Whether you are a new business or an existing business in or around Southport, having a website should be an essential part of your marketing plan.
Regardless of what type of Southport business you may have – whether it’s a bricks and mortar store or an office based business, the key aspect to any marketing plan is visibility, and having a website gives you a wide range of extra places in which your business can be found… it can’t harm having some additional weaponry in your marketing arsenal, can it?
But What’s The Point Of Having A Website At All?
Go back a little over twenty years, and most people didn’t even know what a website was. Your marketing options consisted pretty much of:
- Print media (newspapers, magazines)
- Directories (Yellow Pages, Thomson Directory)
- Radio advertising
- Television advertising
- Cold calling
- Door to door
For a local, small business the price for radio and television advertising was (and in some cases still is) expensive. Print media, whilst cheaper, is short term. Cold calling, if you enjoy doing it, can reap great rewards, but hit rates are low. And the less said about door to door salespeople the better.
Primarily, people used to pick up one of their handy door-stop sized phone directories.
And the old directories did the trick. They were a great place to find that local plumber or that local electrician you needed.
But the world has moved on since then.
Print media is a dying medium. Radio and television advertising is still out of the boundaries for most businesses. And the old phone directories, well, they’re long gone.
Or are they?
Well, no. Not really. They still exist, but they’ve moved to where everyone is searching nowadays – online.
And it’s important to understand why these massive companies no longer print millions of directories every year. And the primary reason is that over 91% of all searches for a product, a service or just general information now starts online.
In just over 25 years, we’ve gone from searching for pretty much everything physically to searching for everything digitally.
So if you are thinking to yourself why you should have a website, the most important reason is that if you don’t then there is a pretty much 100% chance that your potential visitor or customer will have found what they are looking for online.
Sat on your couch, at your desk or even travelling, the world is, quite literally, at your fingertips and a click away.
OK, You’ve Got My Attention – But What Should I Look For When Choosing Web Design Near Southport?
Whether you live in Southport or wherever you’re choices for web designers number in the hundreds of thousands from locations right across the globe. You can even, if you’re that way inclined, have a go at building your own website – there are plenty of options out there to do so.
But today, I want to give you the reasons why you should choose a web designer for your business, and the key points you need to be aware of when choosing.
They’re The Specialist In What They Do, You’re The Specialist In What You Do
Unless you’re an electrician, chances are you’re not going to have a go at re-wiring your house any time soon. You’re not going to nip down to your local plumbers merchant and have a go at buying and fitting your own boiler.
There’s a reason why a web developer does what they do – because that’s what they are good at. They’ll have the experience and know-how in building great looking web sites.
In the meantime, you can get on with what you’re good at – whatever that may be.
Hiring a specialist to do what they do, especially when it comes to something as important as a website is money well spent – leaving you the time to focus on running your business.
A Good Designer Will Value Your Input And Ask For Your Ideas
Nobody knows your business better than you. And your website is an extension of your business, product or service. You’ve got to be happy with how you’re portrayed on the web and the content that’s on there has to be real and portray your skill and expertise.
Unfortunately, your web developer in most cases may not know the business that you are in, the skills that you offer and your past experiences. They can and obviously should be researching your competition for design and content ideas, but carbon copy websites of another business is something that a good designer is going to want to do – and something that you won’t want either.
Another key factor here is that this is YOUR website. Once the website goes live, you’re going to have to live with it until you change – therefore, you want to work with a designer who will build a website with your design style and content in mind. Remember… this is your business and you need to be happy with what they are building for you.
They’ll Research Your Competitors And Bring Their Own Ideas To The Table
A good designer will ask you for your main competitors so they have an understanding about who you are up against and what they need to get you there.
But they will also look at other websites in the same industry and niche to get their own ideas, and then they should build a “skeleton” site to give you an overall style and layout design which you can look at and then talk through with them to make sure that you are happy with everything before they carry on and complete the site.
Working together with your designer in such a way ensures that the designer has a better understand of what you want from the site, whilst at the same time you’ll get an understanding as to why they are developing it that way – some of which may be because of “standard website convention” (i.e. the way that the majority of websites look and feel) or because there are elements which, after reviewing other competitor sites, which are common and are probably there for a reason (i.e. it works).
Your designer should inspire and excite you with their work – this is what they do on a regular basis and therefore should have a really good idea on what you need your site to look like and what you’re after – even going so far some times as delivering something beyond your expectations – that’s their job remember!
They’ll Use A Platform Built To Last
Unfortunately, there are a lot of website platforms out there which are either proprietary (i.e. one they have built themselves) or have little to no user base. Whilst it’s great for the developer, it may not be great for you.
Because every time that you need a change to the website, you’re pretty much locked to the developer who built it originally as they’re the ones with the keys to the locks. And because of this, they can charge you a premium when changes are required (either because it’s locked down and they won’t let you edit or because it’s such a complicated system you don’t know how).
There’s the added factor that, if they were ever to go bust or that platform ceases getting updated then you may struggle getting another developer to go anywhere near it – even if one knows what they are doing with it.
So what should you be looking for?
A good website developer will build your website on a platform that has a good track record and one that you will have heard of (or at least can search for and find results). I build all of my websites using WordPress, the industry standard for websites currently powering over a third of the worlds websites, but there are other platforms out there such as Drupal, Shopify etc. which can do the job as well.
When you have a platform such as WordPress which has the added advantage of being open-source, it means that the amount of plugins and updates that are available allows your site to continue to be improved and move forwards without the need of being thrown in the bin and started again when a platform becomes end of life.
They Can Show You A Portfolio Of Existing Sites
This may be a simple thing to think about, but ask your designer if they can show you LIVE, EXISTING sites of real clients.
It’s amazing how many developers are unable to do this. And yes, I understand that everyone has to start somewhere, but this is your money your spending and your business you’re investing in. You want to make sure that the developer you choose has clients in place with live sites, helping promote their businesses already.
This shows to you that other companies have trusted them in designing their site for them. But it also shows you what they are capable of. If you look through their sites and can’t see anything that fits your vision, or anything that you actually like, then they may not be the designer for you.
Sometimes, especially in the case of a new developer, they may only have a handful of sites – and that’s ok. More doesn’t always mean better. It’s quality, not quantity what counts.
They’ve Been Around A While
There’s nothing worse than buying something and then that business going bust – you’re left with no support and no guarantees on the future.
The same is true in website design. You should be looking at a designer who has a proven history, and one who looks like they are going to be there for the long haul.
A portfolio of sites as outlined above will certainly help with this. But speaking to your designer will give you a better idea of their history and what they have done, and where they are going in the future. Because the chances are you’re going to want to work with them further – whether that’s for additional website updates or additional digital marketing and SEO Southport services which they may be able to provide for you to help get your business moving (more on this below).
But having longevity in a business such as website design will also show that they are reactive to change – in our industry there has been massive changes since the original basic HTML style websites that were common around twenty years ago. A designer who has been around will be open to change to new platforms, new ways of doing things and new ideas.
They Understand Responsive Design – And Why It’s Important
What is “Responsive Design”?
Ever been to a website on your mobile and the layout is all over the place and the website itself is a mess? But go to the same website on a desktop and it looks great?
Well, that’s responsive design.
Responsive design is when the site layout is responsive to the medium that it’s being viewed on, whether that’s a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone (or even TV if that’s how you roll).
More and more searches are now being done from mobile devices, therefore having a website that looks good on that platform is essential. But websites are designed on PCs and Laptops, so designing exclusively for mobile devices is becoming uncommon. Modern website platforms such as WordPress are responsive, but there still has to be some tweaks and changes.
Ask your website developer if they understand responsive design. Look at their other websites they have designed on all platforms. If the websites are dynamic and responsive, then chances are the designer knows what they are doing.
They Understand Search Engines And Conversion
It’s all well and good having a great looking website. But what’s equally as important is that stunning website getting found.
A good designer will understand the fundamentals of web design and how that connects closely to search engine positioning. And whilst a bad web design is not going to have a negative impact on your rankings (unless you’re moving websites where you were ranking well originally), it would at least mean that that Google would not rank you as high as you could have been ranked with the fundamentals being in place.
Although a lot of the marketing of a website comes after the build, and may not be done by the actual company you use to build the site in the first place (as that may not be their skillset), if that marketing company has to make fundamental changes to the website structure or design because of bad foundations, this will of course add additional cost and also mean that your website is not likely to rank as quickly or effectively as one built correctly from the start.
Having a little understanding of digital marketing and SEO before you approach a designer will help you – at least it should give you a better understanding of the questions to ask before you choose one.
They Have Experience Across A Range Of Industries On A Range Of Levels
Some companies have a lot of experience in one particular industry. And whilst that is not always a negative, it may be that they’re experience and skillset is not a perfect match for the industry that you are in.
Some sites in a niche may be very similar in design and execution – and the reason for this is that is something specific about that industry and therefore websites will tend to follow a standard convention.
But that standard convention may not be one that can be lifted and moved to a different niche and it work in the same way.
Choosing a web developer who has a variety of industry sites in their portfolio, coupled with a range of designs will help you have confidence that that they adaptable and comfortable working in any niche.
Most designers, such as myself, have this skill, but it’s always best to ask first!
The industry you work in is not the only thing that’s important though. If you’re a national company, perhaps even dealing internationally, then building a website for this market can be quite different then building a website for a local Southport business with a radius of 20 miles or so.
Finding a designer who understands how a local or a global website works is essential when it comes to being found and finding visitors and customers!
They Can Work To A Budget
Hey, don’t get me wrong. We all gotta eat! But quite often a website designers valuation of your website design may differ massively to the price you had in mind.
First of all, you have to be realistic. If you have a £100 then you can get a website, but the chances are it’s not going to be great.
A web designer has their own costs and their own fees – such as website hosting, domain registration, purchasing a design theme, plugins where required… and that’s before their own time they are using in designing the site in the first place.
But you also have to work within your budget. If you’re budget is only £500 for example, and they are quoting £2500 then shop around. Don’t choose the first designer. Have a realistic goal in mind when you decide upon a figure. And work with your designer towards that goal. Most designers don’t want to turn work away and will reduce their expectations to fit your budget.
Again, remember this is your website and more importantly your money!