This article is part of the series written for anyone who needs a business website built, but doesn’t know where to start. It is the most comprehensive guide to getting a business website, from client’s perspective.

The goal of this article is to prepare you for working with a web design company or a freelancer that will create your website. But even if you intend to make a site yourself, this article will be very helpful.

You are in the right place, if:

  • You want to present your company / services / product to the public.
  • You don’t intend the site to be an online shop, even if you want to accept online payment for your services.
  • You are mainly interested in visitors calling/writing you, and maybe becoming clients/customers.

Some examples of projects that would fall into this category:

  • Site for a medical clinic with list of services, prices, possibility to see specialists’ availability and book a consult;
  • Site for a wedding photographer;
  • Site for an artisan bakery / coffee shop / restaurant – with menus, seat reservations or product order forms.
  • etc.

1. Write a Brief

Web site brief is the description of your project. Whether you will be making the site yourself, or will send the brief out to the web design companies – brief is an essential first step.

Below you have a good starter template for your brief. Click on panels to see the example answers (written by an imaginary artisan bakery in Dublin).

We are an artisan bakery located in Dublin. Our bakery is only 2 years old, but is doing exceptionally well. We offer a complete variety of excellent quality breads, pastries and sweets. Everything is made from top quality locally grown produce. We have both our bakery and the shop on Lucan Rd, and we also have a mini-cafe outside the shop, where people can have a coffee with a fresh out of the oven muffin. So far we have managed with our FaceBook profile. But we feel that we can benefit from having a website of our own: we can print its name on packaging, we can have a more consistent brand presence. We also want to offer better service to our clients via our website.
No. We already have a logo and a mini brand-book that we use for printed materials: brochures, menus that sort of thing. So the site design should be consistent with our brand.
Yes! We expect to attract more clients through our website. We are especially interested in promoting a before-work pick-up service that we are starting right now.
Ha-ha. All the bakeries in Dublin:). But the top ones are: Jamie’s Artisan Breads (www.jamiesdublinbreads.ie) and www.wholesomecookie.com.
We like www.wholesomecookie.com very much. They have a cool order form for their clients that is sort of like a game and not boring. And the look of the site is so warm and inviting. Makes your mouth water. We want something like this, but in line with our branding. We also like www.dublin-muffin.ie: very nice idea with large images on the home page. And they also have a nice display (list?) of products by category. Clean.
www.jamiesdublinbreads.ie – looks like it was designed in the last millennium. Also, images of products are tiny and poor quality. Looks clunky.
  • Home page
  • About us
    • The bakery
    • The shop
    • The cafe
    • History
    • Our philosophy: Locally grown – locally baked
    • Team
  • Our products
    • Breads
    • Pastries
    • Sweets
    • Muffins (YES! separate category)
  • Before-work pick-up (our new service)
  • Order products
  • Promotions / sales / news
  • Contact us
This item will influence the price of the project a lot. So be as accurate and thoughtful in writing this section as you can.
First of all, we would very much like to increase online purchases. Right now we are managing them via FaceBook page, but it’s a mess and hard to keep track of. So we need some kind of order placement and tracking system. An order form?
Also we are starting a Before-work pick-up service. Basically, we want people who work near by to pick one of the pick-up packages we created (coffee + 2 muffins, selected flavors; coffe and 3 scones, etc.). People will place orders for an entire week in advance, Monday – Friday, and their pick-up will wait for them in a special stand outside our shop every morning 7am to 9 am*. With their name on it. They will pay on the site with a credit card. We would also like these people to have sort of user profile, so they can see their past orders, get discounts and so on.

*if you want to deliver products to your customers, track stock, issue bulk coupons, you should be getting an online shop. We will cover those in the next article.

Yes, we want a newsletter functionality. And also the Promotions / sales / news section. Or may be a blog? or both. Please advise.
Yes, English and Gaelic.
We need the web site built by 1-st of December – we will be having big promotions starting Dec. 4-th and throughout the holiday season.*

* On average, a business site takes from 3 to 12 weeks to build, depending on complexity and size.

2. How much does a business website cost.

We have researched a lot of online web project budget estimation tools and arrived to a conclusion that they are useless. The only way to get a proper estimation is to send your brief to several web design companies (of freelancers) and have them evaluate your project.

Still, there are some ballpark sums you can expect to fall into. Here’s a table that gives you some idea of what to expect. You can see what features would increase the price.

pan to view Small Project1-10 pages, very little interactive functionality 850 – 1,000
EUR
Medium Project11-50 pages, some interactive functionality1,000 – 3,500
EUR
Large Project50 + pages, several languages, complex interactive functionality3,500 – 9,000
EUR
Domain name
Hosting
Branding
SEO/SEM strategy
UI Wireframes
Hi-fi design mock-ups
WordPress CMS (Content Management System)
Web development
Blog / News section
General contact form
Multiple order/booking forms
Allowing users to register and keep track of their activity on the site
Accepting online payments
Elaborate search and filtering
Site in more than one language

As you can see, the imaginary artisan bakery’s project from the brief falls into a Large Project category. The interactive functionality they requested, plus accepting online payments, will push the project price towards the max. end of the price range.

The deadline would also influence the price. The tighter it is, the higher the price will be. So it is a good idea to start your project well in advance.

Not sure what price range your project falls into? Contact us for a free project evaluation and a no-obligation free quote.Contact

PROWEBDESIGN is a one stop shop web design & development company based in Bucharest, Romania.

We have more than 15 years of experience in designing and developing websites, apps & products, and have successfully completed hundreds of projects. Our projects range from simple business card websites, perfect for small businesses, to large interactive applications.

3. The process of building a business website

Learning more about your business (in case you hire a professional), looking into your competition, identifying ways to showcase the unique value offer of your business.
Once you get a shiny new site, exactly nothing will start happening.  The only traffic the site will get will be from yourself & family+friends. New sites on new domains are known to no one, and in our days the competition for search engine rankings is atrocious. So BEFORE you start building a site, educate yourself about SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing). Whether you will be building a site yourself, or will hire professionals to do it, SEO & SEM have to be your constant preoccupation!
The professional you hire should assist you in selecting the domain name and hosting provider/packages. Although it may seem easier, it is NOT advisable to have a web design company to also host your site. We did see cases when web design agencies went out of business and simply “forgot” to transfer hosting rights to their clients. This resulted in suspension of a bunch of sites of unsuspecting customers.
You should strive for as much autonomy as possible after your site is live: pay for your domain name and hosting directly to hosting provider, keep back-ups of your site.
Website copy and even titles and URLs of the pages should be created based on your SEO/SEM strategy!
UI stands for User Interface. This is a phase of design when freelancer/company plans what elements will go on what page, where they will be positioned and how they will function. UI mock-ups are also called wireframes sometimes, they lack color and pictures. This phase is mostly valuable for larger sites with complex structure and functionality and can be forgone for small to medium projects. It is important that your designer mocks up each layout in at least 3 variants: desktop, tablet and mobile phone!

You have probably heard of UX too and would like to know if you need it. UX = User Experience. UX design is a separate field of product development that defines how users interact with complex interfaces, what kind of users a product will attract, what journeys will a certain type of user take to complete a certain task in a product. UX can be forgone in case of business websites. It is useful for large apps and products with complex interactive patterns.

Branding is not limited to simply designing a logo sign. You should expect your designer to deliver a mini brand-book that will include:

  • logo and rules of its use (normal variant, inversed/negative variant, spacing around);
  • typography set;
  • colors: primary, secondary and, if necessary, tertiary;
  • set of repetitive design elements with variants of states: buttons (normal, mouse over, clicked), form fields (normal, focused, error, success), banners, CTAs, etc.
In this phase you will get design mock-ups that combine UI wireframes with the new branding and show exactly how the website will look. You will be getting the final design with colors, proper fonts, images.It is important that your professional mocks up each layout in at least 3 variants: desktop, tablet and mobile phone!

After you approve the design, the development phase begins. Needless to say, the development phase must too adhere to the SEO strategy. During this phase web professional will:

  • install a CMS of choice on your server (hosting space);
  • configure CMS and add all planned pages and functionality to it (either using plugins or writing custom code);
  • add all the content to the created pages;
  • implement the design (code a custom “theme” for the CMS);
  • check for bugs and malfunctions;
  • check for cross-device and cross-platform compatibility;
  • set up Google Analytics account for you and link it to your site;
  • provide written guide on how to manage your website. If necessary, provide online live training with screen sharing too;
  • launch the site.

In our days all websites are responsive. It means that they auto-adapt for optimal viewing and interaction on all sorts of devices: desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. If a web professional tries to sell you site responsiveness as a separate service and charge you for it, you should part ways! Responsiveness is an industry standard.
While testing your site before launch, don’t forget to access it on multiple devices – your phone especially!

If you have the site built with a CMS (which should really be the case), you will be able to manage most of the aspects yourself. So the technical support can be limited to modifying or adding new functionality on demand. If you do not have time to manage the content of your site yourself, you can outsource this to the web professional too.

4. What is the best CMS for a business website

Using a CMS will enable you to manage most of the content updates yourself, thus cutting ongoing support costs! A CMS also allows to easily add complex interactive functionality, grow and extend the site.

WordPress is, undoubtedly, the best CMS for a business website. In the course of years we have worked with several other CMSs. Some of them gave us more coding freedom, others were more flexible in how admin could build pages from visual blocks. But none came even close to the great User Experience WordPress offers to its admin users. Almost 10 years ago, when we started with WordPress, a client told us: “I love updating my site, this WordPress is like a toy!”. And we were sold. There are also many more benefits in using WordPress, read more about them here.

5. When to use a site builder and when to hire a freelancer or a web design company

If you have a budget of less than 850 EUR, or your business is brand new, or both – build a site yourself. This may sound like a sacrilege, coming from a web design company owner, but this is the best advice one can give you in this particular situation. You can not get a decent professional for less than 850 EUR, so don’t waste them on a bad one.

There are services, called website builders that allow you to build a site yourself. You can check out wix.com, squarespace.com or weebly.com. They offer very limited functionality, designs that look good only in their demos and require a learning curve to use. But you will get your website out there. You can then redesign in in 6-12 month once you get the necessary budget.

If your budget is >850 EUR, you should hire a professional. And here comes the question: whom to hire? A freelancer? A web design company? Here are PROs and CONs of each variant.

Hiring a freelancer

As you have seen, the process of building a website requires several skill sets:

  • SEO/SEM skills
  • Analytical skills for research and UI design
  • Graphics design skills for hi-fi mock-ups and branding
  • Web development/programming skills

A reasonable question immediately pops into mind: can ONE person have all these skills? Well, a person can, but it is a rare case in our days. Old school web designers are often good at both SEO/SEM, visual/graphics design and web development. But even so, one of the disciplines will clearly be their favorite and they will be better at that one thing in detriment of the others.

So, if you decide to hire a freelancer, you should be aware of this limitation. And if you do find such one-man band, try to have an honest conversation with him/her about their strength and weaknesses. After identifying their weakest discipline, be prepared to educate yourself on the matter and help out in the process of making the site. Alternatively, you can hire two freelancers with different skill sets.

You may ask yourself: why bother with hiring a freelancer at all? The one and obvious reason is the price, of course. A freelancer will be cheaper than the company. If your budget is on the lower side, hiring freelancer can be a good choice.

Hiring a web design company

Hiring a company will rid you of the necessity to constantly supervise your project. A good company will make a sound plan of actions and then walk you through the entire process, suggesting solutions every step of the way. The one-man band issue is not valid in company’s case, because you will have several people working on your project. Most often: project manager, SEO/SEM specialist, UI designer and web developer(s). For more complex projects you may also get QA engineers and junior designers.

The only CON of hiring a company is the price. Normally, a company is more expensive than a freelancer.

Normally, but not always.

Cut web design & development costs by outsourcing

If you are in Western Europe, US, Canada, Australia, you can consider outsourcing your project to a company located in a country with lower prices of web development. This way you will basically get a company for a price of a freelancer. We can recommend outsourcing to Eastern and central Europe. We can NOT recommend once popular outsourcing destinations like India and Bangladesh. Out own experience with outsourcing work overflow to these countries was a sad one.

Prowebdesign was created in 2006. Our first outsource partner is with us – you guessed – since 2006 🙂Outsource to us

PROWEBDESIGN is the only outsource partner you’ll ever need. We’ve been handling outsourced projects for over a decade.

Our clients usually stay with us for many years, because of our work quality, business ethics and flexible pricing models.

Let’s start a dialog and see if we can work together!

6. How to recognize a good freelancer or company

  1. Has a solid protfolio of LIVE projects.
    Avoild professionals with no portfolio, with portfolio of 1-2 projects or with portfolio of projects that do not have links to live sites, that can be viewed online.
  2. Responsible.
    Will not hurry things and jump into project without finding out all the details necessary for a correct quote. Avoid companies and freelancers that do not ask any questions.
  3. Skillful.
    It is difficult to evaluate if self proclaimed skills set is actually there. But ask a freelancer/company to explain their process to you and compare it to the process described in this article. Ask “dumb” questions and use your common sense to identify possible shortcomings – they will be evident from omissions, unclear explanations and outright lies.
  4. Resourceful. Capable of finding solutions and help you get the best value for your budget.
    If you want to build a large project, but only have budget for a medium one, look for a freelancer/company who won’t get “smart” about it and blow you off! Instead, they should be able to help you out by suggesting alternative ways to obtain what you want, or almost what you want. A friendly “putting your heads together” – this is a sort of collaboration you should be looking for.
  5. Speaks your language perfectly.
    This is NOT a metaphor! What we mean is: if you are fluent in English, search for freelancer/company that is also FLUENT in English, etc. Do not settle for “good enough” in matters of communication.
  6. Price. AVOID dirt-cheap professionals.
    There are no miracles. “A buck you pay, for a buck you eat”, as my grammie used to say. A good professional will have medium to high prices for their domain and region.
  7. Legal.
    A freelancer or a company should be able to offer you a legal contract and invoice you for each payment share.
We would like to know if this article was helpful! If you think we didn’t cover a certain aspect that’s important or have a suggestion, please drop us a line at office@prowebdesign.ro.