How to Choose a Web Design Company in 6 Easy Steps
Once you realize how important a website is for your business or venture, the next step is figuring out where to begin to make that website a reality. If your website is intended to represent your brand, attract your audience, and encourage conversions (and what website isn’t?), then you’ll need the help of a web design company. But how do you know which web design company’s the right fit for you?
You can’t travel more than 5 virtual feet online without coming across a so-called web designer or web design company. With websites being built every second by designers of all calibers, how do you know that the prospective company you’re looking at is capable of what you need or worth your investment?
Conducting a thorough and comprehensive search for your ideal web design company is one of the most important steps you can take in building your new website. And so the search begins for a web design company. You’ll realize quickly that it doesn’t take long at all to find an endless pool of potential candidates, which raises the question: how do you choose the right web design company for you?
Here are some ways you can improve your chances of finding a web design company that will make your website everything you want and your target audience needs:
1. MAKE A LIST
Before you begin your search, you really should know what you’re looking for. The best way to do that is to have a firm understanding of what you want the website to look like and how you want it to function. While a web designer will have his or her own suggestions and ideas for your project, in the end this is your site. By providing some basic starting points, you can get your designers started off on the right foot in making your vision a reality.
Here are some questions you need to answer in order to create a framework for your site:
- Why do you want a new website (is it a new business, a redesign, a microsite)?
- Who are you targeting with this website? You really need to narrow down your target audience here. The more specific you get, the more effective your website will be.
- What’s the purpose of your website? What exactly do you want your users to accomplish when they land on your pages? This could include industry-specific functionality as well (for example: a business-to-consumer banner company might need an interactive banner design tool).
- How would you describe your product or service offering (be as concise as possible)?
- What is your unique selling point? In other words, what stands you apart from your competitors?
- What is your ideal target date to launch your new website?
- Do you already have a domain name (and hosting), or will you need to acquire these?
- Do you have an existing brand or will you need help in developing a new identity?
2. CHECK YOUR COMPETITORS
One of the best ways to know what you want (and don’t want) out of your site is to check your competitors’sites. When making your list of requirements, browse through your local and national competitors to get ideas of layout, color scheme, content and more. The more complete your prescreening list is, the easier it’ll be to map out your website.
3. REVIEW PORTFOLIOS
Every web design company should have a portfolio front and center on their website. If they don’t, how will you ever know if they’re capable of completing your project as needed? If you ever stumble across a design company that doesn’t boast its portfolio, you can scratch that company off your list.
But chances are you’ll find plenty of web designers with portfolios. How can you pinpoint which ones to actually contact?
Lucky for you (and your future designer), you have your list of needs and visions, as well as an idea of what you want and don’t want out of your site (thanks to you for doing your homework). Browse through portfolios to see if anything catches your eye. Keep in mind some designers stick within a niche or industry (such as a T-Shirt Design Websites), but most have experience across the board. You may not find a website sample within your specific niche, but you may find one that closely matches your needs and vision.
When it comes to eCommerce, however, you’ll want to make sure you find a web design company that has that kind of experience. Building an eCommerce site is a completely different animal than static-HTML websites.
Come up with a list of a dozen or so designers whose work caught your eye.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
Here’s where you get to act like the boss because, well, you are. You’re interviewing designers to see who will make the cut. How do you know what questions to ask? Simple, start with the questions you know you want answers for:
- Ask the company to expand on specific projects that caught your eye from their portfolio. What exactly did they do for that project? What obstacles did they face? What was the end result?
- Ask how the site will be built. If it’s going to be built on a proprietary system (meaning the design team’s own system), that should be a red flag. Some companies require extremely specific needs to their site that only a proprietary system can accommodate, but chances are you don’t. You want your site built on an open-source platform, like WordPress, Magento, Drupal or Joomla.
- Ask if you have full ownership of all of your materials at the end of the project, including code, hosting, images, logos and more.
- What else does the design firm do? Some web design companies just design the site, which is fine. But you’ll likely need more than that as you grow. You may need ongoing SEO, blogging, and PPC. If the firm offers these solutions in-house, you may have just found an all-in-one answer to most of your needs.
- Does the firm offer CMS training? Once your site is ready to be launched, you’ll be taking over the steering wheel. That sounds good unless you don’t know what you’re doing. Part of the designer’s fee should include CMS training so you know how to manage your site.
5. DEFINE YOUR BUDGET
Creating (or recreating) your website is not an easy or small task. This project will require an investment of time and money on your part, but how much of an investment? In reality your most effective web designers will not be the cheapest. The most inexpensive designers will typically provide you an already-made website theme or template that doesn’t fully fit your needs. Furthermore, this type of designer will not be likely to provide support, training, or other features that a more hands-on designer will offer.
When narrowing down your designers, don’t toss away the pricier ones right away. If built correctly, your website should last you for many years to come. If built by amateurs, however, you’ll likely need to hire someone new within months to perform updates, fix issues, upgrade technology or more.
6. SELECT YOUR PARTNER IN SUCCESS
Now that you’ve narrowed down your designers based on their capabilities and have clearly defined your budget, it comes down to sheer likability. The small list of candidates remaining all have portfolios you like, provided answers to your questions that lived up to your expectations, and have proven they’re worth your investment. Now – do you like them? Can you see yourself working with them?
Building a website can be a long process where there is a lot of back and forth communication. In short, your web designer is going to be a part of your life for some time (and maybe even longer if they offer long-term support). You have to be able to work with them. Do you think they’ll handle critiques well? Do they appear to be quick to respond to you? Do they come across as organized?
This can be a tricky part of the process for you, because chances are that many of your web designers aren’t locally based. Sure, you can find some locally based designers, but there’s no need to limit yourself to zip code. Web designers from across the country and world can offer you personal service through the wonders of Skype, emails, and more. No matter where your designer is from, if they’ve made it this far through the process, it all comes down to likability.