Developing your Web site is one of the most important aspects of your online marketing campaign. Your Web site must be inviting, professional and easy to use if you want your Web traffic to turn into clients.
If your site is not designed properly, you have a lot to lose.
Not only can poor design drive away potential clients, but poor design can cost you money and harm your reputation. To avoid such costly mistakes, it is important to hire a design firm that can help you not only create a user-friendly site, but help you develop a strategy to drive targeted traffic to your site with conversion rate in mind.
Before you start searching for a web design firm, it is important for you have a plan, a goal, and a vision for your Web site.
- Plan: Part of planning your Web site is looking at other Web sites and writing down what you like and don’t like about sites that provide the same type of services that you do. Notice colors, navigation bars, and special features (i.e., flash graphics, images, videos, etc.). You should also start planning how many pages you want on your Web page and develop content for each individual page. Looking at other sites can help you generate a plan for what you want to incorporate into your Web site.
- Goal: It is important to know the purpose of your Web site. Do you want to create a site where current clients can get more information? A site where you are targeting new clients? Or both? Knowing who you are designing your site for and what you want to accomplish with your site will help you develop the content and design you need to meet your goals.
- Vision: The overall vision of your Web site should match the vision of your firm. If you already have print materials and print ads for your firm, you will want to continue that theme on your Web site. Consistency is very important when developing brand recognition. Before you meet with your Web designer, you will want to compile all of these materials for him or her so they can get a feel for the vision you are trying to cast.
Preparing ahead of time allows you to explain what you want in a Web site to a Web designer.
Remember, Web designers are not mind readers. The more specific information you can give them about the development of your site, the easier the process of developing your site will be. (Not to mention the money you will save by not wasting the time of your Web designer).
Once you’ve prepared your ideas for your Web site, you should start looking at Web design firms online. Since you’ve prepared and know what you want out of your Web site, you want to look for firms that will be able to deliver the site you need.
One of the best ways to find a design firm is to identify Web sites that you like and look at the bottom of their homepage to see who designed their site. If this doesn’t work, you may try using search engines to generate a list of Web design firms. Once you have a list of firms to look at, you will want to select at least three to investigate further and seek quotes from.
As you are looking at design firms online, look at the layout and usability of their site. If you have a hard time finding your way around or are not pleased with the Web design you see on the site, look for another firm. If you are pleased with what you see as you navigate around the site, the next step is to look at the Web designer’s portfolio. As you look at what they’ve designed for their clients, determine if you like the work that you see. If you are not satisfied with what the designer is capable of producing, move on until you find a firm that impresses you.
Once you’ve identified at least three firms that you are interested in, it is important to ask specific questions to help you determine which firm will work the best for you. Some questions that you will want to ask each firm are:
- How long have you been designing?
- How much do you charge? Per hour? Per project?
- Do you have materials to help me get started?
- How familiar are you with the legal profession?
- Can I see some of your search engine rankings?
- Who will maintain my site?
- What kind of support do you offer?
- Will you maintain my mail server?
- Can I monitor the progress of my Web site development?
- Do you offer additional services such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and copywriting?
As you are talking with potential Web designers, be aware of how they answer each question. Are they willing to take the time to make sure you understand things or do they sound rushed or annoyed by having to answer your questions? You will be working closely with your Web designer, so it is important that you choose someone that you can comfortably work with.
Once you have received satisfactory answers to the above questions and feel confident with a Web design firm, it is important to check their references. Ask past clients if they were pleased with the work done for them, if deadlines were met, and if work was completed within budget. Talking with past clients will help you determine if a designer will accomplish what they say they will in a professional and ethical manner.
Developing a Web site and selecting a Web designer to help you accomplish your goals is a time consuming process. A Web site can be a very effective tool that is part of your larger online marketing strategy; therefore, it pays to develop a site that will provide a strong return on your investment.
Your Web site is the first encounter many people will have with your business; make sure you create a lasting impression with professional design that accurately reflects your business.