[INFOGRAPHIC] Optimizing Your Website for Mobile Viewing

In the age of “always on” and “on-the-go,” small business owners who haven’t thought about how their websites function on a mobile phone are in danger of being left behind. Fifty-five percent of smartphone owners use their phones to go online, and 57 percent wouldn’t recommend a website they had trouble accessing on their phone.

So, how can you optimize your website for mobile browsing without the hassle and cost of a developer or engineer? We’ve compiled some helpful tips and guidelines in the infographic below. Just click to enlarge!

Intuit Optimize Mobile Website

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

10 Things Customers Want on a Website

Want to make your small business look big? Here’s what customers are looking for when they visit

So you want your website to make you look big. But the business experts I talked to recently say small is cool with customers, too. Small businesses, they say, have a personality, flavor and sensibility that big businesses can’t match. And when it comes to what you put on your website, they urge: Don’t be afraid to tout your smallness.

“Small businesses can have more fun with their sites, more so than large corporations,” says Alice Bredin, president of Bredin Business Information, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, company that helps large business-to-business companies market themselves to small businesses. “A small-business site needs to include something that reflects the creativity and personality of its owner.”

Maybe you’re a couple working side-by-side in a spare bedroom or a fourth-generation entrepreneur working to someday hand it over to a son or daughter. Maybe you’re putting yourself through grad school. Or you operate from a remote site in the hinterlands and you use only recycled materials. Presented well on a home page and/or an “About Us” section, all of these may have unique selling points to customers.

“People want character; it has meaning,” adds Kelly Cutler, chief executive of Marcel Media, a Chicago-based Web advisory firm. “How folksy you get depends on your industry.” An attorney may not want to project an image of him or her working on a leather sofa with a dog curled up nearby. But that may work well for an artist or craftsperson, even an architect, Cutler and others say.

Whatever your industry, “Tell your story online,” Cutler says. Customers want to know who you are and, if you lead a team, who is on it and what they do. “You must talk about the team,” Bredin seconds. “When there is nothing [on your site] about who you are or who’s on your team, people wonder about whether you are a good company to buy from.”

Here are the 10 most important things these experts say customers want to know:

  1. How your business is unique
    Answer the question “Who are you?” as interestingly and compellingly (and honestly) as possible. This includes writing management bios that mention your expertise, years of experience and any unique attributes or details that may set you apart from others.You need to answer, Bredin says, “What is unique about your business? Why should I buy from you?” This is missing from many business sites because the owners haven’t done the strategic thinking necessary to figure that out, she says.

    Be concise, too, Cutler adds. “You don’t need to write a novel.”

  2. A clear sense of what your company offers
    “It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you’re not sure what the company offers,” Bredin says. Make it a priority on your home page to provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page.Many service-oriented companies, Cutler says, are concerned about divulging too much information about their offerings, for competitive reasons. Some also feel that consumers will have no reason to contact them by phone if they get all they need from the website. “There’s a balance that needs to be reached” in giving the potential customer enough info to make a buying decision, she says. More often than not, consumers will not contact a company for the missing product information–they’ll just move on to a competitor.
  3. Contact information, including a phone number and physical location
    This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are purposely vague about their location. Some prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. Others are home-based or they worry that giving a street address or hometown will somehow hinder them.”This is a must, and it’s one small way of building credibility and trust” with the consumer, says Wayne Porter, co-founder of ReveNews, an online marketing publication, and former senior director of research at FaceTime, a business security solutions provider. “A phone number, a street address and even pictures go a long way toward building credibility.”

    Showing a physical location, even one that no one will ever visit, comforts a customer that your business is real and legitimate, Bredin says. Provide a phone number that maps to that location, rather than just an 800 number, she advises.

  4. Third-party validation
    This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers indeed want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences. Such items “forge the underpinnings of trust,” Porter says.Client lists are especially important if your customers are businesses. “If you’ve got some big-name customers, people like to see that,” Cutler says. But make sure you get approval from those you list as clients, she adds.

    Porter adds that having a presence on social networking sites and blogs, especially those serving your industry, is an increasingly popular form of validation among customers. “Social networking now has strong validation,” he says.

  5. Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
    SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL if you don’t have it. If you do, let customers know that and about any other safeguards you proactively take.
  6. Ease of use and navigation
    If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Porter advises keeping sites “crisp, clean, and easy to navigate,” but also for site owners to study traffic and usage patterns to adjust their sites based on what visitors are coming for. “The ability to search a site is very important,” he says. “Businesses should study their search data to see if there are trends and what to make front and center.”
  7. Clear guidance on your processes
    Let customers know, step-by-step, important things such as how to order–and where to go and what to do should something happen out of the ordinary. Customers also want to know your shipping costs and procedures and how they can get status reports. (Don’t list your shipping costs and procedures after people enter their credit card information, Cutler urges.) Last but not least, customers want to know how you handle complaints and problems, return procedures and whether you have a money-back guarantee.Your processes can be described in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page or separate “how to order,” shipping and/or confirmation pages. Include a way customers can contact your business or fulfillment agency for more information.
  8. An ability to give feedback
    Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism–either feedback forms or e-mail links. Not every small business prefers to offer this, in some cases because of resource constraints. “You definitely want to look at how and what feedback to gather, and you should consider offering an incentive or perk [to the customer],” Porter says. “You might get some good stories to feature on your site or in your blog.”
  9. Clear calls to action
    Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information.” But many small-business sites don’t provide calls to action or they don’t present them clearly enough, Cutler says. “This is one of the biggest things that nags me,” she says. “If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!”
  10. Special offers and personalization
    By personalizing a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on their bigger counterparts, Porter says. “This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.”Having a personalized touch,” he says, “is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.”

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

The Most Tried and Failed Small Businesses [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

small business dashThe U.S. thrives based on the millions of jobs created by small business owners. Although these small businesses play such a vital role in our economy, a huge amount of risk surrounds new ventures that makes most prospective entrepreneurs hesitant to jump on board for just any promising idea.

Nearly 95 percent of new ventures will close within the first five years of operation. Essentially, these owners lack the business acumen that is all but required in today’s business environment for success and longevity. Having knowledge of how to successfully and efficiently market your product can take you a long way in your industry, so keep the tips provided in this infographic, like starting small and knowing your market, in mind when you hammer out your strategy for success.

Shareable Facts and Stats

  • 40% of small businesses are profitable. 
  • 95% of new ventures fail within the first 5 years. 

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

The Importance of Updating Your Website

Creating a website is a great accomplishment, and often the start of lucrative businesses or exciting opportunities. However, the work isn’t finished once the website is completed. Website maintenance is important to be sure your visitors are getting the very best information, that maneuvering through the website is easy, and that you’re converting more visitors into customers.

Updated Content

It’s important that the content on your website is always updated, so that individuals receive the latest news and information. You can avoid having to update content regularly if the content is “green” or relevant at all times. To ensure that your content is green, avoid references to current events or anything else that might date the content. If new products or updates are released, be sure that the information is added to the content on your website.

Navigation

If a new product or service is added to your website, it’s important to ensure that the navigation is easy. If a new page is added, it should be available from the home page, and it should be easy to move from that product page back to the home page, and throughout the rest of the website. Visitors can get frustrated easily if it’s not easy to get from page to page on your website, and this could result in lost customers.

Backing Up Your Website

Another important part of website maintenance is backing up your website. Sometimes, technology fails, and the last thing you want is to lose all of your website’s information and formatting. This is especially true if you’re updating frequently, or having other professionals work on your website content, design or other aspects. It should be backed up frequently, so if something does happen, you still have access to your website files. Backing up your website at least once a month is a great idea.

Links

Another thing you’ll want to do is make sure that all of your links are working. If customers attempt to click on links that aren’t working or that take them to an error page, they may easily become frustrated. This can result in the loss of potential customers as well as a decreased number of conversions. There are link checker tools that you can use, so it’s relatively easy to make sure each link on your website is working.

Platform Updates

If your website is created with a platform like WordPress or something similar, it’s important that you regularly update the platform. There are usually updates fairly regularly with these services, and those updates make the website run more smoothly and operate more efficiently. Most offer alerts when updates are available, so keep your eye on that and update when updates are available.

Website maintenance is about more than just adding new content. It’s important that the website runs smoothly and is user-friendly for those who visit. This can go a long way toward increasing conversions and in turn, increasing sales and profits.

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

10 Inexpensive Ways to Advertise Your Small Business

Banner ads and print ads can be expensive. And they are not necessarily the best way to advertise your small or mid-size business. So to find how to get the greatest return on your advertising investment, Small Business Computing surveyed small business owners. Below are 10 of their top suggestions for how to advertise on a budget.

1. Invest in Google AdWords

“AdWords and PPC [pay-per-click] can give you crazy amounts of traffic if you are tight with your campaign and run niche ad groups,” explained Andrew Riker an SEO specialist at WordStream. “Focused, long-tail keywords that are specific to your industry will cause the highest possible click-through rate and in-turn conversions.”

Riker adds that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a lot of traffic.  “A small daily budget — $10-$20/day — can provide you with a large amount of traffic and in turn qualified leads, as long as the ad is relevant,” he said.

2. Try Facebook Ads

“We tried print ads and banner ads, but for our money Facebook ads provide us with the most focused consumers,” explained Chris Knollmeyer, Web manager for Carolina Rustica. “Being able to target specific demographics lets us pinpoint people we have not reached yet and provides us with a platform to reach out to them. This kind of targeting allows us to minimize extemporaneous clicks from consumers [who are] just browsing or searching for information and gets us the most for our money.”

“Facebook ads have definitely been the most successful overall,” concurred Megan LaBant Abrahamsen, the owner of Blue Star Bazaar. “I can set a small budget (less than $10 per day) and target specific customers – [by] age, gender, education and interests similar to my product categories.”

Even if people don’t immediately make a purchase because of the Facebook ad, many of them wind up “liking” her business, she said, which lets Blue Star Bazaar create a database of potential customers.

3. Look into StumbleUpon Paid Discovery

“One of the best ways to advertise and get traffic to your website is by using StumbleUpon ads [StumbleUpon Paid Discovery],” noted Chris Wise, the online marketing director at CustomerRave. “They cost as little as $0.05 a click, so for $5 you can get 100 unique visitors to your site. While the bounce rate is more often than not higher when using these ads, it’s a great way to advertise contests, giveaways and big promotions,” he said.

And if the content you are promoting proves to be popular and receives a lot of “likes,” you will start receiving free traffic from Stumbles, which can go on for months, even after you have stopped advertising.

4. Get Published Online

Another great way to advertise your business is to “submit articles on topics your customers may be interested in to reputable websites, such as Ezinearticles.comArticlesbase.com or TheFreeLibrary.com,” said Matthew Kostanecki, a marketing specialist at Archon Systems.

“In exchange for the content, they allow you to include a couple of back links to your website. Not only does this provide you with potential traffic and leads to your business, it also helps establish you as an expert in your related field,” said Kostanecki.  Can’t come up with a subject to write about? He suggests asking your customers about their biggest pains and problems.

5. Donate Products or Volunteer Services to a Worthy Cause

“I got the equivalent of $1,000 in advertising by building the website for the Rhode Island Rally for Recovery,” explained Benjamin John Coleman, founder of The Origami Bonsai Company. And his investment of time really paid off — resulting in $5,000 in new business. That’s because when other vendors who participated in the Rally saw what a great job his company did building and maintaining the Rally website, they hired Coleman to help them with their websites.

6. Cultivate Bloggers

“Find influential bloggers in your industry and ask them to review your product or service,” suggested Daniel Weaver, the president and owner of Daniel’sPromise. “Many will be happy to do so if you give them free product for them to use.”

That’s what Juppy, the maker of the Juppy Baby Walker, did. “When we started out, our company we didn’t have a lot of cash on hand to spend on advertising,” explained Mayra Sotelo, the COO for Juppy. “So we decided to seek out mom bloggers who would review The Juppy Baby Walker. This worked out great for us…because there is no better [endorsement of] our baby walker that fits in a purse than by a real mom who loves our product.”

And if you can’t find a blogger who will review and write about your product for free, there are also bloggers “who will write about your site/product/company in exchange for a fee,” noted Mike Scanlin, CEO of Born To Sell. And even with a fee, that kind of endorsement is typically more effective and less expensive than a banner ad.

7. Claim Local Listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local

“You’d be amazed at how many small businesses forget to sign up for services like Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Bing Local even though it’s free!” explained Mandy Boyle, the SEO manager for Solid Cactus. “Claim your local listing, fill out the information and take advantage of people searching for businesses in your area,” she advised.

8. Use Community Sites and Local Directories

“Community-based online networks [such as Thumbtack and Quentin’s Friends] are a great way to cost-effectively get the word out about your business to a more targeted group,” explained Dana Leavy, CEO ofAspyre Solutions.

Leavy uses a site called Quentin’s Friends, an invitation-only network where members can post recommendations and offers for their products and services for a very small fee ($15). “The service is location-specific, so my ad is going out to thousands of people who are specifically in my geographic area, New York,” she said. And Leavy’s return on investment has been an impressive 6,500 percent.

9. Link Up with LinkedIn Ads

If you own a B2B company, a good way to reach your target audience is through LinkedIn advertising, “We are a small business and our target market is small business users,” explained Damian Raffele, vice president, marketing, AnyMeeting.

LinkedIn Ads has worked well for the company, because it allows them to target a specific audience by geography, demographics, job title or LinkedIn Group. “Being able to target users who belong to specific LinkedIn Groups… allows us to design ad copy that is tailored for them, which has resulted in great conversion rates, providing us with a great ROI on our marketing spend.”

10. Distribute Flyers

“If you have a small business that focuses on a particular area, flyers are a great way to advertise,” said Nathan Letourneau, co-founder of CampusBooks4Less. And they needn’t be expensive. Chances are you have someone in your company, or a friend or family member, who can help you design the flyer inexpensively (or for free) – and you can print the flyer in house or find an inexpensive printer.

As for distribution, “hire some high school or college students and have them put the flyers on parked cars, attach them to house entry doors and distribute them inside area businesses (to employees and on any bulletin boards, if allowed) and apartment complexes,” he advised. “We saw huge increases in traffic after having students distribute flyers on parked cars in our target areas.”

While not every method will work for every business, each advertising strategy is inexpensive enough that you should be able try a few to find out what works for you. Also, many of the sites mentioned, such as Google AdWords and Facebook, periodically offer advertising credits or discounts, which small business owners should use to their advantage.

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Choosing a Designer: How to Review Portfolios

It’s easy to spot a beautiful portfolio. Designers know that looks sell, and many people sell themselves that way. Of course, the ability to make something that looks good matters, especially for visual designers. But the challenge is that great images say nothing about what it will be like to work with someone, or whether they’ll be consistently able to produce good work.

Hiring a designer is a challenge. As a founder without firsthand design experience, it’s hard to know what skills to value and how to judge a candidate. You likely have experience reading résumés and interviewing candidates, but how should you judge a design portfolio?

It’s possible to look past the pretty imagery — you just need to balance first impressions with a bit of rigor and analysis. A portfolio isn’t a collection of pictures. (Writers have entire portfolios without a single image.) A portfolio is just a collection of past work. And it’s a great complement to a résumé because it shows you the actual work instead of just listing responsibilities and top-line accomplishments.

Actually, start with the résumé

Before I look at the portfolio, I usually look at the résumé to establish some baseline expectations:

  • How many years of experience do they have?
  • Any formal design education?
  • Any companies or agencies I’d recognize?
  • How are they positioning themselves? (Interaction designer, visual designer, etc.)
  • Any job titles or responsibilities that seem overstated?

Based on the résumé, I’ll look at the portfolio to challenge possible biases, look for clues to questions I now have, and get a more nuanced picture of what type of designer this person might be.

Then I dive in. After seeing a couple hundred portfolios, there’s a set of questions I ask myself. Some are about the portfolio generally, and the rest are about the work.

Look at the portfolio design itself

Did they treat this like a design problem? Too often, designers don’t think about their portfolio as the solution to a design problem. Let’s phrase it as one: create an experience giving the person screening you enough insight into your unique set of experience, skills, and approaches that he or she feels reasonably confident that interviewing you won’t be a waste of time.

Did they build it themselves? Yeah, building it yourself gets you more credibility, but only if it’s well-designed. An interaction designer might suffer here by putting their lackluster visual chops to work, though there’s more room for building thoughtful interactions. Portfolio sites — CargoCollective, Behance, any number of WordPress templates — tend to only emphasize images, and even a visual designer should have a good story to tell.

What’s the navigation like? If it’s custom, are they communicating that they understand the nuances of portfolio browsing? Whenever I drill down on one piece, I look to see if I can move to another piece directly, and whether they’re placing that navigation in a thoughtful location, such as the end of a long page. If you’re using modal lightboxes, have you tried to make the image bigger and the navigation better than the defaults? If they’re grouping work, is it by theme, by job, or arbitrary?

Look at each piece of work

Did they communicate their understanding of the problem they were solving? Very few people do this, and it sucks. It sends the message that they were either lazy, not user-centered (where the “user” is the person looking at the portfolio), or that they value the wrong things about design: making pretty things and not solving problems through clear communication.

Did they understand if and why their solution was successful?Success can be defined a number of ways: meeting the goals originally laid out, improving on a key metric, recognition by the press or users, etc. Can they be self-critical and assess the outcome of their work? Can they communicate what makes something effective?

What was their contribution as part of a bigger team? This is especially tough if it’s a bigger project where other designers played a similar role. It’s great to know how much collaborative work someone has done, and it’s even better to know that a person can gracefully share credit with their peers.

Generalize: What kind of designer is this?

There are a few portfolio stereotypes I tend to see. Does the design candidate fit into one of these categories? Which category best fits your company’s need?

Visual/UI designer: Likely the lowest word-to-pixel ratio of any designer, and the greatest use (and misuse) of trendy type, color, and visual effects. They can make your homepage hum and your buttons sparkle, but can they create a consistent and comprehensive brand and visual system?

New grad: The portfolio is heavy on student projects. Most often it’s an HCI Masters student, or possibly an industrial or graphic design undergrad. How much work in your domain have they actually done? Can you discern their contribution to group projects? If they have an HCI background, they may have better research skills than actual design chops.

Web designer: Comes off as a real all-arounder. They’ve most often worked at agencies or freelanced. Mentions their front-end skills and visual design skills, but might be bluffing on their UX chops. Have they tackled more challenging, stateful, and conditional interactions, or have they just built content sites?

Experienced UX designer: They’ll throw out big product or company names you recognize, and you may see inflated job titles. Hopefully they’ve tackled longer projects and more challenging feature sets. However, if they’ve been at big companies, they may have moved much more slowly. Either way, set your standards high, but be hopeful.

Making the decision: Should I interview this design candidate?

Think hard about what a designer is communicating — deliberately or not — based on what they’re showing you. What are they saying and how are they saying it? Their focus and delivery tells you a ton about what they value. Will that align with — or be a complement to — what you and your company value?

Who to hire depends on the specifics of your situation. Different products need different skills. It’s easy to go with the wrong set of skills, and easy to be swayed by the wrong things.

What if they don’t have a portfolio?

Lots of great designers don’t have portfolios, including some of the best ones I know. They’ve been working somewhere for a long time, or have great connections, or otherwise haven’t felt the need. Among web and software companies, portfolios weren’t used commonly as a screening tool until a couple of years ago. The portfolio was presented as part of the interview, but not as a requirement to get the meeting.

But times are changing. When I screened candidates at Google from 2004 to 2008, I didn’t expect portfolios. Now I see online portfolios frequently enough that I do. If I don’t see one, I feel comfortable asking for one, usually expecting a PDF. If they’re hesitant or too busy but it still seems promising, I usually ask for a quick screen-sharing session over Skype to walk me through a project or two. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than wasting time on multiple in-person meetings if you learn too late that the person is clearly not a match.

Some advice for designers

Stop selling sex. If you’re not showing how you think, all you’re selling is your good looks, and you’re setting the tone for the relationship between yourself and the rest of the team going forward. Pretend your portfolio is an online dating profile. What would it say if you looked at someone’s profile and all they had was a bunch of perfectly coiffed photos of themselves, with nothing written and little else — visual or verbal — to give you a better sense of personality?

Show that you’re a great thinker, not just a great Photoshopper. You are not a voice controlled mouse cursor for the client. Show that you can clearly frame a problem, establish goals for success, and explore solutions in a way that inspires confidence.

Vary how deep you go. Show a wide variety of work. Do a “case study” where you spend more time on problem framing and process work — everything that shows that you’ve got a great brain, not just good eyes and hands. Then mix it up with shorter project descriptions — something that piques my curiosity and leaves me wanting to hear more. Surprise me with a section that’s shallow but broad, say a collection of your best sketches.

Write about what’s unique. Don’t just say that you follow best practices: Personas, Contextual Inquiry, Card Sorting, blah blah. Everyone has that same list. Show me why your persona doc is better than any other, or why the way you capture behavioral states should be signed and framed. If your design solution is novel, tell me. If none of them are, that’s not so great, but then tell me why working with you is different. You are a unique snowflake, dammit, so hand me the magnifying glass.


Choosing who to hire is arguably the most important decision a startup makes. Given the high-risk nature of startups, the kind of collaborative work involved, and the small size of the team, the team you pick (and the team who picks you) has a huge impact on your success. Hiring is important at large companies, but at startups, it’s absolutely critical.

Designers have never been in more demand, so I feel conflicted about telling you to be more rigorous when looking at portfolios. But as demand rises, there’s always the risk of quality taking a dip. I want a generation of creative, thoughtful, disciplined designers making continually bigger contributions to startups, and your hiring choices will make that happen.

What have you learned in your time spent perusing portfolios? Anything you’ve seen more than once that makes you wonder, “why’d they do that?”

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.

Who to Hire: Web Design Agency or Freelance Designer?

blog image

Since the dawn of the Information Age (circa 1970s) and the birth of the modern day Internet (circa 1990s), specialized services like website design, online marketing and computer programming have been in high demand. As companies continue to move their efforts online, the need for web savvy individuals will continue to increase – which is where we step in.

There definitely aren’t any “set in stone” rules about when and why you should hire a web design agency versus a freelance designer, but just like any situation, the choice should depend entirely on your individual project needs and the overall needs of your business.

While some companies prefer to work with larger teams, others may opt for more of a “one on one” approach to meeting their web requirements. To help you decide, we’ll list some of the benefits to hiring a web agency versus a local (or overseas) freelancer.

Extensive Portfolio

A definite plus to hiring an agency over a freelancer is that agencies will typically have a larger portfolio of websites and clients. This can give you a more accurate picture of their design, development and project management capabilities – as well as any high-profile clients they’ve worked with.

Though a freelancer could boast a list of established clients and diverse creative, the odds of them having sufficient experience in a wide range of industries (like finance, real estate, engineering, automotive) is pretty slim.

Project Management

Probably one of the major benefits and deciding factors for hiring a web design agency is project management. Different from working with a freelancer, web agencies often designate an account manager to oversee your entire project from start to finish; including discovery, design, development, and deployment.

If you have the technical know-how, hiring a freelancer may be a good choice as you would have direct contact with the designer, but the management of a project is often what ensures that every requirement is met, both technologically and creatively.

Expertise & Services

While a freelancer can draw from their own personal and professional experience, a web agency often has a plethora of additional services and resources that they can bring to the table should the occasion arise. On the other hand, an agency could be limited due to strict internal process, whereas a freelancer is more likely to “roll with the punches” – once they put their creative ego to the side.

A key difference is when it comes to additional services. Agencies usually employ in-house strategists, SEO analysts, social media managers, copywriters, illustrators and branding experts who are all available to contribute to the success of your website. Though your freelancer may “know someone”, having the talent located in one place is always a bonus.

The Truth

The truth is we’re not in any way discounting the importance or capability of freelance web designers – because many of us started out as freelancers. If you’d like to be more hands-on with your website design, and don’t really have a strict timeline, then hiring a freelancer is the way to go.

But if you’re company that employs more than 10 people, chances are you need a web vendor that has the experience and track record needed to meet your budget and deadline – not to mention keeping the “suits” happy throughout the process.

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WittyCookie is an award-winning digital agency that specializes in affordable web design, graphic design, and SEO solutions to help small businesses grow.

Service plans start at just $19/month, all-inclusive with web design, web hosting, email setup, ongoing maintenance, and unlimited updates. We charge no setup fee, no cancellation fee, and no term contracts with a full money back guarantee.

Visit wittycookie.com to get started.