What are the options when it comes to web design service for small business? Take your pick– freelance designer, design agency, unlimited design service, and self-service. Your choice will depend on a lot of things such as your budget, your goal, scope and complexity of the design project, and turnaround, to name some.
We will help familiarize you with the options available including the cost of such service, where to find them, and their benefits as well as disadvantages. As a small business, it is crucial that you find the right web design service that will give you your money’s worth and help your business grow.
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Do You Need a Web Design Service?
More than ever, a small business needs a web design service. You should look at web design from a broader perspective. A website is part of your marketing mix which includes, among others, email campaigns, ads, social media promotions, etc.
Also, a website is a vital element of your communication and content strategy. It is where you inform your audience of your products or services and of your corporate mission and vision. If it has a blog, you are able to share insights, company developments, and industry updates.
More than anything, a website is your business and online persona. It is where you sell your products through an online store and display items through a virtual catalog. In other words, a website is a lot of things for you the business owner. Wouldn’t you want it to look professional and engaging? Web design has a lot to do with that.
Benefits of a Well-designed Website
Now the question – who will handle your web design? This shouldn’t be a hit-and-miss affair because much is at stake. There are many benefits to your small business when you have a well-designed website. These include the following:
- It creates a good impression. The first impression is usually the one that makes a lasting impression. When you have a polished, organized, clean, and stylish website, it is more likely to get noticed and get a second look.
- It builds consistency. Design is responsible for putting all your brand elements (logo, colors, patterns, fonts, etc.) across your website and tying them together for consistency.
- It expands your audience reach. A well-designed website coupled with relevant messaging and content will attract an audience, especially if you have interesting information to share and great products, services, and deals to offer. Design supports not only content; it likewise strengthens your promotional and marketing activities.
- It enhances search engine rankings. Together with good SEO tools and strategies, a well-designed website will be able to improve search engine rankings, increase visitor traffic, and grow your customers. Putting you on the radar of search already translates to a significant audience share.
- It puts you in the running with your competitors. You may have a website but if its design does not visually communicate, then it does not serve its purpose. Professional-looking websites tell everyone, more so your rivals, that you are there to compete and that you are serious with your business and offerings. That will get their attention.
There is no question that you need a web design service to help you achieve all the above with your website. What then are the determinants when deciding on such a service?
What to Consider When Choosing a Web Design Service
There are two facets to this – your side and that of the web design service. Let’s begin with your side of things. You have to take into consideration these areas:
- Budget. Inflation has slowly chipped away at the dollar’s value so your budget is a critical criterion for your choice of a design service. Is the budget you set enough for the services of a freelance web designer on a per-project basis? Can your budget sustain a more expensive design agency for the long term? You have to crunch numbers for this and study finances vis-à-vis your requirements.
- Complexity. The general rule is to keep your website design simple. But there may be other elements you want to be included to make it interactive like having background music, animated graphics, and video presentations. These may make the web design more complicated, take a longer time to accomplish, and be relatively more expensive.
- Project Scope. Web design is not just a one-time project where everything stops the minute the website is complete and goes live. There are many design elements and visual components that you may have to add or modify over time. You should be cognizant of these.
- Short Term or Long Term. In relation to the preceding, consider if you need just one website or several others later on. Maybe you need to put up ancillary websites for a separate company or distinct services over time. You have to plan this out for the immediate and foreseeable future.
- Timeframe. Do you need web designs or a full website in a couple of days, a week, or within a month? Rush jobs generally will cost you more and if you are on a tight budget you would want to avoid these. Again, study your requirements.
On the part of the web design service, try to know as much about the following:
- Portfolio. You can personally evaluate the capability of the web designer or web design service by their portfolio. Look not only for mockups but for actual live websites they designed so you can see their visual impact and how they operate.
- Pricing and Rates. Do they bill by the hour, by project, or unlimited projects per month? What tasks do their rates specifically include? Does it include maintaining the website as it evolves in response to changing trends?
- Contracts and Guarantees. Are pricing and coverage covered by a contract? What are the fine prints of the agreement? Can their service be canceled anytime? Do they offer money-back guarantees?
- Feedback and Testimonials. You may not ask these directly from them but if they agree to provide case studies and customer testimonials (often there are dedicated pages for these on the website’s homepage) then that would be great. Having factual comments, reactions, and assessments from customers themselves reflect on the credibility of the web design service and should be a benchmark of your decision.
Now that you’ve had your fill of important matters, let’s examine each of these service providers.
1. Freelance Web Designer
A freelance web designer will execute the design you want for your website. Normally, the service ends there and you take up the cudgel afterward like maintaining the website, paying the hosting provider, renewing your domain, and the like.
In other words, the first key step – that of designing your website based on your specs – is taken care of by the freelance web designer. Usually, all the appurtenant web development, testing, and backend tasks are covered. By freelance we mean he or she is not under your regular employ. Most often, hiring is on per project or hourly basis. Once the website has been designed, that’s about it.
What then should you look for in a freelance web designer? UpwardCreative.com list five essentials when it comes to hiring a freelance web designer:
- Design specialization. What specific service do you need?
- Portfolio and experience. Does the designer have real-world experience?
- Process and revisions. Is there open communication? How many revisions are allowed?
- Good value. Do you get better and actual quality results by spending more?
- Happy clients. Are there satisfied, repeat clients?
Hiring a freelancer seems like a cool, easy choice but it is not without its rough edges. You’ve heard of stories of freelancers “ghosting” their clients or of not delivering on time. Let’s go over the advantages and downsides of this web design service option.
- One-on-one relationship. You’re not dealing with a team or a group of people so communication is direct and two-way, not through a supervisor or point person. This ensures that you are both clear with the goals and are on the same page.
- Affordability. Hiring a freelancer for the purpose of creating and designing your website is more cost effective than hiring a whole agency for that task. What’s more, freelancers are their own bosses; hence, you can negotiate prices since freelancers are not tied down by corporate rates.
- Flexibility. Since they are not bound by a corporate culture like set working hours or strict processes, freelancers can be flexible with work. They can put in extra hours or even work right at your place if you prefer. In other words, they are more open to negotiations which can be an advantage on your part.
- Best foot forward. A freelancer’s reputation often hinges on the relationship established with clients. They will, therefore, put their “best foot forward” and try to be as accommodating and generous with client requests. They know that contented clients could mean referrals and repeat work.
- Lack of project control. You’re essentially transferring your vision for your website to a freelance web designer to realize. That means less control over the project compared to when you are executing it yourself.
- Lack of skills, not the right person. This drives home the point of a diligent background check before hiring. The freelancer may not be the right person for the job because of different specializations like graphic or social media design.
- Jack-of-all-trades. In contrast, the freelancer specializes in everything design related, which may not be bad but you’re looking particularly for a web designer. Besides, a one-man team is prone to the next downside.
- Reliability. The symptoms are there – unable to deliver on time, not able to execute what you want, not showing up, or altogether quitting on your project. Do not take the relationship any further.
We can’t pinpoint exact figures here because rates vary widely. Freelancers new to the business will naturally charge lower. But expect asking rates to go up when freelance web designers have the three “Es” – education, expertise, and experience. The last one – experience – is the ultimate yardstick.
Ben Matthews, PR and marketing expert as well as freelance specialist, puts out average freelance web design rates in his blog based on his research. Here are his findings:
- Web design freelancers with less experience – $14 – $45/hour or $90 – $320/day
- More experienced – $45 – $90/hour or $320 – $650/day
- Well experienced – $90+/hour or $950+/day dependent on the right experience and skills
- Top level designers – $950+/day
Can you afford these rates? That depends on your budget. And how much you’re willing to invest would likely depend on finding the right person.
Where to find them
Freelance web designers are all around. Have a look at these places:
- Job search websites (LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, FlexJobs)
- Freelance marketplaces (Fiverr, Upwork, Creative Market, We Work Remotely)
- Design/creative communities (Behance, Dribbble, Envato, Instagram)
- College campuses bulletin boards
- Design industry conferences, seminars, and exhibits
- Community/announcement boards at government offices, local associations, civic centers, restaurants, convenience stores, and other public places
2. Web Design Agency
A professional web design company develops and designs websites for businesses or for clients of business owners. However, designing websites is not the only service offered by web design agencies. They can also provide other related services such as web development, SEO, and content writing/creation.
The main motivation for hiring a web design agency is to unload everything to the said company so you can focus on running your business. With a design agency you are assured of professional results and processes because the agency’s credibility and reputation are on the line. Let’s see the ups and downs of hiring one.
- Team of experts. With a web design agency you have a pool of experts working on your website. They may include specialists in web development, graphic or UI/UX design, digital marketing, content writing, SEO, and the like. All will be collaborating to come up with a website according to your specs and requirements – something a single person (even a jack-of-all-trades) may not be able to deliver on his own.
- Quality results. You can immediately tell the difference between websites done by professionals and those made by rookies. Those built by pros are more functional and detailed. Also, they are not cluttered with unnecessary visual elements. Everything – buttons, menus, content, etc. – has a purpose.
- Advanced features. The meat of your website is its various features. If yours is a business website, then you would want the necessary features the design agency can install such as analytics, site performance, security, SEO, signup forms, live chat, videos, a blog, product catalog, and an online store, among others.
- Client support. A full-service web design company will be able to provide much-needed customer support when it comes to technical matters, design issues, and other problems that may crop up.
- Corporate culture. You don’t have to contend with this with a freelance designer but a design company, they can be inflexible and work by the book. You can’t blame them because they have internal guidelines to follow and even small infractions can result in overhead costs.
- Right choice. This can be a problem for both freelancers and agencies. And getting the wrong agency can even be more expensive and have adverse consequences. Again, due diligence is required so you don’t squander your money and time.
- Undivided attention. Speaking of time, be aware that an agency will be working on the projects of as many clients at any one time. Good if they are fully staffed but even then, can they give their full attention to your web design project?
- Steeper cost. The rates vary from agency to agency. But they are typically pricier than that of a freelancer. After all, you are hiring not just an individual but a whole company and its team. Below, we delve deeper into agency rates.
The cost of designing a custom website depends on a lot of things. WebFX, a digital marketing solutions provider, has a handy Project Quote Calculator on their website to give you an idea of the typical requirements of a business website. Now choosing the quality and quantity you want, it will then come up with a price.
WebFX’s project quote calculator provides a cost estimate of web design based on the parameters you set.
The sample above, with all the selections, eventually gave an estimated price range of $16,000 to $26,500. Depending on a variety of factors, WebFX further stated that a web design at current prices may cost anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000. That is how much a web design agency can charge.
Meanwhile, Delt, a web design and branding company, provided some eye-opening information regarding the average cost of web design by various service providers using web builder tools and platforms. Here are some of them:
- $4,000 – Web designs using pre-built/purchased WordPress (WP) theme
- $6,000 – WP web design built by a freelancer
- $12,000 – Custom standard WP website built by a small studio
- $22,000 – Basic eCommerce (Shopify/Drupal) web design by a small studio
- $25,000 plus – Custom WP theme designed by a large agency
It is critical that you make a checklist of the items that you want to be included in your website. Whether you want simple designs, custom themes, or standard designs, it will cost you. Determining these things can better prepare you with budget planning before you make your choice.
Where to find them
This will require both online and offline searches. Check local business listings and directories if proximity and location are important to you. They may have an office, branch, or studio nearby. Just ask around or better yet go to city hall and ask for help on registered design businesses.
The design industry has closely-knit design communities that regularly network with each other. They usually meet up and interact during conferences. Ask peers and colleagues for referrals. You’d value more the recommendations of industry associates especially if they have had great experience with a particular design agency.
Since web design is a digital process, you can have the work done remotely. Hence, a simple Web search will give you the most popular results of agencies around the world or in your region. It won’t matter where the web design agency is based. What’s essential is they have contact numbers, office addresses, and actual persons you can talk to when you call them.
3. Unlimited Graphic Design Service
Unlimited graphic design service is basically a design company just like a design agency or studio. The difference is that you do not pay per project. You subscribe to their service for a flat monthly fee and you can have as many design projects done one at a time with a turnaround from 1 to 4 days depending on the project’s complexity.
Graphic design is their specialty which includes social media graphics, display ads, brochures, flyers, business cards, presentations, illustrations, and the like. They can design branding assets like logos, icons, illustrations, artworks, and even videos. Some even offer content writing, video design, and animation. And definitely, website design is among their offerings.
- No contracts, cancel anytime. Since it’s a transparent and fixed monthly rate with no hidden charges and strings attached, a contract is usually not necessary. You just choose among the plans offered. You can also cancel the service anytime. Big discounts are often offered and there are 15 to 30-day money-back guarantees.
- Ideal for continuing projects. If you have lots of design projects to be done, unlimited graphic design service is a suitable match. Just don’t expect your projects to be done simultaneously by a dedicated team although you can have that option with their highest-priced premium plan.
- Unlimited is unlimited. This holds true for “ultimate” packages. You can request an unlimited number of projects to be done and unlimited revisions until you’re satisfied with the outcome. Lower-priced plans carry limitations in requests and revisions.
- Dedicated designer or team. With the right pricing plan, you can have a dedicated designer or even a whole team of web, UX, UI designers and graphic artists to work on your web design project.
- Not viable for one-time projects. If you foresee your website design as a one-shot undertaking, then an unlimited graphic design service may not be for you. But if you anticipate regular design projects in relation to your website, such as designing video or interactive content, creating landing pages or galleries, or adding other design elements, this service is a great solution.
- No rush requests. You can’t have design projects done in a few hours, more so if it’s a website design. One design service can do the simplest designs in 30 minutes tops but the normal turnaround is 1 to 4 days depending on how elaborate a project is.
The good thing about graphic design services is that they offer a lot of pricing packages for you to choose from. It can start at around $200/month for the basic or starter plan and reach up to $5,000/month for enterprise or VIP packages. In between, there can be a couple or more pricing tiers so you can take your pick to complement your needs and your budget.
Where to find them
Again, a Web search will do the job. We found around 50 service providers in the unlimited graphic design niche. We’ve written about and compiled 10 of the most notable and affordable unlimited graphic design services and gave out pointers when selecting said design companies.
4. Self Service
Doing the web design yourself shows your hands-on attitude and confidence in your abilities. This is the most rewarding endeavor when done right and the most frustrating when done incorrectly, although you have no one to blame but yourself.
Web design is a blend of the creative and the technical so if you have doubts about your capability and the task ahead, back out early and go for any of the earlier three options. You don’t want later on to regret your decision.
But hear out. That’s because designing your website nowadays can be a DIY affair with simple drag-and-drop tools that don’t involve coding or being a master in HTML and CSS. There are easy-to-use online website builder platforms for just about any industry and niche. We’ve explored website builders for photographers and even for cleaning services. Whatever your profession or business, there can be an appropriate website theme or design to get you started.
- You’re the boss. This means you set your time, plan the deliverables, deal with related services (web hosting, domain registration, other third-party services), and manage all other stuff. Website builders often tuck all these services into their plans making it quite convenient on your part.
- Manageable cost. Complexity, customization, and labor/skills are what jack up prices for design agencies and freelancers. Using website builders, you can opt for basic plans and keep your website simple. You can later upgrade to higher-priced plans when you see the need for more advanced features.
- Process and control. Most website builders use either a drag-and-drop tool or a content editor, both of which let you add website components and design elements piece by piece. This is a straightforward process and gives you much control over what you want to do with your website including revisions and the overall result.
- You’re a one-man team. You’ll be constrained by the extent of your knowledge in web design and by your patience. Website builders offer customer support and there are tutorials as well as step-by-step guides but essentially you’re on your own.
- Advanced features. You may not break a sweat with designing a simple, basic website. Adding more sophisticated functions and advanced features like a billing and payment system, order fulfillment, scheduler, and the like are altogether different matters and could be challenging tasks.
- Time. If you are not adept and struggle at the above tasks, then time is not on your side. This is no big deal if you are not in a hurry. But then for any business, yours included, time is money and you would want your business website to be up and about the soonest possible time.
If you decide on a website builder, you immediately eliminate the cost of labor which is a significant price component when you outsource. Another good news, website builders will give you the most extensive and affordable array of plans.
Prices can go from as low as $1/month for a basic business website (offered by IONOS) to as high as $65/month for an advanced eCommerce site (offered by Squarespace). Numerous affordable plans exist in between.
Worth mentioning when it comes to website builders is the inclusion of many features for free even on a starter plan. They normally include free domain (typically for one year), SSL security, SEO tools, bandwidth and cloud storage (on a limited amount), pre-made web design templates, and use of royalty-free images, icons, fonts, and other design assets.
Where to find them
Website builder platforms and providers can be found with an Internet search. Among the most popular website builders are Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, GoDaddy, Gator, SITE123, and, of course, WordPress.
The Route You Take
Your choice of any of the above web design services should be based on careful study and research. You may find the DIY route the cheapest option but is it viable in the long run? The other options may be more expensive but you’re guaranteed professional, quality work.
Remember that affordability doesn’t necessarily translate to value for money. You may pay for a higher rate and if it gives you full benefits over and above what you paid for then that’s relatively better value.
Determine your needs when it comes to web design services. As a small business, you aim to maximize returns for what you shell out. You can do that by being fully informed of your options and making decisions founded on facts.