Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Finding Affordable Custom Website Design

by Gene Schwerman

So it is time for your business to get a website. In fact, it was actually time a year or two ago. So now you might call it a little bit past time for your business to get a website. So, what kind of a website do you want? You certainly don't want a template site. You don't wish to blend into the forest of other websites by looking exactly the same as all of them. So as we are about to establish here, you probably want that elusive "affordable custom website design."

In fact, not only would you like to stick out a little bit from the crowd, you wouldn't mind being visually attractive and interesting as well. So rather than ordering up a template site, kind of like getting on the phone and ordering a pizza, you decide you need a web designer. You are going to want a website designed specifically for your business. It will actually be a custom-designed website that highlights the nuances of your business in a pleasing and interesting way and allows you to stick out from the crowd.

So let's see what else does your website need to be? Your website needs to be complete enough to address all of the options that are available on the Internet. Perhaps you even want to include a blog on your site or set up the site for e-commerce. Certainly you want an interesting, attention-getting graphic that makes your homepage pop off the screen and sizzle. You want the appropriate search engine optimization to help move yourself up in the search engines. You want some fairly slick navigation. It suddenly occurs to you that a number of the things that you're hoping to put into your website are going to be expensive. You don't have a real good handle on exactly what the costs might be. But you know good and well that you can't blow your entire advertising budget for the year on this website. So it needs to be affordable. Inexpensive would be even better, the word cheap also comes to mind, you just don't want it to look cheap. Hmmmm... it's a challenge.

So what do you need to look for in order to get an affordable custom website design that fits your business to a T and fits your budget as well. Well, you almost certainly need to find a small independent web design firm with low enough overhead to keep your site affordable. However, since you want exactly what you want, you're going to have to do your homework to make sure the company that you pick is able to deliver both the graphics, the SEO and the subtleties that you want, that will set your site apart from the crowd. You're going to have to break your heart and get on the phone and actually check some referrals. You need to examine numerous sites from the several companies that you are investigating in order to make sure that the diversity that you need is displayed within the sites that they have already built.

Having now done your homework, it is time to select your affordable custom website design company, but your work is not yet over. Perhaps the most important thing required of you, in order to get the exact type of site that you want, is the work that remains. You must now give your Web designer as many exact ideas and instructions as you can, as well as samples of sites that you have chosen that are close to what you want. Failure to do this important last bit of extensive input may be the single most often neglected requirement when it comes to getting the website that you want.

My father, God rest his soul, used to put it pretty well. When he found someone inept or downright clumsy, he would say about the person "he couldn't pour piss out of a boot, with the directions stamped on the heel." It wasn't particularly kind, but it did get the point across pretty well. Don't give your Web designer the instructions after he is already made the mistake, give him the instructions that he needs in advance so as not to waste his time or yours. The less specific your instructions are, the more decisions your Web designer will have to make on his own. The more unclear or nebulous your directions are, the more your Web design company will have to interpret and try to figure out your directions.

Finally, it is incumbent upon the website owner to stay in constant contact with his Web designer during the entire process of building the site. Of course, the Web designer himself should help in this process, because it is in both of your best interests that as much communication as possible take place at this point in time. Regular, even daily reviews of the site as it is being built will eliminate the possibility of your Web designer going off into the wrong direction and then coming back to blame you, because he didn't have the right instructions.

In the end, you should be looking at a truly affordable custom website that immediately enhances your business, facilitates communication with both customers and vendors and quickly becomes a lead source for new business generation. Done properly, you'll scratch your head and say, what in the world took me so long in getting around to getting this website up. You will be proud of what you see every time you go to the Internet. You will probably end up referring your Web designer to many of your business associates over time. In this scenario, everyone wins, because you took care to see that you did your own homework and to help your Web designer to help you. In retrospect, you may look back and say "this darn website was not only affordable, it was downright inexpensive, in fact, if it didn't look so good, I would actually say it was cheap."

About the Author

Gene Schwerman is founder and head marketing consultant for Truly Unique--Small Business Website Design. Truly Unique provides a wide range of SEO and website design services.