This article originally appeared on the Prime Design Solutions website.

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If you’re looking to update a stale existing website or ready to launch a new site to advance your online presence and grow your business, you should have some ideas in mind before hiring a web designer.

The first step is to define what online audience you’re trying to reach, and what your website will provide them. Are you trying to inform the public of upcoming events, provide information about your business to attract new customers, or do you plan to sell product directly? Do you anticipate offering new products and services in the near future – in other words, will you need to expand your site? If your website is static and does not require frequent updates, the project will probably be less costly and take less time. If you need e-commerce, your investment will be bigger. Owning the domain name and web hosting should also be a consideration when you’re launching a new website. Finally, it’s vitally important that your site is optimized for use on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

If you need to make frequent updates and change the content on your site regularly, you probably want a content management system. Web designers used to be responsible for updating all content on the website, but in the modern age, content management systems have created a user friendly environment for business owners to make their own updates without outsourcing to a web development staff.

There are a variety of content management systems available to make frequent updates simple and quick. This can help cut costs so you can allocate more of your marketing budget on other products and strategies. But be warned that although there are a variety of content management systems available, many of them are templates. If your needs are relatively simple and your site is simply an online brochure, this may be perfectly adequate – but if your needs are more complex, a custom-built site is probably a better bet, especially if you anticipate needing to add functionality in the future.

When choosing a web designer to help you meet these goals, first make sure you like the work they’ve done for other clients. Look at their portfolio and ask questions about specific projects when doing your initial screening process. In addition to the regular interview questions regarding work experience, history, expenses, and qualifications, you should ask your web designer how they measure their results and how their clients have benefited from their work. Good web designers will ask you a lot of questions, too.

When you solicit proposals from designers who make the cut, evaluate them on more than price – also evaluate what they’re offering. A proposal for a website using a template will be much less expensive than a custom-built site, but the latter may be a much better investment in the long run. (See The Difference Between Template and Custom-Built Websites for an in-depth discussion of this issue).

Web content is a vitally important piece of the puzzle as well. Web designers, while fluent in development in design, may not be able to provide the essential professional content you need. If you don’t have a writer on staff, you may be better-served by a full-service firm that can also offer copywriting services.