I often see small businesses struggle when non-technical owners and managers have to hire technical people. After all, you don't need a degree in computer science or web design to run a successful contracting company or landscaping business. But you do need to be able to hire competent technical help.
If you're non-technical yourself, how can you even begin to ask the right questions and evaluate companies or candidates to do a job you don't really understand?
First, there's nothing that can replace the help of a trusted advisor. But it's important to be sure the person you trust in that role is qualified to do so, and ideally it would be someone that has no financial benefit from the decision you're making. I've seen more "tech guys" that were trusted by small business owners that weren't qualified to make technology decisions in their own house, let alone your business. No matter what type of technical job my clients are looking to do, I always tell them to contact me first. Whether I'm able to provide direct help or not, at the very least I can make sure they are working with someone that is qualified. (As a side note, if you're reading this, feel free to reach out to me via my website or on Twitter if you need help in this area and I'll help if I'm able!)
Second, be sure to evaluate multiple options. Hearing from multiple sources on any topic will help educate you on the subject and at least give you a good feel for who does and doesn't understand your business its unique challenges, even if you don't fully understand the tech. This is probably the most important point to remember; when it comes to technology, there are countless ways to solve just about every problem, but finding someone who not only understands your business or organization but also truly cares about finding the solution that's best for you is difficult.
When it comes to hiring a web designer, talking to a few companies is also a good way to make sure they're all in the same ballpark both in their approach and in their price. If there's an outlier, be sure to find out why before just dismissing them outright. It might be that either they or their approach is that much better (or worse), or they might just be extremely cheap or expensive relative to the level of service they can provide. More often this will manifest itself as someone underbidding substantially so just beware that anything that seems to good to be true usually is and as a general rule, you get what you pay for.
Don't be afraid to share proposals from vendor to vendor either. The web designer you choose should be able to evaluate other proposed solutions and explain the differences in the two proposals and why their approach fits your business or organization best. This happened to me recently with a new client. After showing me the competing proposal and the explanation of why that vendor thought their approach was best, I was able to explain that it was a solution we also evaluated but eventually threw out based on specific conversations I'd had with the client that led me to believe an alternative approach would work better for their business in the long run.
"Web designers" are a dime-a-dozen these days. Just about anybody can deploy a WordPress or Squarespace site (or any of the hundreds of other competitors in this space these days), purchase a theme for next to nothing, and get you up and running with a functioning website. They don't even need any design ability anymore! (If you want to hire me for an hour to teach you how to do it yourself I'd be happy to.) The question is how far that really gets you and is it the best solution for your business. It very-well might be, but it's important to find that out before you put the time and effort into it. The right web design partner should work with you to deliver the best solution for you at a cost you can afford that ultimately adds value to your organization and delivers real, measurable ROI.
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