So, the first thing to do is to work out what you are looking for, and then you can ask for recommendations…
What do you need from your website?
You should first start by deciding what it is you want to achieve with your website. Is it to impart information about what you do, act as a reference point to prove credibility, or maybe sell online?
You will also need to consider the functionality, design needs, and the budget you have for your website. This will give you a starting point for a conversation with any potential website designer.
What functionality do you need?
How functional do you want your website to be? Do you simply need a brochure website or something more functional and complex? Things you might want to consider are whether you wish to include:
Often you will be able to integrate more bespoke functionality, such as booking systems, by integrating existing third-party applications into a new website.
It is also worth considering how easy it will be to add functionality at a later date as your business changes.
What sort of design appeals to you and your audience?
How do you want your website to look? Do you already have any existing branding that needs to be integrated or a colour scheme you like?
Have a look at the websites of your competitors for ideas and note down those you like—it pays to be specific about what you need regarding design, as you can’t just trust someone’s vague idea about what makes a well-designed website. A good web design company or designer should be able to tell you how feasible various features are.
Before embarking on a project, it is worth checking that a design professional will be involved in the creation of your website, rather than the entire process being undertaken by somebody who only has technical knowledge of websites. Reputable companies will employ graphic designers specifically for this purpose.
Will you need to make changes to your website?
Most people will want to make changes to their website over time, as it should change to reflect your growing business. This gives visitors a reason to come back to your website time and time again, and also Google likes change!
Ensure you ask how easy it would be to edit your new website using a CMS (content management system), whether you will get training on the CMS, or alternatively if your new website company will be able to make changes for you. If you will be relying on your website company, don’t forget to ask about costs and turnaround times.
What other services do you need?
Do you just need a website, or are you looking for other services? These might include:
What other support do you need? Can the company you are speaking to organise:
Know who you can work with
There are many good web designers and design firms out there, but not all will be the right fit for you. It's crucial to look for a web design firm who you can easily contact, as discussion is essential, especially at the design stage. Think about how you work best with people—are you happy to work predominantly via email/online, or would you prefer to work with a local company who you can meet face-to-face?
What is your budget?
It also pays to have an idea of your budget. Getting something cheap might cost you in the long run because your site is an investment for your business—it is not a mere expense.
What you are really trying to find is value for money—a company who can fulfil all your needs, create a professional site, and work with you effectively and within budget.
Now you have a list of criteria for your website, it’s time to go out and look for the right company to create it for you. I would suggest approaching this task in the same way you might do to find a builder—ask for recommendations from people that have undertaken similar projects, use local directories, Google website designers, and look on social media.
Once you have found someone, discuss your needs with them and get a few quotes. Make sure you also look at their portfolio and speak to some of their existing clients too.
Having followed this process you should end up with a reputable company who can fulfil your needs and create a website that will be suitable for you and your business, both for now and the future.
Business coach, author, speaker, social entrepreneur, and chief pot and bottle washer!