For a small business owner, hiring a web designer is much the same as finding a competent accountant, or sourcing a reliable supplier. You need someone who understands your business, and who can help it to grow.
A year or so ago, when I first went looking for an accountant, I felt very vulnerable because I didn’t know much about the ins-and-outs of tax law and bookkeeping (I still don’t). Rather foolishly, I was more concerned with the accountant’s charges than her competence, and paid the price with a larger-than-necessary tax bill.
I learned my lesson. My current accountant costs me a bit more, but he saves me a lot. Even more importantly, he provides me with the advice and guidance I need to make a success of my business.
Here are some of the things that working with a good accountant has taught me about building web sites for small businesses.
1. If you don’t cost anything, you can charge more
Just like my accountant pays for himself by reducing my tax bill, a small business web site should pay for itself. This could be by bringing in new business, reducing marketing costs, or through some other tangible benefit.
If you can help your client to make (or save) money, you can charge more for your services.
2. Use plain English
My accountant doesn’t expect me to know my P45 from P11D, and that’s how it should be.
While larger clients may have a dedicated IT person to deal with their web site, most small businesses don’t have that luxury. As such, a small business owner shouldn’t be expected to know anything about the technicalities of designing and building a web site; after all, that’s why they hired a web designer in the first place.
Explain things in plain English, and unless your client expresses a genuine interest in DOCTYPEs, make a conscious effort not to litter your conversation with unnecessary jargon.
3. Time is more important than money
Most small business owners are rather short on free time, and the last thing they need is a 40 page document that they’ll never get around to reading.
In the same way that I don’t want to know exactly how my accountant worked out my tax bill (only that he worked it out correctly), most small business owners don?t want to know exactly how their web site was designed and built (only that it helps them to achieve their business goals).
Tell your client the bits that are relevant to his business, no more (unless he asks, of course). The business benefits of a solution are important, but how you arrived at that solution rarely is.