Just because a competitor may be throwing bundles of money at web development doesn’t mean your business should.
Without a doubt, having a web presence is essential for most businesses. But you should exercise a bit of prudence before jumping in full-throttle. It can save your company money and you a few migraines. Remember, with the click of a mouse a company’s website is often the vital first impression for a potential client.
“Web initiatives are so much more critical in a business’s bottom-line success,” says Paul Williams, president of Portland-based web development firm iSite. So much so, he says, that the trend in marketing is to think web first and then support it with other marketing tools. No longer a fringe tool, “web initiatives are entering the board room,” he says.
Most important is the ongoing management of your website. Find out what kind of off-site support services are offered. If the website crashes, make sure the company that hosts your site on the web is there to help at any time.
Also, depending on the size and scope of your company, spending thousands of dollars on a flashy website with multimedia and interactive features may be expensive overkill. On the other hand, a website that is stale and minimal may be inexpensive, but it’s as good for business as a bad rumor. Amid the blur of rapid high-tech advances, a website should be redesigned and updated at least every three years, says Steven Reid, a Portland-based web consultant for small businesses and non-profits.
If you are considering web initiatives for the first time or looking to upgrade, do it right because a lazy and outdated website or web service is a sign a business may be unprofessional in other aspects, says Reid. “A good website builds a level of trust,” he says. Reid says one of the more popular ways to do this is to have a blogging feature on your website. If customer feedback is important to your company, blogging provides an outlet for clients, employees and others to openly discuss trends and issues in your line of business.
One method to get a sense of what kind of website you may want is to view the sites of other companies and competitors, says Williams. If you see features or designs you like they can be used as a reference points when you meet with a web developer.
The market is overflowing with web developers, whether it’s a one-person basement operation or an experienced firm. That’s good for you, because it means there’s a lot of room to be choosy and negotiate the best rate.