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Blue Link Design - A Professional Minnesota Web Design and Development Company

What Does Your Website Say About You?

Seeking Web Design or Development?

Minnesota Winter

It's winter.  The pile of paperwork on your L-Shaped desk has dwindled down to a couple of notes that you wrote three or four months ago during an arduous conversation with your marketing folks in regards to having a website designed or developed for your business. Just next to those notes are what appear to be ring shaped coffee stains basically tattooed or etched within the wood grain of your desk. One particular stain subtly reminds you that last quarter's revenue was down and that you had the coffee pot brewing full-time as you and your sales people worked to the grindstone just to break even for the quarter.

In knowing that day-to-day customers and the economy have changed, you now feel as though you’re ready to give the World Wide Web a test run before you lose your customers to someone that already has. The downside is: You know nothing about websites or web design. You have no clue what it should cost, how it should perform, and whether or not you'll actually see a return on your investment.

No Worries! I have put together a really simple and quick checklist that I believe is essential for those considering having a website built for their business.

The cost:  Our approach is that your investment should ultimately depend on your product or service. - I know, pretty strange right?  For example:   If you (hypothetically) sell shoes at $50/per pair, think of your profit margin on one sale and from that profit margin, how many shoes would you have to sell in a year's time in order to make your money back?

So in essence, if you invest $1500.00 annually on a website and your profit margin is 30%, you would have to sell 100 shoes in a fiscal year via the website or because of the website in order to get your investment back.  Make sense?  Also, keep in mind that the information or communication avenues that your website provides after hours or when a consumer cannot make it to your physical location holds potential value as well.  It's up to you to determine or justify the worth of such accommodations.  That being stated, things like: unique design, end-user functionality, custom programming, unique access to data, and ease of use are all things a designer or developer may charge you additionally for and justifiably so.

References, References:  Ask for at least three live websites and three actual contact points or persons (not relatives, cousins, or friends of the designer or developer. Ask for actual business owners who run day-to-day businesses). Once you get a contact on the phone, keep your questions short and determine exactly what answers you need in order to make a decision. Technically, you are asking them to provide helpful information to you without providing anything in return, so let them know that you know their time is important and thank them in advance.

Some examples are:

  • How did you find "blank" company?
  • What was it like working with ""?
  • What was the turn-around time?
  • How do you feel the website has helped your business?
  • If you had to do it all over again would you?

Custom, Open Source or 3rd Party?:  Who is actually designing and/or developing your website?  Are you working with a website broker or website designer?  Ask if the web design company uses third party templates.  Ask if they hire freelance designers.  Ask if they offer custom solutions or if they install and use open source content management systems like: Joomla, Wordpress or Concrete 5. If a web design or development company is modifying or designing a custom template to fit over an open source (FREE) content management system like Joomla, Wordpress, Concrete 5 and/or etc. -- Great, so long as they outlining that as their approach and within their proposal. 

Training, Customer Service and Support:  Ask what kind of training, maintenance and/or support is provided. Will you be charged by the hour, monthly, annually? Take a serious look and consider the annual route. Good, legitimate developers and designers can charge up to $100/hr to perform updates, maintenance and changes properly with the right or validate-able mark-up, functionality and etc. guaranteed.

Website Marketing:  When its not there - you notice it - and right away!  We call it the "Billboard in the Woods" effect around here and we've seen the worst and heard it all from incoming clients. Be sure to get a clear understanding of exactly how your website will be marketed locally and electronically. Get an idea for popular search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask are our favorites) you will be submitted to and how you will actually be submitted. What keywords at your budget are attainable for your products and services and which ones aren't. If you're told that such goals are not attainable - ask why. Ask about traffic monitoring and how that will be covered or reviewed with you (Monthly, Quarterly, or Annually). Ask what you should do in addition to Search Engine Marketing and Optimization in order to be successful online. Social Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, and Local Marketing should also be considered and discussed.

Get it in writing:  Always ask for a proposal!  When discussing your project a lot of promises and verbiage can go unacknowledged or unaccounted for when it comes time to actually design or develop something. It is important that you know exactly what design and development work will be performed, at what dollar amount, and within what time-frame.

Protect yourself:  Always ask for a services agreement or contract.  Make sure the contract or agreement is unbiased and has both businesses' best interest in mind. Be sure that there are terms or grounds for termination within the contract as well. Feel free to discuss your contract with an attorney and always keep a copy on file for your records.  You can also have us review your proposal and services agreement for free (as part of our proposal match guarantee) - contact us to learn more!


The list could go on and on I suppose.  However, I truly believe we've covered the big stuff. Feel free to call or email me with any questions.

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