Douglas Skoog, Account Director with Digital Garden, notes that a website is often the first port of call for prospective clients. While an unprofessional site has the potential to drive away clients, a sleek and functional website can allow even the smallest of companies to compete against the big players.
Creating your own site on a budget
Purchasing a theme and attempting to design the website yourself is a great option, especially if you’re a small start-up with little capital and want to have a web presence as soon as possible.
The quality of templates has greatly improved in recent years and allows users a wide variety of customisations. Skoog says that “themes are an inexpensive option and typically only take a few hours to set up.”
Most importantly, if businesses are only looking for a basic website, they do not need to employ an agency. The money saved on hiring professional web designers, and the ease with which anyone can build a visually impressive site with templates nowadays, means your website can be online quicker while saving money that would have been spent on a design firm.
Web build tips
Choosing a website builder and webhosting service: Fortunately many of the best site builders offer packaged deals that include webhosting. There is a massive selection of inexpensive site builders that you can choose from, and they will be able to guide you through designing and editing your new site. Make sure to select a company that offers responsive customer support.
Maximising site hits: After you have researched online marketing techniques, determine what works best for your business before investing.
SEO and AdWords: Understanding how to optimise your site is critical to any business owner in the online landscape. With a bit of time and effort, it’s not difficult for most people to develop a working understand of SEO. AdWords, while unique in its own right, can also drive up revenue – if done correctly. “I would suggest that engaging specialists will likely see your business reap the rewards,” says Skoog. “However, do your homework and choose who you engage carefully.”
Developing your site: There will come a point when you will want to develop your self-made website. Doug suggests that if you want a more sophisticated site but are still not able to afford an agency, hiring a freelance designer can be a sound option. Be sure to check their references and previous work beforehand in order to find a compatible hire.
Hiring an agency
If you want a quality website that not only meets your business needs but also goes above and beyond your competitors, then hiring an agency is quicker, easier and likely the best option. An agency-developed website offers a number of advantages over a site made from a template.
“If you’re getting a theme or template website, then it will already be structured,” says Skoog. “So your business will have to fit around that. That’s fine when you just want to get an online presence out there. But if you have the money to spend and want a really good result, then build a partnership with someone who can steer you through this space, and really help your business to grow online – that’s where the agency comes in.”
Finding the right agency
Having an agency you can trust is very important. When searching for web designers, you should always do your due diligence. This means reviewing their portfolio, checking their references and sitting down to talk with them. Many agencies also specialise in different fields, so you need to decide what you’re after, whether that’s a social media campaign, a website or an online marketing strategy.
Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. According to Skoog, you could contract a large agency but end up at the bottom of the pile. Sometimes hiring a smaller firm is the best option, as they will offer a more personalised approach.
The internet has levelled the playing field for businesses, and in many ways smaller companies have a competitive advantage online. Where a lot of the larger players are too slow to adapt to changes in the digital world, if you are able to take advantage of the tools available, you can do quite a lot with a small budget.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Justin Lim is a freelance writer and has over four years experience writing on business related topics. Justin is a former journalist at Money Management – a financial trade publication – and is currently freelancing, writing in a number of fields ranging from business to entertainment with regular features in Yahoo Moneyhound and businessroom.com.