Recently I took on a new customer through a referral. In discussing their needs, I found out that a very well known web design and search engine optimisation company had not been straight with her. When we were able to tell her what we could do for her and at what price, she realised that she had previously been misled. The hourly cost of some companies might seem attractive, but the number of hours they claim they need to do the job is the ugly side of the coin.
Cases like this prompted me to write this article. People need to be aware of certain essentials when looking for a web design company. Let's face it; the average person doesn't know how much work is really involved in working on a website, and some 'let's-make-a-quick-buck' businesses try to take advantage of this.
In this two-part series I am focusing on what you need to do to build a website. Whether you are building a brand new website, or re-designing an old website, or currently using a web design company for ongoing maintenance, these tips will help to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Part 1 of this two part series focuses on what you need to look for when choosing the right web design company.
Part two will cover what you need to do to prepare to have someone else build your new website.
If you follow these tips in choosing the right web design company, you might find you will save a considerable amount of money.
1. Web design portfolio
Look at their portfolio for other websites they have designed. Do you like the other websites they have designed? Do the designs look up-to-date by comparison to other websites you have seen?
2. Business history
How long have they been in business - Everyone needs to start somewhere, but if you are hiring someone that has just started their business and does it part-time, make sure this is not just a little hobby they have on the side to bring in a few additional dollars. This designer might not be around in twelve months time when you need to make changes to your website. This will be a real problem if they had the original design files--it is not standard practice for your designer to give you the original design files without you incurring an additional cost.
3. Website design with the search engines in mind
Do they understand search engine optimisation, and offer this as a service? You may not be interested in having search engine optimisation performed on your website today, but it is an inevitable path you need to take at some point, and not having a website designed in a search engine friendly manner from the beginning will likely cost you a lot more to have your site redesigned at a later stage.
4. Unique designs or web design templates?
Do they use templates, or do they build a website tailored to your unique needs? If they do use templates, are they templates built in-house, or have they purchased them from a template site. If they use templates do they have the skill and experience to provide you with everything you need from beginning to end?
5. Flexibility of service offering
How flexible they are in meeting your needs as a business. Are they always able to provide you with everything you need for your web solutions? A good web solutions company will find the answer for you, even when they don't immediately know the solution.
6. Customer satisfaction
Do they have any testimonials? What genuine comments can others make about their experience with this company? Make sure the testimonials are real--take time to contact some of them. Integrity and honesty is a very important key to ensuring you are well looked after by the web design company you choose.
7. Turn around time
If you are looking at using them in an ongoing way to manage your website, what kind of turn around times do they offer, and do they have the resources to adequately manage your needs?
8. Browser compatibility
What browsers do they design a website for? At the very least, they should be testing in IE6, IE7, and Mozilla Firefox. Your website can look quite different between different browsers, and Firefox is very quickly gaining a large proportion of market share, so you can count on many of your web visitors viewing it in a browser other than IE.
9. Web Hosting
Do they provide web hosting, or do they use a 3rd party? This can be an important decision. A small web design company that simply has a server on their premises to host their customers' website may not be your best option. A dedicated web host--providing you choose the correct one--can often be a better option as this is what they specialise in. Choosing the correct web host can mean the difference between having your website up 99.9% of the time, and having visitors to your website constantly getting error messages. The web hosting plan should also offer a comprehensive web statistics package to help you track the performance of your website.
10. Satisfaction Guaranteed
Is satisfaction guaranteed before payment? If the website is being designed for you from scratch, make sure that you don't have to pay the full amount until you are satisfied with the end result. Will it cost you anything extra if you don't like their additional draft?
11. Design and coding
Ask whether they design their websites in CSS. Not only will this be beneficial for your website rankings by making it easier for your website to be read, it will decrease loading time, and make future changes to your website much quicker and easier, decreasing your ongoing costs.
I hope these points help you make the right decision.
If you feel your current web design company may not be doing the right thing by you, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.