Congratulations! Your business is growing and now you want a website. You look for a web developer to set one up. So many choices, so many decisions. Whether to go with a freelance web designer or hire a media agency is the question. While both have strengths and weaknesses, it makes for a hard decision.
A media agency has payroll, overhead and bureaucracy. You will be assigned an account manager for your project. This person will take your information and give you a cost and time estimate. You rarely will talk to the actual web designer. You will have the age old problem of translating what is in your head to the designer without ever talking to him. This can be difficult.
Web agencies often rely on templates to create a quick sites and slap your information on it. These are quick and easy and are almost all profit. Little work or thought goes into their development. Hopefully the agency has a resident web designer who has created a checklist of questions that the account agent will go over with you. This check list is for your own good. You might think that this would be a pain. Not true. It is your biggest blessing. It details how the site will look and how it is set up and what results you want. If they don’t get the information from the start you will get whatever they think will please you.
For a site to be successful it must accomplish something besides being a bookmark on the internet. No one will find you if it is laid out wrong. Strong internal and external SEO (search engine optimization) is a must. SEO is not enough. There is also conversion rate optimization (CRO). It truly is one of the most important things around. If the site does not achieve the goal, then why do it?
Now, a competent agency will have the intelligence to ask you what you want it to accomplish. Whether it is to be a spot the customer to get your contact information. Or it is to generate traffic for you and your sales team. You want informed customers who need your product or services. You want a website not a business cards.
If you want to be selling online, conversion rate optimization is even more important. Unintentional sabotage is quite common here. Careless placement of things on the page. Not having a landing site specifically for you product. Making it to difficult to navigate. The list goes on and on.
One of the biggest problems is to many choices. They bail instead of making a choice. Never have more than 3 choices for them. Each of them should lead to a different closing. It's better to not give them any choice. Lead them directly to your offer then to the check out.
How will you know what to fix, If you do not know what happens to them when they are on your site. If you are serious about your site you also need to put in analytics.
Agencies often are great about writing sales scripts. Knowing how to direct people to change their minds into wanting what you are selling. But if the site is set wrong it will not work. Bottom line is does the site do what you want it to do.
Agencies often turn to freelancers to finish up their work since they do not have the specialist in every field. In general, they have someone who can take a site and modify it for the quick jobs. The in-depth work is often given out to different freelancers.
While this may not cause for worry, it can also be a huge problem. When you have many programmers each doing things in their own way, integrating them into the whole can be a world of problems.
You might think that agencies will use local freelancers. Not very often. Mostly they rely on cheap labor pools in India and other countries to generate their code. This can be a nightmare if quality control is not in place. The workers over there have programs that do almost all the work. These programs are cloaked so when a problem occurs it is almost impossible for the agency to combine them into a coherent product.
When dealing overseas it has to be stipulated that the workers use industry standards. By using standards you can easily combine parts together. It takes about twice as long and cost more. Since they are higher quality code the long term cost of integrating drops immensely. I have seen designers spend more time repairing bad code than it would have taken them to do it themselves.
Agencies have to mark up everything that is done a lot to cover their rent, salaries and profits. Usually an agency will charge 3 to 4 times as much as a freelancer for the same level of work.
Freelancers can be a great saving to your budget. But you also must me aware not all freelancers are competent and experienced. A lot of freelancers are experts in a narrow field. Each can fulfill a specific part of the project. Some are expert at web layout. Others are excellent at SEO, some specialize in Conversion Rate Optimization. What you need is one that has mastered them all of them. These few are rare gems. They are sought out by companies and agencies. These gems have years of experience in their field and have gotten numerous certifications in things like Analytics, Adwords and various web design languages.
I am not saying that the freelancer will not use other freelancers. They generally form communities that cover all the specialties covered and rely on each other. This is not the same thing as an agency. Each is independent and proud of their abilities and skills. When you are checking out freelancers the biggest thing to remember is you are dealing with the solution provider not a salesman.
The freelancer listens and helps you create the site you want and need. They will question you about your thoughts, focusing first on what you want to accomplish on your site. If the freelancer just gives you a low ball price for a website without questioning you about your needs, run. That type of freelancer just uses templates and fills in your information. He may give you pretty pictures and look good. But will the site perform the function you need?
I have worked in a web marketing and seen a lot of horror stories. While I may be a mostly in digital marketing, I also study the overall workings of web design and have a good handle on conversion rate optimization and landing page design. I worked next to one of the most skilled freelancers around. We would map out a detailed game plan on how to develop a site. We developed questionnaires to determine what would be needed to give the customer a wonderful site at a fair price.
All to often, our boss would hire a foreign freelancer to create a site. The customer gets frustrated. The website then gets handed off to the skilled web designer. The number of hours he had to put into fixing what he could have done in half the time, was ridiculous. Don't let that happen to you.
Where Can You Find A Great Web Designer?
When you pick a freelancer, go to their website. Think for yourself is this quality you want? This is not that hard to do. How does the page make you feel, does it feel like you should contact them for your site. Do they show links to their work. Do they give real contact numbers. Does the site sell itself. Believe me they will not put more effort into your site than theirs.
Now the website may not be slick and elegant but does it communicate to you. If you feel they are doing more selling than showing find someone else. People deal with emotions when they buy things. They soon will see through the flash and get to the meat of the site.
Pick the Great Web Designer. Big advertising with it flash and bang and no substance is not what you are looking for. Choose wisely.