What do clients want? We asked 200 web dev & design clients

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Marketing for web designers and developers can feel like dropping coins down a well — as your monies tumble into the ether, you wonder if your efforts reach anyone. Wouldn’t it be great to know what clients want?

We thought so, too.

We did a two-phase survey with clients to understand the thought process of the small business owner in selecting a web designer and developer.

First, we tracked down 18 small-business owners who in the last 12 months hired a web designer or developer to work on their site. During in-depth, hourlong interviews, we covered a range of topics related to getting help from a pro, including:

  • What triggered their search for help
  • Choosing one provider over another
  • The best characteristics in a pro

In the second phase of the survey, 204 small business owners took part in an online survey to provide us with quantitative information on the criteria used by U.S.- based small business owners who hired a pro to build their websites.

What kind of client hires a web designer or developer?

Effective marketing should likely address the dilemma created when someone must split their time between DIY web design and running a business. With that in mind, it never hurts to showcase abilities that make you a single source for multiple services.

Of the clients we interviewed, 76% started looking for professional help to increase their web presence, either to create a new website or improve what they already had. They placed a premium on service providers who also possessed rebranding, SEO and marketing skills.

“It would take me quite a bit of time to get the business put together, and then I would’ve had to also build a website. We decided, okay, it makes more sense to just hire someone.”

— V.S., 33, fashion sales

How did small business owners start their website?

Most clients we interviewed built their own websites, but they were dissatisfied with the result.

Although capable of the work themselves, small business owners prefer to focus on their own business and hire a pro.

We found out that:

  • 30% of small business owners who filled in our survey tried building their websites alone first, and then hired web pro
  • 40% worked together with a web pro to build their websites from the start
  • 28% asked a web pro to build their websites alone.

While some clients indicated they had the skills to handle website-related work, they inevitably became frustrated by constraints — with the time required, the limits of their own skills, or both.  Of these clients, 88% had already built a website themselves and 76% indicated limited time or skills made the project a no-go.

Why did small business owners hire a web pro?

Throughout these interviews, we discovered the most common triggers for seeking help:

  • Inability to realize their vision for the site due to lack of skills
  • Need to focus on their business, rather than building a website
  • Noticing the success of other SMBs after website redesign
  • Recognition that the current web design doesn’t accurately reflect their business
  • Business needs for related services (e.g. marketing, SEO)

“I have so many projects they’re falling behind. And I just need to get the ball going.” 

— C.Y. 36-year-old IT professional

How do your clients find your web design and development business?

When you are in charge of your own business, you want to be aware of everything that is going on. Passing over control of any part can be tough. That is why small business owners prefer to hire people they know and feel comfortable working with.

Choosing one website design and development provider over another

Perhaps unsurprisingly, proven expertise is the main consideration during the hunt for a service provider. Reviews and a portfolio were top priorities for 71% of clients we interviewed. Discounts or low pricing, while important to clients, weren’t a deciding factor for anyone interviewed.

“I wouldn’t even start the conversation if they didn’t have a good resume.”

— B.G., 35, hospitality

The clients we interviewed also placed a high value on trust, with a significant majority preferring to hire a personal acquaintance. In fact, service providers with that personal relationship were 2.5 times more likely to get hired over someone recommended through an online platform. Here are more key insights from the data:  In fact, service providers with that personal relationship were 2.5 times more likely to get hired over someone recommended through an online platform. Here are more key insights from the data:

  • 59% — Would choose a personal acquaintance over anyone else, with or without a portfolio
  • 24% — Would choose a service provider backed by online recommendations and a portfolio
  • 0% — Would choose a service provider without online recommendations or a portfolio

Web pros want to partner with who they trust

Methods for finding a web designer and developer

According to our survey, word-of-mouth leads the way as the most used method to finding a web pro:

  • 60% of SMBs took into consideration recommendations from other professionals
  • 51% relied on Google or other online search providers
  • 46% used recommendations from friends
  • 37% checked out social media recommendations (e.g. Facebook groups, Instagram)
  • 34% looked for recommendations in a marketplace, such as Fiverr or Upwork
  • 30% checked out previous acquaintances, like people who they worked with or went to school together
  • 11% used offline resources, such as newspapers or magazines

Finding a trustworthy pro

73% of small business owners search for a web design or developer service via recommendation from others.

Most desired web designers and developers attributes

According to our survey, the three most desired attributes a small business owner values when looking for a web pro are vision, trust, and value.

All 5 -star Pro experiences contain trust, vision, and value.

1. Vision

Getting the right picture of what your client wants is essential. Small business owners are looking for web pros with skills to understand their vision, respect their brand, and bring their ideas to life. Your clients want to make sure you have strong emotional intelligence and that you are technically savvy.

“It was worth the money, because what they were doing would significantly increase our workflows and our efficiencies.”

— B.G., 35, hospitality

In your own interactions with clients and leads, it’s important to explore how clients define those factors — we found it wasn’t always black and white. For example, we might define value as a lower payment delivered for services rendered. However, a recurring theme we uncovered was that, to clients, value meant the ability to retain focus on their businesses.

2. Trust

Trustworthiness goes a long way in finding a web pro. If you want to be hired, you must show your potential client that you are worthy of their trust.

Not surprisingly, trust is the second most desired web pro attribute.

Do reviews matter?

One way to show your audience that you can be trusted as their web pro is through reviews and portfolios.

Small and medium business owners take reviews into consideration when choosing a web designer or developer to work on their websites. For example, according to our survey, in the marketplace, SMBs measured trustworthiness via past performance.

“Anytime I really hire anyone for anything I am always on review sites.”

— S.Z., 37, Textile industry

However, even though reviews are an important factor for hiring a web pro, no one expected perfect 5-star ratings. 71% of the survey participants look for trends in feedback instead of a perfect 5-star score.

Small business owners instead read reviews and look for themes that represent who the web pro is as an employee.

We found out that any reviews are better than no reviews. 64% of our survey participants declared they would feel suspicious if a web pro had no reviews.

“If they’ve been doing it for a long time and they have no reviews then something’s up with that.”

— C.Y., 36, IT professional  Any reviews are better than no reviews

3. Value

Small business owners aren’t only interested in the lowest prices. They would rather hire web pros who demonstrate high value than low-priced services.

“It was worth the money, because what they were doing would significantly increase our workflows and our efficiencies”

— B.G. 35-year-old Hospitality Business Owner

According to our survey, 84% of clients said that using a web pro brought high value to their website.

How GoDaddy Pro can help you create a 5-star experience for your clients

It appears expectations are high when clients seek a five-star service provider. It’s what drives us to continue improving every aspect of GoDaddy Pro, empowering web designers and developers to efficiently deliver better results for their clients.

This program is free to join and includes a number of benefits, such as a discount on all GoDaddy products and services, as well as access to The Hub. This platform is optimized not only for managing clients’ websites, but other key aspects of running a business.

On average, our members report saving three hours each month for every client website they manage with The Hub. This is a competitive business we’re in. Couldn’t you use that kind of advantage?

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Art Martori
Art Martori thinks words are like chess pieces. While checkers might be more appropriate for the analogy, he’s aided by years of professional writing experience via mediums including content strategy, journalism and fiction. When he’s not typing on a keyboard, find Art strumming the 12-bar blues.