Low-Budget, High-Impact Website
Web design is much less complicated than it seems, especially with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors and software packages that make creating Web pages easy as creating word processing documents. Popular editors such as Microsoft FrontPage and Adobe GoLive take the complexity out of Web design by using intuitive interfaces and copy-and-paste and drag-and-drop technologies. You don't need computer programming skills to use these editors.
WYSIWYG editors are good for designing a handful of static pages; they are appropriate for businesses whose websites will be relatively small (10 pages or less). However, some small businesses will need more. If your business carries 15 product lines, or you publish often, you need a content management system to easily create, organize and index your content. Many popular CMS packages - such as Drupal and Joomla - are free. If your domain name is hosted by a third-party provider, you already have access to more than one CMS.
While new tools make Web design easier, they require time and dedication to learn. If you lack the time, you're better served tapping freelance talent to get the job done. Typically, a Web design freelancer can provide you the following kinds of services:
- Graphic design. Many small businesses fall down in Web design because their graphic design schemes are bare. Avoid this pitfall, as the look of your website is what communicates professionalism to your customers. If you lack design skills, work with a designer to come up with a logo, font and other elements that capture your company's identity. Once designed, these elements can be easily fed into a template so that they appear on every page of your site.
- Custom code. WYSIWYG editors and content management systems can't duplicate some of the more exciting Web 2.0 features available. If you have something special in mind - a way for customers to rate your products online, for example - you'll need the services of someone who can custom-code in Ajax or a similar language.
Fortunately, this kind of work comes much cheaper than it once did. Although some Web design professionals charge $15,000 and up for their work, sites such as getafreelancer.com allow you to farm out design work to a global audience of professionals whose work is much less expensive.
Farming out your Web design online requires you to be diligent. Peruse bidders' design portfolios, profiles and community ratings to see their track record. Be specific about what you want from a freelancer ("design my website" is not as precise as "I know what kind of content I'm going to post, but I need business-appropriate graphics"). Carefully manage the work to ensure that deadlines are being met.
Don't fall into the trap of building a bland website. Stand out from your small-business peers by putting attention and care into your Web presence, whether you do so through your own use of design tools or through freelancers.