Professional Web Design 101

A small business owner's guide to professional web design. How to determine whether you should hire a web designer or do it yourself to get your website.

professional web design

As a small business owner, you need a compelling online presence to compete in today’s marketplace. A website for your business is a must, but how do you get one? This is one of the biggest challenges for small business owners as there are a plethora of options that arise with this seemingly simple task. In short, you’ll either need to build a website yourself or hire a professional web designer. Either option has its own pros and cons and the bottom line is you’ll need to decide which route is specifically best for you and your business.

Why Take the Professional Web Design Route?

Here at How To Get Online, we cover a variety of topics to help you learn about building your website, typically following the “do-it-yourself” approach. Building a website yourself is definitely doable and can even be fun, but there are benefits to hiring a professional web designer as well. For example, a web designer can help save you time and ensure your website is properly functioning and coded using the latest best practices.

In this article, we’ll cover the professional web design approach and help you decide whether or not you should hire a web designer to build your website.

Factors to Consider

Every business is uniquely different and there's a variety of factors to consider before you make the all-important decision of hiring a professional web designer:

Your Budget

Obviously your budget is going to be the most influential factor when it comes to hiring a professional web designer. Having a custom website designed by a professional involves a significant investment. It's hard to put a number on the cost (as each website is different and each web designer charges different rates), but according to Executionists.com, the average cost of a simple informational website is between $7,000 to $11,000! Although you can certainly find places where web designers are willing to work at a lower cost, keep in mind that a website is still going to be a large investment for any small business owner.

Depending on the specific circumstances of your business, you'll need to carefully judge whether the return is worth it or if the cost is unfeasible at the moment. We typically recommend hiring a web designer for existing, well-established businesses that are growing and are showing promise of a successful future. A professional web designer can help promising businesses grow, generate greater profits, improve customer experience, and strengthen their brand. However, for new businesses that are looking to launch their first website simply to test an idea in the marketplace, a do-it-yourself site might be enough.

Your Time

It’s important to recognize that building your own website will take a considerable chunk of your time. The less familiar you are with how things work online, the more time you’ll need to dedicate to the task.

It’s true – there are tools out there that make it easy for beginners to setup a simple, attractive website, and we cover many of the best platforms here on our site. However, the appearance of your website is just the tip of the iceberg. Your website can be a powerful tool for your business, but you need to know a bit about what works online to build it yourself. For example, you’ll need to know how to:

  • Optimize your graphics and images for fast loading web pages
  • Write engaging content that grabs people’s attention and converts them into paying customers
  • Make sense of users’ tracking data
  • Keep up with Google’s best practices to rank high on search engines
  • Find your way around website security
  • Understand legal and privacy issues
  • and more

These aspects of running your own website will inevitably take time to learn and put into practice, but they’re crucial to determining your website’s success or failure, and ultimately determine whether your site will have a positive or negative impact on your small business.

Good web professionals will not only build a functioning and well-coded website for you, they will also be knowledgeable about the latest best practices including: SEO (Search Engine Optimization), website security, ongoing maintenance, and some will even provide help with marketing and creating content for your site. These additional services provide enormous value and save you time, which you can dedicate to your customers and growing your business.

Type of Website & Features You Need

A lot depends on the type of website that you need for your business. Most small business websites have quite a number of features in common, such as intuitive navigation, a short description of their business, calls to action, and contact details. For a basic informational website that’s simply another way to market your business, building it yourself may be the way to go. However, if you plan to run an eCommerce site where you take reservations, sell products or offer services online, a professional web developer can help you get it done faster and eliminate any hiccups along the way.

Beyond the type of website you need, consider the additional features you may want on your site. For example, as a restaurant owner, you may likely want to take reservations on your site. You may also want a place to highlight your latest dishes, a section that showcases your menu, clearly visible opening hours, and an address with easy-to-follow directions to get there. You may be surprised to find that with many businesses seeking these same features, there are template solutions that will cover most of your website needs, including eCommerce solutions for selling products online. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, especially when you want to keep costs down.

On the other hand, businesses who see strong branding as a core part of their business should seriously consider investing in professional web design and development. While many of the template solutions are adequate, it takes a professional designer to make a feature-rich website that’s excellent.

Tech Savvy or Technologically Challenged

If you’re thinking of building your website yourself, but the idea of tinkering with a piece of computer software gives you the chills, think again. Website builders and content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress or Joomla, are nothing more than pieces of software, and nowadays, they’re very user-friendly. However, you’ll still need to take the time to learn how they work by experimenting with their various options and settings.

We recognize that working with technology and designing a website might be lots of fun for some people, but can be incredibly frustrating for others. When you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it shows in your final product. Just like running your small business, website design takes a lot of passion and dedication. Without these, you run the risk of botching the job and ending up with a half-built site. If you’re a bit of a technophobe, leaving your website in the hands of a professional web designer may be your best bet.

The Middle Road – Do It Yourself and Hire a Professional When You Get Stuck

It’s perfectly OK to use any of the great tools out there to build your website yourself, especially if your business is new and the budget is tight.

But remember, you don’t have to go it alone. You may find there are parts of building your own website that you especially enjoy, or that best suit your natural talents. However, there may be other times when you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall – your images don’t look quite right, the contact form doesn’t behave exactly the way you want to, or your homepage copy doesn’t seem to capture any leads.

When this happens, it’s tempting to just give up and turn to a web agency to have something designed from scratch. But it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry. It’s quite alright to hire a professional web designer only for the tasks you need the most help with, or simply the parts of the process you enjoy the least.

Good CMS and website builders offer themes or templates that provide a good amount of customization, though some changes require a bit more effort. If you’re finding it hard to implement some changes, don’t hesitate to hire a web designer. Professional web designers can help you solve troublesome changes with just a few lines of code, and without costing you a fortune.

By taking the middle road, you can save money, enjoy the process of building your site more, and end up with a better finished product. One way to take the middle road is to use the popular website builder Wix, who has a dedicated team of professionals you can contact when you need help setting up and styling your website.

Conclusion

Hire a professional web designer, do-it-yourself, or take the middle road? By evaluating your budget, determining the type of site you need and the features you want, keeping track of your time, and knowing how tech-savvy you are, you can reach the best decision for your business.

Making the right decision will help you develop a web presence that’s a powerful tool for reaching new customers, generating more sales, and ultimately growing your business. If you think hiring a professional is right for your business, the next step is finding a good, reliable web designer.