Creating a website has never been easier. Creating an outstanding website, on the other hand, poses some unique challenges.
Fortunately, if you know what you're looking for, using a professional web design service doesn't have to break the bank.
Here’s everything you need to know about hiring a web design company to build or redesign your website.
The benefits of professional website design
Thanks to all the DIY design tools out there, it's never been simpler to build a website yourself. And if you can make a serviceable website on your own, you might wonder, then why should you hire a professional?
We’re glad you asked. Here are nine reasons why it's worth paying more for a professional web design company instead of going it alone:
First impressions are important
It only takes a second to make a poor first impression. In the time it takes your website to load, potential customers can close the window and take their business elsewhere. Likewise, if your website loads quickly but looks unprofessional, potential customers will be put off straight away. When your competitors are just a click away, you just can’t afford to take customers' interest for granted.
Yes, web design involves tricky trade-offs between the aesthetic and speed of your website. Fortunately, web design companies are skilled at balancing these considerations – so if you use one, you’re guaranteed a website that looks the part and loads quickly.
Credibility counts for a lot
Do your links and buttons look safe to click on? Do customers feel secure sharing their credit card information or contact details through your webforms? Does your website convey trust?
All of these things can affect how customers engage with your website. The extent to which customers trust your business will be closely linked to how your website looks. Having a well-designed website automatically lends your brand a sense of credibility that your competitors may lack.
Great web design companies have the know-how to build trust signals into websites, encouraging users to convert.
Some DIY tools will let you use a template to build a working website in as little time as an hour. The downside? Templates limit your ability to customise the look and feel of your website. It’s hard to make your website memorable when users have seen similar designs elsewhere.
When you work with a professional design company, you actually have more control over the end result. Once you've set out your requirements in a project brief, you'll be assigned an account manager whose job is to make sure your vision is executed. They’ll relay your feedback to the designers, and the result will be a stunning website that looks even better than you’d imagined.
Implement the right features
Whether you offer a product, a service, or just information, your website should address your users’ needs. That means focusing on including features that will help them achieve the goals they have in mind when they come to your site.
DIY website builders are limited in this regard because they bundle the features you do need together with others that you don’t. Conversely, the bespoke nature of working with a pro will enable you to focus your resources only on the essential features – whether that's implementing online contact forms or integrating with third-party apps. The result? You’ll get a website that's designed to keep your customers coming back.
Be search engine-friendly
A Google search for your industry probably returns hundreds of thousands of results. So making your website stand out can be challenging, whether you're established or just starting up.
Luckily, web design pros are on hand to help. Often experts in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), they stay on top of best practices to make sure great websites get the attention they deserve. Their role in web design is to make sure your website outranks those of your competitors in search engines.
When you consider that 91% of users don’t go past the first page of Google results, it becomes clear that SEO-focused web design is essential.
Laptops, smartphones, tablets, phablets… people are now using more devices than ever to surf the web. Importantly, more than half of all web traffic came from mobiles in 2020. With that trend in mind, your website needs to work well on different screen sizes.
Web design companies are adept at optimising websites for different display dimensions. Every webpage will receive the same level of attention to make sure your site looks amazing, whether your customer is scrolling through it on a mobile, tablet or desktop.
Integrate web analytics
No doubt you have key performance indicators (KPIs) that you'll need to measure in order to gauge how well your website's performing. Web developers can implement tracking tools that enable you to do this. Performance data can be made available on a granular level, giving you valuable insights into the ways that customers are interacting with your website.
Many web design companies provide web analytics support as an add-on service.
This might seem contradictory – a beautifully-designed website doesn’t come for free, after all. But, as the old expression goes, if you think a pro is expensive, try an amateur. The time and money you’d spend debugging, redesigning, and generally cleaning up after a free, or cheap, job would end up costing more than you’d pay a professional to create something stunning.
As a small business owner, you’re used to juggling multiple responsibilities. So, let's say you do have a thorough grounding in SEO, graphic design, coding, copywriting, marketing, and all the other essential web design skills.
This doesn’t change the fact that your time is precious and finite. Every minute you spend building and maintaining a website is time that you could have spent developing the parts of your business that nobody else can. Hiring a web design professional lets you concentrate on the profits to be yielded from other key aspects of your operations.
Choosing the best web design company
Let's say you've decided to hire a professional. We can predict the next question on your mind:
Start by giving serious thought to your site's function. Looks aren't enough; what do you need your website to do? Asked differently, what can your site do – or entice your customers to do – that would make your job easier and your business more efficient?
Write down a wish list of the capabilities you'd like your site to boast, alongside any questions or concerns you may have. You may find it helpful to prioritise certain features, since greater functionality often equates to higher costs.
Once you’ve got an idea of your needs, you’ll want to find out which web design companies can cater to them. The best way to do this is by contacting a few companies directly and asking them questions – such as:
Who are your past clients?
Some companies will design for practically any SME. Others have taken the time to understand a particular niche more carefully. Those niche companies specialise in industries as diverse as contracting, facilities management, real estate, photography, healthcare and more. Finding such a specialist will often lead to a smoother process; they know your industry and can advise you as to what works best.
What is your process?
It’s important to understand what information web designers need to get the job done. For example, most web design companies will ask you to share any photos, copy (the text that populates your web pages) and other assets that you would like included in the final designs.
Identifying these things early on will lead to fewer headaches for everyone involved. So, make sure you’re clear about what's expected from you and what you, in turn, expect from your designer.
What happens when you're finished?
Some businesses have an in-house marketer or marketing team for blogging, social media, and web work. If yours does, you may just need a site that's easy to maintain once the designers have finished their bit.On the other hand, if you're technophobic and would rather someone else handled tech maintenance, such as updates, find out if that's included.
What else is included in my plan?
Your site must be mobile friendly, so make sure that responsive web design (RWD) is part of the plan. On-page and off-page SEO is also essential, so it’s worth asking how they plan to work with this in mind. Their designs should also be optimised for the different web browsers and devices that your customers will be working with.
Who is my point of contact?
Some web design companies may allocate a team of people to work on your website, including account executives, project managers, designers, programmers, copywriters and SEO professionals. Find out who your point of contact will be, and how they interact with the rest of the team.
May I see your references?
Think about it. You're proud of your work and you're probably happy to have your clients sing your praises. If a designer hesitates to put you in touch with a few clients, this should be a warning sign.
How much do web design companies cost?
Web design companies work on a quote-by-quote basis, so the best way to get a concrete answer to this question is to contact a few directly. Handily, our quotes-comparison tool does half the work for you by finding and putting you in touch with top web design companies that serve your area.Generally speaking, however, web design fees are either project-based or hourly. If a company charges by the hour, don’t be afraid to ask how hours are tracked and itemised, and make sure you’re kept in the loop. You’d be surprised at how quickly great web design companies can turn around even complex projects.
You should also find out whether there'll be any recurring costs for services like SEO auditing, domain name registration, web hosting and periodic content updates.
It’s a very good idea to get all of the above in writing. Everything – timetables, deliverables, down payments, refunds – should be agreed ahead of time. Simply operating on a handshake or the equivalent exposes your business to unnecessary risk.
Most importantly, remember to shop around to maximise your chances of finding the best web design company for your needs and budget.
Web design can seem unintelligible to the average person. But a bit of research and careful consultation can demystify the process for even the most technophobic of business owners. The process can be time-consuming and a bit intimidating at first, but the results – and resulting rewards – for your business can mean your new website or redesign pays for itself many times over.