The 12 Must-Haves My Website Designer Needs for My Small Business Website to Succeed

You’ve decided the best path forward for your small business is to outsource your website design.

The next step is to research who your perfect website designer is!

During your consultation calls with prospective designers, you’ll need to come prepared. Knowing you need a website designer is the first step. There are parts of your business you must think about before reaching out to a designer. The designers will also be gauging how prepared you are for this important part of your marketing toolbox!

A quick caveat, you don’t have to have all twelve items 100% completed. However, it’s important to have thought about all of them to know the general design and purpose of your website.

Download the Checklist!

(I offer an opt-in for my email list, but it’s not required for the checklist)

Table of Contents:

  1. Do you have a website already, or are we starting from scratch?
  2. Are your products or services developed and ready to sell?
  3. Is your marketing copy written, started, or needs some help?
  4. Are your images, graphics, and potentially videos picked out and ready to send over?
  5. Will you be using any external applications such as email, scheduling, or payment processing?
  6. Is your brand sheet and guidelines developed?
  7. Are you clear on your budget?
  8. Who is your ideal audience and what problem are you solving?
  9. Would you like ongoing support once your website is launched?
  10. What’s your deadline?
  11. Do you have examples of websites you like or dislike?
  12. What’s the role of the website for your business?
A person with a blank notebook wondering if they should build a new website for their small business. Photo from pexels by monstera.

1. Does Your Small Business Have a Website Already, or Are You Starting from Scratch?

Most website designers specialize in a chosen platform. Here at DTK Studios, we work exclusively with WordPress using the Elementor Page Builder. As you research the perfect website designer for your small business website, this should be high on the list of criteria. If you are looking for a refresh, but a website designer you like doesn’t have experience with the platform, that website designer probably isn’t the best choice. If you are looking for a brand new website, is there a website platform you would like to use? Some of the most popular options to research are WordPress (w/Elementor), Wix, Squarespace, Shopify, and Square.

Mockup for a skincare line is used to describe if a person has a product-based or serviced-based business. Photo from Pexels by Valeriia Miller

2. Are Your Products or Services Developed and Ready to Sell?

Depending on the type of business you own, the tools you need are going to be different. Certain website designers often specialize in either product or service.

If you are a service-based business, do you use scheduling software? How do your customers pay? Do you have online courses? If you sell products, how do you have them hosted online? Are you using Shopify, Esty, SquareUp, or something else? Have you figured out shipping costs and materials?

By researching what you may need, your website designer will better propose the cost and timeline. At DTK Studios, we only work with service-based businesses. We know amazing product-based designers to refer out to.

Overhead view of a wooden desk with a plant, computer, and marketing book. A person is deciding on their small business website design copy. Photo from Unsplash by Campaign Creators.

3. Is Your Marketing Copy Written, Started, or Needs Some Help?

The marketing copy is anything written for your website to sell your product or service. Your website success is limited if your copy doesn’t speak to your ideal client. No matter how well the visual design is. Writing effective copy is an art and a profession. All website designers have different guidelines around how they work with website copy. DTK Studios offers two options if you don’t have your copy written. The first is a worksheet style form where we give you prompts to answer for each page of your website. The second option (for an extra cost) is to outsource the copywriting to our trusted partners at InBound Back Office.

Person dressed in white sitting on a pillow with an ipad deciding on branding colors and design. Photo from pexels by Anna Nekrashevich.

4. Have You Decided on Your Images, Graphics, and (optional) Videos?

Once you’ve decided on your copy, the next step is the media (images, videos, and graphics) for your website. Your website success will, in large part, come from how your media supports the written copy. Do you want images of real people, or do you prefer drawings and cartoons? Does your brand use graphics such as a specific line, paint splash, or icons? Do you have branding or promotional videos to embed into your site? Your website designer will take your vision around what you want and use that in their design. You can source media for free using resources such as Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay. Or, sites like Deposit Photos and iStock charge a fee for their media. Most often, the cost of media will be extra with website design. Always include a written agreement if your website uses paid media. Be sure to clarify who is purchasing the media, what the budget is, and who owns that media.

A Person holding their phone in front of their desk wondering if their small business website is responsive. Photo from Unsplash by Charles Deluvio.

5. Will You Be Using Any External Applications such as Email, Scheduling, or Payment Processing?

Depending on your business, you may need to include ways to interact with the visitor. Some examples are an email sign-up, scheduling an appointment, or a payment portal. These all take a bit more time and skill to set up. A website designer should have experience in implementing these types of applications. If you have an idea about the future growth of your business, start that conversation now. Your goal may include a more robust website. It’s good to have an idea if the platform your website designer is using can handle the growth.

A computer screen with the branding guidelines for a small business website designer. Photo from Unsplash by Balazs Ketyi.

6. Is Your Brand Sheet and Guidelines Developed for Your Website Designer?

What’s the look and feel of your business? Do you have a logo, colors, typography and graphics chosen? Or do you have a mood board or inspiration you can share? If you are brand new and don’t have any of these chosen, make sure you’re open and honest with your website designer. This may be work you need to develop and the website design may need to to wait until you’ve figured this out. Or the website designer may offer to help develop your brand or refer you out to someone who can. The scope and price of the project will change depending on where you’re at.

A calculator open on a phone with a budget paper and glasses in the background. Photo from Pexels by Olya Kobruseva.

7. Are You Clear on Your Budget?

Website design costs vary. View hiring a website designer as an investment. Your website is often the first impression for potential customers. You can think of it as your virtual storefront. A low-end cost for the initial build is $2,000. Depending on the complexity of your needs, websites can cost up to $10,000 or more. Websites need upkeep and adjusting as your business grows and changes. There are also monthly and annual costs for your domain, hosting, and any maintenance you may pay for. The more clear you are about your needs, the better the quote the website designer can give.

Two happy women at a hair salon enjoying a nice haircut. Photo from Unsplash by Adam Winger.

8. Who is Your Ideal Audience and What Problem are You Solving?

Who you are trying to attract has a great influence on the look and feel of your website. A website built to attract a mom searching for a life coach will look different from one built for a mountain bike rider looking for a repair shop. The more specific you can hone in on your ideal customer, the better. The broader the audience you try to attract, the more diluted your message gets. The more specific you are, the better your content can talk directly to that person. This way you can show your expertise and build trust with a specific group of people. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to market to a wider audience, or that your website will only attract that specific person. It does however allow your marketing to be its most powerful and impactful.

Two women at a computer discussing who is the best website designer. Photo from pexels by Canva Studio

9. Would You Like Ongoing Support Once Your Website is Launched?

What’s your vision in how you interact with your website? Do you want to see the backend and update blog posts yourself, adjust pricing, or change some wording? Do you expect your website designer to make changes and updates for you? What is your expectation for turnaround time for changes? How much do you want to spend?

These are great questions to answer before you decide to work with a website designer. You can ask if the website designer includes training on how to update the site. Or if the website designer has an ongoing maintenance plan. (hint hint, DTK Studios’ maintenance plans start at $50/month.) It isn’t helpful for your business to invest in a website and then not have the resources to update it.

A person working on a few notebooks working within a deadline for their small business. Photo from Unsplash by Convertkit.

10. What’s Your Deadline for your Small Business Website?

Website designers may have a waiting list of four to six weeks before they can even begin work. And it may be another couple of months before your website is ready to launch. Also, factor in the time it will take you to gather all the components (media, copy, brand guidelines, etc…). As you plan out the date you want your website live, set a timeline at a minimum of three months from then to start. You can start interviewing designers at any point and get a feel of how long their process takes.

An overhead view of three people on a couch pointing at their favorite small business website on a computer screen. Photo from Unspash by John Schnobrich.

11. Do You Have Examples of Websites You Like or Dislike?

If you’ve ever changed your hairstyle, you know an inspiration photo is helpful to have. Or that mood board for the kitchen renovation. The same goes for your website. By sharing websites that you like (and don’t like), your website designer gets a clearer direction in the design. Your examples can go beyond websites as well. Any visual representation of the look and feel you want is helpful. If there’s a font you love, an artist that draws your eye, or a genre of design you prefer, share it!

Group of People sitting at their laptops and discussing website design. Photo by Mikael-Blomkvist on pexel.

12. What’s the Role of the Website for Your Business?

That may seem like a silly question. Your website should have a primary job. Yes, it’s your business’s virtual storefront. Yes, it is often the first impression your business will make and you want it to be a good one! If you’re an author, the primary goal may be to convince the visitor to buy your book. Sure, you also have an email sign-up, links to your social media, and even a blog. But those should all support your goal of that person making a sale. If your business creates an experience, you may want someone to book an appointment. In knowing the primary job of your website, you can ensure it works to support your business, not hinder it.

My hope with this article is to help explain how to best prepare to work with a website designer. As a small business owner, it may seem like a lot of extra work I presented. Working with a professional website designer is an important and worthwhile investment. An investment in both time and finances. The process of building your website will be easier if you take the time to think about each of these items. If any other topics come up for you, please let me know. I will continue to update these topics. I’ve made a free PDF of this checklist. You can use it during your consultation calls with the different website designers.

Curious about how a website designer can help your business succeed?

I sent out month-ish emails about website design for small businesses.

Erin Detka is the owner of DTK Studios, a website and marketing agency. DTK Studios works with small and micro business owners to create customer-focused simple websites designed quickly and within a small business budget. What was supposed to be an easy task, setting up a business, can turn into a huge list of tasks that some small business owners don’t have the knowledge or skills to do in the amount of time they thought it would take. By investing in a website designer instead of trudging up the learning curve, they can jump-start their business and start serving their community sooner. 

Erin Detka Owner of DTK Studios, Website Design for Small Businesses