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As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. This is especially true when it comes to web design. A recent Nielsen NetRatings survey sets the average webpage view at 60 seconds- meaning that internet users decide in less than a minute whether or not to continue browsing your site! This makes a well designed website is an absolute necessity- you need to reel customers in at first glance and keep them browsing with a site that’s easy to navigate and pleasing to the eye.

How do you make sure your site is what customers are looking for? Can you just buy one of those “Websites for Dummies” books and do it yourself? Probably not, if you want quality results. When it comes to web design, it’s a good idea to hire a professional- someone who can work with you, using their own experiences and skills, to craft the site you want.

Professional web design isn’t out of reach for businesses with stretched resources. Here’s a quick guide to making the most of your web design budget, so that you can get the site you want at a price you can afford.

Set up a basic contract
You don’t need to hire a designer to design a full site all at once. You can split up the design process to accommodate your resources by contracting for site architecture or homepage design only, and then moving forward when you’re able to afford additional services. Breaking the contract into phases also gives you more negotiating power- when services are finished, you can negotiate prices on the next phase of design.

In the initial stages of contract formation, you’re in the best position to negotiate. During your first meeting with a designer, you should discuss your goals (better ecommerce functioning, better graphics, etc.) and how you want the site to look and feel. You’ll also discuss timelines and budget, and might even work on forming an agreement draft. Try to get an idea of the total cost for the site, getting a written quote for services if possible. Consulting with at least a few different web designers will allow you to get an idea of pricing structures, and help you negotiate a better deal.

What to ask for
One of the best ways to save money on a web design contract is to ask for a project cost rather than an hourly billing structure. With hourly billing, the designer bills you for the time it takes to design the site- a factor that’s completely outside of your control. If you end up requesting changes or making modifications to design work, costs can quickly increase. By asking for a total cost, you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying.

While most designers will charge for additional services not specified in the contract, you can ask that potential additional design costs be specified in your initial agreement. That way, if you want to make changes, you’ll know exactly how much they will add to the total cost.

You can also ask to pay in installments as each stage of the project is completed. Smaller company or a freelance designers are generally more flexible when it comes to payment timelines, so you might be able to request extensions or modifications to the payment schedule even after you’ve signed the contract.

What should be in the contract?

The contract should contain a description of services, a timeline for completion, a breakdown of total costs, and a description of ownership rights. It should also address web hosting issues. It’s also helpful to specify the procedures for approval of completed work, or notification when changes need to be made. The contract should not contain an outline of design specifications or web programming elements. Usually, designers retain the copyrights to a site they have created, unless they are “working for hire.” It’s important to make sure that you can make changes to the site if you need to- even if you hire a new design company.

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