When considering a website for your business, you could build your own as there are dozens of website building tools available that offer intuitive drag and drop designing. Even if you have no web development skills or experience, these user-friendly interfaces make building a website fairly simple. A Content Management System like WordPress, with hundreds of theme and plug-in options, gives non-coders control over design and flow. If the main goal of your website is to get your business online with the basics like an "about" page, a list of services, contact information and a few testimonials, you may be fine doing it yourself.
A DIY website will save you money. Hiring professional developers and designers is an investment that will dig deep into your marketing budget. However, if your coding and design experience is little to none, you have to then expect to put hours of time into researching hosting options, site builders, themes, security needs and SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Evaluate the actual design time it takes to make your site professional and up-to-date, including regular website maintenance tasks. It can be a serious investment in your time and might make financial sense to hire a professional.
Bringing in a professional
If you decide your company website is best served with a professional design, there are different routes you can take. You can contract with a freelancer, engage a web development firm, or employ an in-house programmer. There are pros and cons to each, and the best way to proceed will depend on the complexity of your website and the amount of support you will need.
Freelance web designers
This is generally the least expensive option. You may contract with a developer to build the site, and then take the reins from there, or you may need design, copywriting and SEO services as well. After your site goes live, do you plan to take care of the maintenance, or would you prefer a long-term contract for those services? Figure out exactly what services you need before soliciting quotes. An internet search of website developers will return pages of options from across the country and globe. Your best bet, particularly if you are a local brick and mortar business, is to work with someone local, if possible. Check with your city's Chamber of Commerce and with area businesses for recommendations. You will want to see portfolios, testimonials and rate sheets.
Web design and development firms
Companies that specialize in development and design will have the resources to offer a comprehensive suite of services. However, a basic three-page website may cost north of $5,000, but it will be professionally executed, secured against hackers and optimized for search engines. The investment will pay off in the long-term. Review the websites of businesses in your city and identify ones that have the look and function you want for your own site. Once you have found a few that you like, scroll down to the footer of those respective sites where you'll usually find the name of the company that built the site. This will give you an idea of the services available in your area. Don't overlook companies that bill themselves as digital marketing services. These firms often have experienced web developers in-house and can offer packages that include site building and SEO services to help drive traffic to your new website.
An in-house programmer
This is a long-term commitment but could be the best option if you conduct most of your business online. Having an IT person on staff will ensure necessary additions and changes to your site are promptly executed. Also, if there are any problems, they can be addressed quickly.
Whatever approach you take, remember that your website is a reflection of your business. While your loyal customers may forgive an outdated, sluggish website, it won't help build your customer base and may even drive potential business away.
This article was written by Gillian Burdett for Small Business Pulse
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