This article first appeared on Arkansas Business on October 24, 2017.
As you look for ways to improve how your business is marketed, you may be considering investing in a new website within the new year. A new website can be a very smart marketing investment. Surveys show that more than 80 percent of consumers check out a company’s website before determining if they want to do business with the company.
A well-constructed and well-designed website can greatly improve the amount of interest in your business — providing a very nice ROI. At the same time, an antiquated or dysfunctional website can turn away business.
So where to start?
Who can you go to provide you with the type of website and price that fits your needs? The number of options can be overwhelming.
To simplify things let's break “web builders” into three categories: the do-it-yourselfer (DIY), the freelancer and the agency. We’ll go over definitions of these groups, the pros and cons of each and an idea of pricing:
Do it yourself:
Let’s begin with the do-it-yourself website. The company Squarespace has made quite a splash in the web design business by claiming you can make a beautiful website for your business at a very cheap cost. Indeed, with Squarespace templates, a person can build his own website for less than $500 a year. This is particularly true if the person creating the website has a talent for page design and a healthy understanding for publishing software.
For a small shop or service business, this can be a great option — particularly if there isn’t any e-commerce or much needed beyond a statement of what exactly the business does. Where Squarespace falls short is that changes and improvements are limited to the template you are given. Unless you are a programmer, changing functionality to your exact specifications will be difficult. If you are wanting a website that goes beyond just providing information or selling a handful of items, DIY probably isn’t for your business.
There are a ton of full-time or part-time website builders out there. Some are very talented and can provide you with a nice-looking and well-functioning website at a price often times at less than $5,000.
If the right person is found, this can be a very affordable and effective way for small businesses to have a great-looking website at a price that won’t break the bank. It’s important, however, to make sure the person who builds the website is available after the build as well. Problems, breakdowns and improvements happen during the life of a website and you need someone you can count on to fix your website. Freelancers can sometimes be limited in their skill set. You can find one that is really great at design but falls short trying to explain analytics or our help write content.
If you want your business to have a fully-customized website that functions to your company's particular needs (e-commerce or interaction with customers for example) as well as being designed from scratch with your business in mind, then going to a web development agency is really your only option.
These types of websites, done right, can become a second storefront (and sometimes primary storefront). They can help set appointments, process purchases, take in leads and give detailed reports on the people visiting the website. In short, they become as essential to the business as its employees and brick and mortar.
Instead of one freelancer creating an entire website, typically a team of three or four will work together. These are full-time programmers, designers and project managers who are experienced and have built many websites together. As a result, there is a strong likelihood you are going to get a product you are happy with. If the agency is established, you can also count on always having someone to call when you have trouble with your website or you need improvements. Agencies also have other resources at your disposal such as a digital marketing, content, and analytics experts.
Of course, these websites are not cheap. They start at a little below $10,000 and can climb to over $100,000 if the website is complex. A reputable web agency will give you a detailed list of deliverables with their proposal after they’ve heard your needs. In this way, you aren’t surprised by the end price or what your website ended up looking like. Once you have your price, you can make a determination if what the website does for you is worth the investment of a custom website.
Make the best choice for you right now.
Regardless of what path you choose, it’s vital that you have a website that represents your business in a positive light. In today’s world, the quality of your website can and should be one of if not your best marketing tools. Make sure your website works for you and not against you.