Does your business need a website?
Have you been trading successfully for many years, without the benefit of a website? Have you dismissed the thought of having a website, believing the Internet is unimportant to your business? Or do you have a website (or had one in the past), but gain nothing from it?
A few years ago, if someone was looking for a product or service from a local company, they are probably looked in Yellow Pages, Thomson Local, or their local newspaper. However, times have changed. You may or may not be aware that most people in the UK now use only the Internet to search for anything. It is so much easier – and most people are looking for 'instant satisfaction'.
Just to give you an idea of numbers, look at the following Internet Usage Statistics:
According to Nielsen Online, Internet usage in the UK has grown from 15,400,000 users in the year 2000 (26.2% of the population of 58,789,194 at that time) to 48,755,000 Internet users in June 2009, representing 79.8% of the population. The Government's official statistics website provides similar figures, but the statistics relate to adult users, not all users. According to the Government, in 2009, 37.4 million adults (76 per cent of the UK adult population) accessed the Internet in the three months prior to interview.
The most popular use of the Internet (at over 85% of adult Internet users) was looking for information, in particular people wanting to find out more about the products and services of companies. The second most popular use (at 81%) was sending and receiving emails. Figures for the US and other developed countries are not dissimilar.
If you feel you may need a website, is the actual web design important? If you have a website designed, will it be found on search engines? (If you ask "What is a Search Engine?" You need to talk to someone!)
If you have a website at present (or you have had one in the past) that provides little or no benefit to your company, do not give up. The Internet is incredibly effective. If it is not working (or did not work) for you, the problem is almost certainly your website. Can it be found easily on Search Engines using keywords and phrases based on your products / services and locality? Does it explain effectively what you do, and why potential customers should come to you rather than any of your competitors? Is it easy to navigate round your website? Does it load quickly? All these aspects are serious to the success of a website.
If you thought you did not need a website, have you had second thoughts? Do you need the services of a Web Designer?
How do you choose a web designer?
Firstly, make sure the company is reasonably well established. Lots of web design companies do not last very long – you need to be as sure as you can that the company you choose will still be around for the next few years.
Secondly, check out the websites of the web design companies you're considering. Look for testimonials from satisfied clients. Look for names of local companies you recognize. If you know any of their clients, give them a call to find out how they rate the service they receive from the web design company, and the business they obtain from their website.
Look at the portfolio of the web design company; but do not just look at the design, also check where their clients are listed on Google and Yahoo (or any other search engine you like to use, but Google is by far the most important). To carry out this check, pick out a few of their clients who trade locally. For each one you select, type into the Google search bar the company's main product / service, and the main town / city they're based on, and see if their site is well listed.
For example, if one of the web design company's clients is based in Wakefield, and offers underfloor heating and associated products, type in "Underfloor Heating Wakefield" (without the quotation marks), and look at the Search results. (If the website is very new, or 'under construction', it may not yet be listed on Search Engines, but it typically takes less than 3 weeks to obtain a Google or Yahoo listing if the web design company is doing its job properly. )
If the above has set you thinking, go to Google and look for a local web design company. Avoid the sponsored links. If a web design company can not get their own website well listed in the main (organic) search listings, what chance do they have of obtaining a good listing for your website? I would suggest you do not commit to anything over the telephone. Meet them either at your promises or theirs for a chat and some advice. Make sure you can refer to them, and that they seem genially interested in helping your business.
Remember, too, that websites are like most things in life / business – you get what you pay for. If a company is offering websites at what seem like amazing prices, be very wary. Designing and setting up a website correctly takes a lot of time and effort.