Recently, I have been spending a lot of time selling and therein educating small business people on what they should look for when selecting a small business web designer. This list could actually be a top 101 list because of all of the idiosyncrasies beyond the website itself that makes for a great service provider. But, keeping specifically to small business web design, here are the top 7 things that small business owners and managers should be looking for when they select a web designer or developer:

  1. NO FLASH. I know there are a whole bunch of designers who will hate me for saying this but flash really is a poor technology platform for small business website. Search engines cannot read the content in most flash sites and as such, any site built in flash is really putting itself at a disadvantage. It’s OK to use a bit of flash within a portion of a site but not for the whole site.
  2. Using a CMS. Make sure your web designer is building your site on top of one of the popular content management systems. These days, open-source cms’s like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress are excellent choices. There are also some licenced cms’s like Ektron which have a huge customer-base. A popular cms is important because it not only allows you to leverage and build on an established and leading platform but, if your web designer gets hit by a bus, you can easily find someone to pick-up where he/she left off. I’ve seen first hand the challenges of companies working with websites built on proprietary cms’s.
  3. SEO aware. Make sure your designer is more than just a creative genius or feature-aholic. Being aware of what search engines need to rank your site is essential and especially important if your website or business is new to the scene. If you doubt your designer’s SEO ability, try asking them what keywords they are ranked for on Google and what tactics they employed to achieve and maintain their rank. You’ll be surprised with the range of answers you get from designers.
  4. Strategy. It is vital that your website reinforces and enhances your overall business strategy. A wholesale or distributor-facing website has a very different tone and design than a website that is purely consumer facing. And many businesses have a range of products, services and markets but emphasis may shift due to seasonality and business needs. Your designer should take the time to understand your overall business strategy and help you build a site that supports those objectives.
  5. Branding. A great web designer knows that branding goes far beyond just a simple logo. Make sure your designer takes the time to understand the experience that your customers have with your business and the language that you use when speaking to your customers. Your website should not only maintain the look and feel of your brand but also help to fulfill your brand promise.
  6. Ongoing consultation.Your website is a living, breathing business system. A great website will be changing and evolving constantly in order to maintain a relationship with your target market as well as to adapt to the constantly changing needs of search engines. And let’s not forget all of the great ideas that small business people come up with on the fly. You should ensure you have an agreement with your web designer that allows for changes that you request and also keeps your website fresh and up to date.
  7. Great service. I put this here last as a catch-all because a great web designer will need to have all of the things that make for a great service provider such as quick response times, great flexibility and adaptability and a strong sense of customer relationship management. It goes without saying, that if your designer is lacking in this area (even with strength in all of the above) that you are best to move on to a alternate provider.

Some of these are obvious while you may still be scratching your head over others. If any of this is not making sense to you or you have any questions, feel free to drop us a line or comment below and we will respond. Otherwise, we hope you find a great web designer wherever you are.