When it comes to 21st marketing strategies, most businesses put a great website at the top of their priority list.  And with independent bloggers and other online influencers having an even greater impact on everything from what we read to who wins the next election, it goes without saying that a great website is no longer a luxury add-on but rather a necessary cost of doing business.

But how do you get a great website without paying through the nose?  From DIY site builders to companies offering cheap services, how do you know you are getting value for money and not a big, fat lemon?

Who Designed This Thing?

The first point to consider is what kind of web designer will meet your needs.  Yes, there is a lot of choice, from large companies that have almost become household names to your roommate’s cousin Declan from Slough, but not all designers or their companies are equal.

The advantage of a sole trader or small company is that they likely work from home and have low overheads and these cost savings may be reflected in their prices.  And you may get a hungry designer who is looking to win loyalty and recommendations.

But they may not have the same skills that a designer employed by a small company or large corporate organization may be able to offer.  Not only that, but larger companies often have access to high spec programmes and design tools that may be lacking in the sole trader’s toolbox.

Another consideration is how long your designer has been in business.  Website design is usually only the first step in the lifespan of a website.  Websites usually require maintenance and servicing and if, heaven forbid, a problem arises, the last thing you want is to discover that your designer has gone out of business and disappeared into the ether.

Suddenly your affordable web design package is costing you not only in lost revenue, but it may be sucking up way more of your time than you can reasonably commit as you try to sort it out either by yourself or through finding a new company to service your site.

What Did You Say Your Name Was?

A website is only as good as the page views it receives and whether those pageviews convert into customers or add revenues.

So while a cheap and attractive website might make you feel good every time you look at it, unless your potential customers can find you, that website may be a dead weight.

A good web designer from a small to medium design firm is also likely part of a design team which will usually include a copywriter who will be well versed in content writing for websites, including search engine optimization, to ensure that people can actually find you.

Looks Good But What’s Under the Bonnet?

Great graphics with links to your social media handles and cool photo slider with awesome shots of your products or posts may look great, but you better lift the bonnet and investigate the engine before you put your money on the table.

The first rule in any kind of architecture is that form should follow function. From content management systems to enhanced security, and web hosting to mobile device compatibility (tip: You want responsive website design), the range of technical considerations can make your head spin.  But these are the things that make your website – and thus your business – function properly.

Without the right technical specifications, a downed server or a bunch of clumsy plug-ins can disable your website faster than you can say “it’s not my fault!”

If you don’t pick your web designer carefully, it kind of is.