There's no denying that every business in 2020 should have a professional website to show off their services or products in a clear and aesthetically pleasing way. Having a website is like having your own little slice of internet real estate where potential clients or customers can visit your business and make a purchase or enquiry.
75% of consumers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on the company’s website design (Kinesisinc). Basically it's essential for every business to have a professional website if they want to be taken seriously.
However, building a website is not easy. You may have already tried to have a crack at building your site in some website builders like SquareSpace, Wix or GoDaddy but came up short when figuring out the design or functionality to sell your products or services. Of course, the good news is that there are people out there with trained skills that can transform a blank slate into a stunning website for your brand.
In this article, we'll share exactly what you should look for when hiring an expert or website agency and how to confirm their experience and know-how so you can be sure you've contracted someone awesome!
Do You Need A Designer Or A Developer?
Before you begin your website building journey you'll need to understand what you're actually trying to achieve with your site. When building a site there is essentially two components: Web Design & Web Developing.
Web Design is basically the aesthetic look of your site, not necessarily its function. You may not think that design has the same importance of function but it most truly does. 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout are unattractive (HubSpot). It's about making your website congruent to your branding so that visitors feel a sense of cohesion and trust around purchasing your products or engaging with your services.
Now, Web Building is your functionality, the bones if you will. It will be the structure that your design sits on top of and takes the visitors through the user experience. If you're an online store you'll need to build a payment capture and purchasing element to your site. If you're an online educational platform then you'll need to build a student login and gateway to display certain information or materials to different accounts. Even having simple navigation to your home page vs about us page will require a developer.This is where a lot of website newbies get a bit overwhelmed and feel like they don't know how to express what their needs are to their contractor.
So it's important to understand which component you're looking for before hiring someone to take care of your site. If you're starting from scratch (no website) then you'll need someone who can do both or hire a designer and developer. If you already have a site that serves its core purpose and functionality but looks rubbish, you'll need a designer. If you have a great looking site but it doesn't serve the functions you need, then get yourself a developer. Make sense?
What If You Don't Need A Designer Or A Developer?
There are other aspects of websites that are equally as important as the design and build. If you're already happy with your site's function and appearance but don't have a good handle on the description of your services or products then maybe you need a copywriter. If you have a great site but no logo then you'll need a graphic designer.
A copywriter is someone who is experienced and skilled in the art of words. Their occupation is writing extremely tailored text for the purpose of advertising, marketing and other content forms. They can work with a range of goals including brand awareness, sales copy, product description and so much more. If you struggle to get the right words out to persuade your potential customers then a copywriter might be exactly what you need!
Secondly, a graphic designer is someone who uses multiple assets such as images, typography and colour to create a piece of design. This is who you'll need to create your logo or other brand assets that require a unique design. They need to present your brand and your information in a way that is both accessible and memorable. If you don't have an idea of what your brand should even look like on your site then you'll need to hire a graphic designer first to get a solid starting point.
So How Do You Speak To Them In Their Language?
There's a fair bit of jargon that circulates the website design and developing world, and understanding this will help you better understand what they can bring to the table and what you need from them. There are basic technical skills every designer and developer should have. If they don't know what you're talking about when you bring these up it might be a red flag.
Website Designer Skills:
Adobe Photoshop (or any image editors) and/or Adobe Illustrator
CSS / CSS3
HTML / HTML5
jQuery (this is a bonus if you are using a drag & drop website builder. If you are not using a drag & drop website builder, then jQuery is a must)
PHP (if you are using WordPress)
Website Developer / Coder Skills:
CSS / CSS3
HTML / HTML5
PHP (if you are using WordPress)
What About Their Soft Skills?
Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills and general work ethic. Of course actual technical skills are vital to a working project but engaging with someone who also has great soft skills will make your project amazing!
Websites can take a while to complete depending on your requirements and will require a lot of back and forth chats, so we think it's incredibly important to contract someone you'll actually enjoy working with. Some key soft skills to assess before hiring them are:
How Fast Do They Respond?
I don't know about you but we can't stand feeling second priority when working with someone who is supposed to be solving a problem for us. It may take a 3 or 4 emails to get a better understanding of their response time but essentially you want someone who gets back to you within the same day. Even if they reply with "I'm not sure, let me get back to you with a better answer tomorrow" that shows that they want you to know they've seen your email, acknowledged it and will do some research to give you the most informed answer even if it takes a day or two longer. Remember, everyone has bad days so do give a second chance if they have a slow response time that feels outside of their regular behaviour, but make sure you hire someone who makes you feel like top priority.
Do They Truly Understand Your Project & Requirements?
Listen carefully to how they talk about your project and the ideas you've given them. Do they just regurgitate the information you provided them or do they start to diagnose your pain points and give solutions by expanding on their own ideas for your project? There's no clear cut way to recognise their understanding of your project but you'll know it in your gut. Hire someone who really gets what you're trying to create and achieve with your website.
Do They Make Suggestions & Express Their Own Style?
It's rare a good designer or developer will agree with every idea you have if you're a complete newbie to website creation. They should understand the core reason why you're having a certain idea but should have much more practical ways to get you to that end goal. We're not saying to go with someone who shuts down your ideas or makes you feel inferior, but engaging with someone who can hear what you want and make your ideas better because they have solid experience will give you a far better project than you could have imagined. Be sure to ask them what their favourite past projects were, where they draw their inspiration from and what style they like to work with. Ask them what their least favourite trends with modern websites are or if they have a bottom line goal with every site they work with. This is will help you get to know them with language they understand.
Should You Contract A Freelancer, Agency Or Employ A Professional?
There's typically three ways to go about hiring a someone to create your site. A freelancer, agency or full-time employee will provide different benefits and experiences. They will also differ in price significantly so let's assess them below.
Contracting A Freelancer
A freelancer will typically charge you an hourly or flat rate for your project. They'll be someone who will invoice you for the work and you'll deposit money into an account via bank transfer. Freelancers are usually cheaper than agencies or employees because they're a one-person-band and don't require ongoing costs. Some freelancers are both a designer and developer whilst some are just one of these skill sets, so you may need to hire two freelancers in the end. Another drawback is that they won't have the in-house resources of an agency so they may take longer to get the project completed. If you require additional components to your site like copywriting or graphic design you would have to hire another freelancer again to fulfil your needs. This can make working with freelancers a very disjointed experience if it's a huge project, however it is also extremely rewarding to build a relationship with someone who makes your project experience so personal.
Hiring An Agency
Agencies also will charge you an hourly or flat rate for your project. They will also invoice you but usually have multiple methods to capture payment. You should be able to pay via credit card, payment gateway on their site or bank transfer so this can be a large benefit for those needing payment flexibility. Due to the fact that agencies have multiple resources to pull from and better cash flow, they're likely more willing to give you a better price or 'first project discount' to get your business. They also can provide an A-Z project experience, meaning they can take care of your graphic design, copywriting, website design, website development and even website hosting. However, a drawback can be that they are more expensive and tend to have a large client base which can feel like you're not top priority (although an agency worth their money won't let you feel like this). Of course, Evie Studios is a marketing agency that specialises in website creation so take this with a grain of salt, but we think agencies are the number choice simply because you get much more bang for your buck and project cohesion so you always feel in control and updated with your build.
Employing A Full-Time Professional
Maybe you don't like the idea of going outside of your company and contracting someone on a short term basis. If so, you'll need to bring a professional in-house and employ them on a full-time or part-time basis. Honestly, we really don't recommend this method for small to medium sized businesses. An employee will require ongoing salary, superannuation, sick leave and paid holidays, a desk and space to work in your office and consistent reviews and contract updates just like any other employee. This can take what could have been a $1.5K website build up to $15K in just three months of employment. Yes you'll have the reliability of having your web designer or builder in-house so you can call on them to make changes at the snap of a finger but it comes with such an unnecessary cost. It just makes no financial sense for a small-medium business to spend $15K on a website that could have been 90% cheaper. The only time we'd recommend actually hiring a full-time professional is if you're a large business with a turnover greater than $250 million as you'll need someone constantly working on your site to keep your digital presence at a high level.
It's truly up to you how you want to proceed with your website design and build and hopefully this article has given you some key actions you can apply today to start your journey. The bottom line is that you want to hire someone who shares the same vision as you, understands your pain points and offers a solution, and has the expertise to get you there.
As mentioned, Evie Studios does specialise in website design and developing, and if you're interested in learning more please head here for more information or gives us a buzz on (02) 8006 4212.
(02) 8006 4212