May 27, 2009, 4:49 PM — It seems that everybody knows somebody that does “website design”. The term can refer to anyone from a high school student working on the weekends between book reports to an established professional website designer. Because of this, you need to be careful when choosing a website design company . Choosing the wrong individual or firm can mean the difference between having a website that turns out sales and ending up with a website that turns off customers. You need to do your due diligence when you sit down with your designer (or web design firm) to ascertain the level of competency and professionalism they have. It is important that business owners ask the following five questions in your initial conversation with any potential web design firm or individual.
1. Can you show me your work?
Web design companies will tell you that they have done wonderful work for fantastic clients but ask for a list of client names and website addresses. This is the very first thing that you should do and will set the tone for the initial conversation. Reputable firms have a gallery or portfolio of websites that they have designed. This is where the proof is in the pudding. Take the time to actually go to the sites and check them out. Take note on how the site looks, how clear the site’s purpose is and how the site ranks in search engines. It is acceptable to call the design firm’s past clients and ask how their overall experience was during the design process and after the website design services were performed. If you hear a common negative theme, you may want to consider moving on to a different firm but keep in mind that there are two sides to every story and you should check with the firm to verify the validity of the negative comments.
2. Can you see the project through to completion?
You’ve seen the work, now let’s find out who’s going to be doing it. It is very common for web design firms to use contracted web designers to assist with overflow and you should ask about this up front. You’ll want to know that this firm has the resources to be able to continue the project if that contracted employee leaves. Similarly, This if you choose to go with a self-employed web designer and that person gets sick, leaves or becomes uncooperative, you have nowhere to turn. Web design firms usually have multiple employees and a chain of command to ensure your concerns are addressed. Just be sure to clarify what will happen should the person working on your project become unavailable.
3. How much will this cost?
Cost is a sensitive issue to any website design firm. It’s not unusual for to pay anywhere from $800-$8,000 for a 20 page static website design, depending on the level of design and functionality included. I always consider the level of work the firm can produce, as well as the relationship and customer service. A firm that is going to stick with me and keep my business needs at heart (even after the site is completed) is worth it’s weight in gold. “You get what you pay for” really holds true in website design and development. I’ve had customers come to me because their sites completely crashed a week after launch and they can’t get a hold of their economy priced design firm. There is a tradeoff between price and service and I always suggest that you stay in the middle.
4. Do they build search friendly sites?
I have long sung the benefits of working with a web design firm that truly knows the benefits of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and its practices. Many firms will say they create SEO friendly websites, but the only optimization on the site are a couple meta tags that give virtually no value. This is NOT and never has been SEO! It is rare to finding a design firm that truly understands how to optimize sites and can create powerful SEO websites but this combination of talents truly separates that web design firm from the rest of the pack.
Ask your web design firm about SEO and see what they say. If they emphasize meta keywords and make no mention of link building or site architecture RUN AWAY! Also, if they promise first place rankings right away, turn and run in the opposite direction since it takes time to rise in the search engine ranks. Test the sites in the firm’s portfolio for SEO by seeing where they rank in search engine results for the company’s targeted keywords. This is the true test of any web design firm claiming to be able to perform SEO
5. What kind of feeling do I get with this firm?
As funny as it sounds, first impressions do make a difference and the gut feeling you get from interviewing a firm can go a long way. Whether you feel that you can trust the firm or alarm bells are going off inside your head, listen to your instincts, because they generally are right. To me, the relationship is the most important thing - it is the one thing that will outlast any project and is the most valuable service a web design firm can provide. Without a good relationship, the project is doomed to fail.
Picking a design firm is as important as picking a valued employee and maybe even more so. The design firm will be designing the voice for your company that will be speaking for you 24/7 and all over the world. Take your time and find the design firm that truly fits with your company and understands your needs.
About The Author:
Oliver Feakins is President of the Internet Marketing and Social Media Company WebTalent,Lancaster web design and SEO firm based out of Central PA. Besides a having a client base throughout the USA, Oliver is a favored speaker at universities and other organizations. He also writes expert articles for outlets such as Promotion World, WebProNews, ITWorld and Social Media Today. Visit http://www.webtalentseo.com for more information or call 877-496-3327.