from, you simply select and buy the one you like. Then what? You need to build the website using the template’s design and style sheets. Do you know how to do that? If you do, that’s great. You can get stuck in and you’ll have your new website in no time. However it’s worth noting a couple of things.

Firstly, no matter how good a job you think you’ve done, you are not a professional in web design. Your website may look good, but it may not look great. This can turn people off. They may think your website doesn’t look professional so maybe your company isn’t professional. This is not good for your business.

Secondly, if you’ve got your web design ‘off the shelf’, then there are probably hundreds of other businesses that have done the same thing. Have you ever been out and seen someone else dressed in the same outfit as you? It screams ‘Common’, and not ‘Original’. When people search for your type of business and have seen the design of your website elsewhere, they may not be as impressed with your company as you’d like them to be.

So, where do you start? You start looking for a professional web designer for your business. Calling in the services of a professional designer will free you up to get on with building your business. You can then leave the job to someone who is skilled in web design and functionality.

What to look for in a web design company

First, search for web designers and study their portfolios. Make a short list of those with portfolios that appeal to you. They may have great designs for, say, car dealerships. Your company is selling, say, bespoke kitchens. But you like what they have done with the style and feel of the car website, so you can envisage your own business looking similar. Look at as many web design companies as you can.

Next, study the portfolios and narrow down why you like those websites. Make a list of what features you like, such as style, image gallery, basket/check out system, contact forms, blog, etc.

What features do you want in your website?

Check out your competition. See what their websites look like.

  • Do you like them? Why?
  • Do you hate them? Why?

Make a note of your observations. Get as much information as you can about your competitors. Even though your designer is a professional, they still need to get an idea and feel of what style best reflects you and your company. Armed with this information, your web designer will be able to design a site for your business that will stand out from the crowd.

Who is your website aimed at (your target audience)?

A bespoke kitchen designer is going to be viewed by someone totally different to a skateboard supplier. There’s a world of difference between a website aimed at a contemporary professional to that of a grungy twenty-something graduate.

Think of how you would describe your business to a prospective client. Write it down.

Tell your web designer your target audience and tell them everything about your business briefly but fully.  This will enable them to come up with a design and functionality that will grab the imagination of your target audience.

What do you want your website to say to its visitors?

You’ve got your visitors, now what do you want to tell them? What do you want them to do?

  • Do you want them to browse your image gallery?
  • Do you want them to ring you?
  • Do want them to fill in a Contact Us form?
  • Do you want them to buy something?
  • Do you want them to read your Blog?

All these things and more will need to be built into your web design, so naturally they will cost extra. So it would be useful if you could prioritise them in order of necessity in case you can’t afford all of the features straight away.

A good web designer will advise you how to structure the site for now, so that you can easily have extra functions added in the future as you need them.

Which brings us onto cost.

How much will it cost?

As mentioned at the beginning, there are templates that can be used for websites and they are very good. There are hundreds of good, different designs. If cost is an issue, then this is a very good way to go. A professional web designer will be happy to build a template site for you and style it to your own corporate images and colours.

Alternatively, if you look around there are companies that specialise in budget web design for start-ups. But make sure budget web design doesn’t mean bad web design.

However, if you can afford more, then a bespoke design is the way to go. Look at what various designers offer, and what services are included. Then meet with a couple to go through your ideas in detail. An initial meeting should not cost you anything.

In that meeting, list all the things you require in your site and ensure that any ensuing quote includes all the things you discussed – design, building, buying the domain name (if necessary) and hosting. Beware of missing features that you may find added to the final invoice.

Finally, once you’ve handed over the work to your web designer, you can relax and get on with the business of building your company.