What are the key factors when selecting a web design company?
This seems like a very broad question. I don’t think it needs to be. Here are some things I would recommend looking for:
1. Does the company have a good website itself? Does their website provide easy access to their portfolio and websites they have developed? Is there plenty of information that is easy to find about their services, their expertise and what they specialize in. As dumb as this seems if the web design company doesn’t have a great website you have to question their ability to produce a great website for you.
2. Does the company provide a strong design portfolio on their website? The best way to really see how good a website design and development company is – is to look at their work. Do they have a good portfolio – do they explain the different industries they develop for and do they identify the features involved with their portfolio. And…. do you like the websites in their portfolio?
3. Does the company offer expertise in multiple disciplines? This should include graphic & web design, web marketing, web development & computer programming, web hosting & management and business development. You should be looking for a company that will collaborate with you from the start of the project thru to web hosting & support.
Does that mean hiring a large company that has a lot of different people who have these skills sets?
Not at all – but you want to make sure you have a full understanding of the team that is going to develop your website and that they have the necessary skills sets. It generally takes at least two people in my opinion to ensure a great website. You should have a dedicated designer and developer and then at least one other person managing the entire process (Project Manager and Customer Relations). When you take into account how subjective graphic design can be it is always a good idea to have the client, the web designer and the project manager all working together during the design process.
The designer and developers primary job is to produce the best possible design and then successfully develop and implement that website. Their focus should be very specific. A project manager helps keep the development on track – and also looks at areas such as hosting, management, support, training and domain names. You also want this process to be mean and lean – and within your budget and time frames – so look specifically at the team that is going to build your website and make sure they can deliver.
Other key points to consider are:
4. Does the company offer Web Hosting and Management? Beware of companies that sell you on the best website designs – and then look you in the eye and state – “You can host your website anywhere….”. This is a sure sign that this company does not see a role with your company once the website is launched. They don’t see you as a long term relationship – and they are there to basically design and run.
5. Will the company meet or conference call to discuss your business in detail? You really want a web design company that has a collaborative approach to your website – teaming up with you to produce a successful outcome. It is unlikely that filling out a quick application form online and a “we will be back to you shortly with your quote” is going to cut it. Your website is an extension of your business and marketing models and collaboration is required to successfully incorporate that into a website.
6. Will the company provide client referrals for design, development, hosting and management? Speak to the web design company’s new client(s) and discuss the design and development experience. Then contact an existing client to discuss hosting and support experiences. This should give you a good feel for whether the company is right for you.
7. Will the company provide you with a detailed proposal/quote? This should include hourly billing rates, specific breakdowns of the project, timelines for tasks to be completed, and should include domain setup and registration and hosting. The proposal should cover from the start of the project all the way to annual hosting, support and training.
You seem pretty passionate about this. Care to elaborate?
BeareWare provides fixed pricing on all our proposals and quotes. We are passionate about delivering a client’s website on budget and on time.
I think a web development project can go south before it even gets started pending the proposal and quotes that you have in place. I cannot imagine how many businesses have entered into a web development project and not got fixed costs and guaranteed timelines. Months later and thousands of dollars spent the client still hasn’t actually got the website they want – and worse – the web design company doesn’t host websites – so now the website’s full responsibility falls back to client.
The proposals and quotes don’t have to be pages of agreements to be effective. They must cover all aspects of the web project – hourly billing rate, specific development tasks and the time involved, hosting and domain name setup and training. You want to cover everything and you want have a guaranteed cost on that these tasks. And if things need changing – if the first sample designs don’t meet your expectations – what happens – who pays for extra project work. All these items must be clear before you commence you new website.
8. Do you feel you can communication effectively with the company? This should be established in your inquiry calls, meetings, and proposal/quote process. Your website is such an important part of your business and in many cases it will be part of your daily business operations. In these cases do you feel confident you can pick up the phone for support or for analysis discussions with this company?
9. Can the company identify clear units of measure to track the success of your website? This is an area that is often overlooked. What are the parameters that are most important to the website – is it overall traffic (unique visitors) or is it specifically the e-commerce dollars generated or prospects established. It may be a combination of each – but the measurement of your website should not be based purely on “it looks nice” – it should be based on statistics – so make sure the design company has a strong knowledge of webstats.
10. Does the development include training for your CMS Website? I have seen several web design companies stating “how easy” it is to update you own website content with a CMS system. Of course this statement is generally written by an industry based professional – and although the CMS systems are reasonably straight forward to use – always ask about training – does the design company provide users manuals. Establish whether the web design company has a heart of a teacher in their approach to working with you.
In summary there are some good questions that you can ask when researching a web design and development company. Look for a company that has a long term view to your relationship as this will help guarantee your long term success and satisfaction. Stay clear of the design and run companies and make sure your development has a fixed budget. Ask plenty of questions and make sure you find a company that you feel comfortable communicating with…
Goodluck with your new website!
Peter Beare, Webmaste
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Peter Beare is CEO of BeareWare, a Website Design & Development Company located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Since building his first website for a local sports club in 1998 Peter has been a webmaster. Over the years Peter’s duties with BeareWare have included strategic website planning, design and development, website marketing and sales, as well as database application programming & project management. But when all is said and done, Peter is still primarily a webmaster. And this is “Interview with a Webmaster.”