Rob Beene knows several good reasons why Wiregrass businesses should use a local web design firm, but one in particular sticks out. “I speak English,” he said. “You can have stuff done overseas, but it won’t make any sense.” Beene said an understanding of the local market and culture is essential to successfully designing websites for businesses in the Wiregrass. “My job is to figure out how to make clients money with apps and websites, how to take the core customers of those clients and get information to them,” he said. Beene owns Wiregrass Apps, which originally created apps for local businesses but branched out as Beene realized that apps and website design are all parts of a holistic online marketing strategy. Tim Tolleson, a Dothan-based website designer, agrees that the personal touch local web designers can provide is important. He said that by working locally, businesses get more individualized service that matches their individual needs and business personality. According to market research and web design experts, an easy to use and attractive website is as essential to today’s small business as store signs and phone book listings were in years past. According to Search Engine Land, about 85 percent of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses, including businesses like restaurants, repair shops, beauty salons, etc. About 72 percent trust online reviews of businesses as much as they do personal recommendations. The survey was conducted in early 2012 and involved a survey panel of 4,500 consumers in the U.S, Canada and the United Kingdom. Tolleson said there are three basic tasks to perform in designing good websites for his clients – identifying the target audience, designing the website to appeal to these clients and ensuring that the site works well with search engines to obtain favorable rankings. Most online users only browse the first page or two of search engine results when researching any given topic. The higher a website’s ranking on search engine results, the more likely it is that people will visit the site.