We've got some bad news, small businesses. Your customer attention spans are decreasing with every passing year. Not too long ago, humans had an attention span of 12 seconds, but now it is closer to 8.
Perhaps it's not all bad news; humans have just become more efficient at evaluating information and deciding whether it's worth their time. But when you want customers to linger on your website rather than clicking away, that becomes a problem. Without a skilled small business website designer, there's a very real risk that people, like goldfish, will lose interest in your product in favor of some other new, shiny thing.
We are here to make sure that doesn't happen. As you shop around for a website designer, here are some tips on how to find the right one.
Choose a Small Business Website Designer Based on Their Portfolio
Perhaps the best way to tell if a company can produce the proper web design and business website you need is to examine their previous work. These are clear, tangible examples of what they can produce.
You can even visit the websites for yourself. See how they perform, both in terms of UI and how they appear on various screen sizes. If there are any issues of concern, they will be on display for you to see.
Pay close attention to how versatile a company is. Do they replicate the same design across multiple websites, or does each design feel fresh and unique? A varied skill set is always a good thing.
Plus, imagine your website looking like some of the provided examples. If these website ideas don't match your brand and your vision, you might need to look elsewhere.
Compare these website examples to other websites that you enjoy using. If the quality is similar, then you can rest assured that this website designer is capable of bringing your vision to life.
Speak With a Web Design Consultant
Some companies may consult with you. They can get a feel for what you're looking for and provide options. They can evaluate your current design and marketing model, even providing free services such as logo evaluation.
This is an excellent one-on-one with a real company representative, not their customer-facing content. Take note of how they handle your concerns. Look out, especially for how well they are able to understand your needs and provide solutions for them.
It's also a great chance to get some realistic pricing. Write down any quotes they throw at you. Fitting this all into your budget will be important.
Based on Capabilities
Most of the businesses you find in your Google search can craft a worthwhile website design. But do they have the capability to manufacture other types of content?
Times are changing, and so are your customers' expectations. People are looking not just for modern website designs but creative video content as well.
Remember, we are dealing with goldfish-like attention spans here. Adapting to the times with short-form content and straight-to-the-point marketing is going to win your customers over. Outdated strategies must go the way of the dodo.
In addition to being well-versed in the industry, how well do they know their tools of the trade? Look for companies that use industry-leading platforms. If you plan to work through WordPress or Shopify, that company should be able to handle them.
Further, they should be able to collaborate with other services that you hire. If you plan on paying for SEO services, make sure this company can collaborate with copywriters as needed and meet deadlines. Keeping all moving parts in sync when designing a website will be crucial.
We humans are pattern-seeking machines. We find great comfort in predictability and consistency. Deviations from the norm put us off, even if we don't consciously realize it.
In that vein, find a company that can create brand unity across the board. Wherever--and however--customers access your company's digital platform, they should feel like it's all part of the same whole.
This means having consistent visual content, whether that be photos or videos. Everything from the UI to the phrasing should work in tandem.
Think of a big-name brand that achieves this consistency, such as Apple. Whether you're watching an Apple ad on YouTube, or scrolling through their product pages, it all feels like Apple. Even if you can't put your finger on what specifically makes it Apple.
Company size determines two key features of a web design firm. One, how much manpower they can devote to your web design and development. Two, how many other clients they might work with concurrently.
Some companies are overloaded with clients. They take on all the work they can get, regardless of how that harms the quality of their work for other clients. Of course, that's not something you want.
It's not a question of whether you work with a large or small company. Rather, it's a question of whether or not that company will give you priority. Will they treat you as a valued customer or just another number on their spreadsheets to break even?
This is especially apparent when it comes to customer service thoroughness and responsiveness. You want prompt responses, with services that solve your issues all in one go. Having to call back--and wait--to fix things is a waste of your money and time.
It's important to understand how a prospective company delegates tasks and processes them through internal checks and balances.
Project management among creative firms tends to be similar, but not every style of management is the most efficient. Get an idea of how the company runs. Then you know if there's solid accountability and chains of authority to make sure your website gets the love and attention it deserves.
Based on Blogs
Blogs serve a twofold purpose for graphic design companies. It's not only a repository of knowledge, but a news section where a company can discuss its most recent affairs.
Look for companies that cover a wide variety of topics, especially useful information that can aid you in improving your small business brand. This could be helpful to learn a thing or two that you might not have known about web design and digital content.
This also gives you a chance to get a feel for how a company operates. You want to work with an organization that you jibe with.
Does the company in question have a rigid, formal tone? Or are they more laid-back, more easygoing? A blog is a good litmus test for pairing up with a business that suits your fancy--communication-wise.
After all, you likely intend to have a fruitful, long-term relationship with this organization. Take any chance you can get to learn what working with them might be like.
Get in Contact
Once you've added a particular company to your shortlist, schedule a Zoom or phone call with them. Get a feel for their company culture. Try to gage how the average employee feels about working there, and how invested they are in the work.
Every business owner knows that B2B relationships are about more than just good pricing and reaching deadlines. You want to work with the sort of companies that you would enjoy having dinner with.
Based on the Reviews
Advertisers and marketers have gotten very, very good at swaying us with glamorous ads. So much so that people fall for the hype and the glitzy graphic design. It's only later, once we have sunk a considerable sum of money, that we realize a company is not all they claimed to be.
The best way to counter this is by taking a deep dive into the reviews. Online reviews are the king of establishing a company's bona fides. Customers hold no punches, giving you a brutally honest and visceral evaluation of the company in question.
Decent Business Review Sites
Rather than relying on testimonials and vacuous claims, take to business review sites. Use Google, Better Business Bureau, and any other place where customers have left reviews.
Consider using review aggregators as well. These collate hundreds or thousands of reviews into an easy-to-digest format to get a general idea of a company's popularity among customers.
Be Wary of Fake Reviews
You can't trust everything you read on the Internet, people always say. And yet too many people fall victim to fake reviews. The problem has gotten so bad that the FTC has weighed in at times.
Companies may purchase positive, fake reviews left by sock puppet accounts. Or, their competitors do the same with negative reviews. In some cases, companies even bribe disgruntled customers to change their one-star into a five-star.
The best thing you can do is to learn the tells of fake reviews. Keep a critical mindset as you read them; be on alert for claims that seem too good to be true--or unrealistically negative.
Choose Quality Review Sites
A major issue is that many review sites allow anybody to post to review, with no verification process whatsoever. This means that a person can easily create fake accounts and leave multiple negative--or positive--reviews.
Good review sites weed out fake, AI-generator reviews and prioritize those left by a real human. It's impossible to keep all the bad eggs out, but with a good review site, you have a better idea of how a company really is.
Give Credence to Word of Mouth
There's nothing better than a recommendation from a friend. You have someone you can trust giving you a clear-cut, no-nonsense evaluation of a business.
This gives you a chance to ask your burning questions. If something isn't clear on the company website or in the reviews, your friend can tell it like it is.
Based on Pricing
Pricing has to come into the equation at some point! Small businesses often work with small profit margins and don't have the largest leeway for marketing as the heavy hitters. What money you can afford for professional website ideas and web design needs to work with surgical precision and efficiency.
Try to find a balance, first and foremost. Going with the cheapest option on the market isn't necessarily the best idea. You're risking working with an organization that outsources all its labor and takes on more clients than it can reasonably handle.
Flexible Pricing Model
All too often, companies have very distant pricing models. You get a baseline one that is missing just a handful of key features. But the next tier up is overkill for your needs.
Companies that offer a decent balance between pricing models are the ticket. Or better yet, companies that give you quotes when their pricing models don't fit the bill.
Revisions and Redos
Even the best companies can't read your mind and get things perfect the first time. Invariably, you'll want a few tweaks or do-overs to fine-tune things. The question is, does that come standard with the package they offer you?
Make sure they won't be charging you through the nose for revising their previous work. Most companies will give a few freebie revisions. Once you've exhausted your freebies, you should hope to find a reasonable pricing model for anything above and beyond.
Build Your Dream Brand With Cumberland Marketing
A small business website designer will be an invaluable asset as you define your brand's online presence. Take the time to look over a brand's work and management style, the capabilities they have, and their company culture. Don't forget to vet them with review sites and determine if their pricing model works for you.
Let us narrow down your search for you. At Cumberland Marketing, we provide all the services you need, from stunning video content to dedicated brand photography. Contact us and we'll bring your dreams to fruition.