Help me help my website.
November 1, 2010 11:02 AM   Subscribe

How can I improve my small business's website?

I work at a small startup and we want to renovate our website (link is in my profile) to look more professional. We're not looking for a ton of complex, interactive functionality; we just want to add a little content and make it look more polished generally.

How do I go about doing this? Where should I be looking to find a web designer (besides MeFi Jobs and Sortfolio)? Have you done this before for your small business? What worked well or didn't? How much should we expect to pay? Any references to good developers in Boston?

Any and all advice much appreciated. If you're in Boston and are interested in this project, feel free to memail me and we can talk about it.
posted by Aizkolari to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I was going to give you some design advice, but it sounds like you're willing to pay an actual designer, which is a much better idea.

The only place near you that comes to mind is Raka Creative, but then I'm in California so I wouldn't know. Anyway, their work seems to speak for itself.

You mentioned adding content: I would ask about marketing services that include copywriting, because most of your content is "who we are and what we do," which should almost always be transformed into something more persuasive and customer-focused. I went through this with my own web design business (link in profile) and it's worked wonders.

Good luck!
posted by circular at 11:19 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Forgot to mention anything about pricing:

Your website is an integral part of your brand. If you end up paying for a website only, your brand will suffer.

Ideally you will come out of this with a graphic style to be used for all media that represent your company. The big one is going to be a logo. Were I in your future designer's shoes, I would refuse to design a website for you without at least having a stab at a new logo.

The other stuff -- typography, writing and communications style, printed media, etc. all add up to more trust for you. You don't say anything about your clientele, so every little bit is going to help there. It will help your new clients trust you more, it will help your employees feel a bit more like they're standing on something solid, etc.

So I think you'd be better suited with a design package rather than website-only. The price for a design package generally varies based on the experience level of the person you're asking for an estimate. And you really do get what you pay for, which can sort of suck to hear.
posted by circular at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look for someone that is willing to build the site in Wordpress or some other type of CMS, and provide you the necessary training to manage day to day content updates yourself. There is really no reason to be paying somebody $75 an hour or more to cut and paste your press releases and personnel updates into a web form.
posted by COD at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We're not super interested in Wordpress since we don't expect lots of periodic updates. This is more of a way to illustrate who we are and what we do; we don't expect our customers to be following the site or anything like that.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:24 PM on November 1, 2010

Please do not make too many changes your contact page. If you only knew how many websites have a contact page that does not have their actual contact information . . .
(Half the time, it's an "input your info and we'll contact you" page, not a "contact us - here's our phone number, email and address". I know plenty of people who still want to talk to someone on the phone - companies who make that difficult to do are cutting out a client stream).
posted by jaimystery at 12:24 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

We're not super interested in Wordpress since we don't expect lots of periodic updates.

Hopefully your competitors feel the same way about their own websites? Website updates, done correctly, are a great opportunity to position your company as the subject matter expert.

One way it's commonly done: Review your communications with your customers. Are there any parts of the conversation that you didn't have time for, but that might be worth continuing online? Shoot them an email a day later when you've typed up a simple article on that "little thing" they asked about.

Or: You're at a trade conference, and the state of the art has just been updated dramatically. Now you need to let your customers know when they hit your website, or when they Google around for somebody who's using the latest tech.

Also, most web agencies will probably insist on using some sort of content management system (Wordpress being common, but much simpler systems are available), if only for their own sanity when you do request updates down the road. It just makes things easier to do.
posted by circular at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2010

As a professional designer, I am seconding everything Circular said. You need to approach this as a rebrand/update which should affect all client-facing aspects of your company.

After a quick look over your website, my biggest advice would be to make it as clear and concise as possible. Tone down the business speak by 300%. Even if most of your potential clients are used to the terminology, it can be tiring. You want them to realize how effortless and convenient it will be to work with you–that you are real, breathing humans with a capacity for understanding their unique needs. You don't want to sound like the next Initech.
posted by halseyaa at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2010

Circular has some pretty solid advice.

Another good place to look is your local AIGA chapter website. You'll find a list of professionals and design shops in your area, sort by discipline, see their portfolios, then start a conversation with a few to see if they are taking clients, if they're willing to talk to you about your project, etc. There's a dance where you'll both be vetting each other out, and you're free to ask for quotes from several people or shops.

Quotes will really depend on the scope of your project. A ball park guess would be to think about $5k and up.

You used the words designer and developer interchangeably in your post. They don't mean the exact same thing to people in the field. A developer is someone who typically is going to create "software" for websites, as in complex functionalities like an e-commerce system. A designer is someone who will deal with the way your website looks and functions on a front end scale. You want a designer, not a developer.

To counter COD, if all you're doing is copying and pasting press releases you are woefully underusing your website and not adding any real value for your customers. If you pay someone $75 an hour to author content that is marketing goals based and engaging to your customers, it is well worth your money. This is ultimately something you may wish to bring in house, and an easy to use CMS will make it easy for marketing/writing/content creator types to do this.
posted by fontophilic at 12:44 PM on November 1, 2010

Make sure to test out their portfolio designs on mobile phones before you hire them. I also suspect you're going to want to invest in some branding and writing services as discussed above. Please change the copyright date on the bottom of your index page, by the way.
posted by SMPA at 12:52 PM on November 1, 2010

A ball park guess would be to think about $5k and up.


if all you're doing is copying and pasting press releases you are woefully underusing your website and not adding any real value for your customers.

Another bingo, press releases are like those automotive info-graphic posters in your mechanic's waiting room, the ones only one or two people ever read.

If you can hire somebody to take important press releases and turn them into mini web campaigns, you can really take it to the bank with your clients. You might give it a try if your main customer-facing media strategy was going to involve press releases.
posted by circular at 12:57 PM on November 1, 2010

Make sure to test out their portfolio designs on mobile phones before you hire them.

I've been in several meetings about mobile sites recently (since I make 'em) and they're fun but they should really be grounded in your customer or web user base. If the web visitor statistics (by device) bear it out, great. If not, does the target audience use the technology? Then more decision branching, but I wouldn't worry about mobile-optimized at this point, as long as mobile-compatible is on the table.

I received a web strategy document from a big firm I work with this last week that basically said the same thing: Mobile sites shouldn't be splurged upon (yet) if the customer foundation isn't there.
posted by circular at 1:01 PM on November 1, 2010

For the services, products, and careers pages ... it's my opinion that you could condense them. You don't really have enough content for them to be sub-divided into the left-hand navigation, but by putting all that sub-content into the top-level page you'd flesh-out those pages and make it easier for your website visitors to quickly find the information.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2010

« Older How to replace my landline for 4 cell users?   |   What creative writing exercises were the most... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.