Many new business owners are just starting down the path to purchasing a website. Many of those same business owners are in LA, Seattle or areas that we would consider ‘home base’. We wanted to be able to provide them with some quick and dirty guidance on what to look for in a web design agency, what to look for in programmers, and what to look for in marketing.
Here is the run down.
- Parse through all of that data and start to whittle it down to what you would like to see from your website in terms of the visual and in terms of the functional. Rank things in order of importance- absolutely must have a great web design, absolutely must have a user contact form, absolutely must have a gallery, and so on.
- Start shopping. Obviously the easiest place to start is with Google. Look through both some of the paid ads from Adwords or look through some of the actual organic SERPs (search engine results pages). I like to open multiple tabs in my browser window and work back towards the search engine, reviewing each site, making notes about content and quality, looking for any signs that they might be spamming or may be unable to deliver a website of the highest order. Save the website designers that you like in either your bookmarks folder or in a notepad. Once you’ve reviewed a fair number of them, go back and repeat the search with a little different set of keywords, perhaps aimed at a different region, and repeat the review and note taking process.
- Once you have selected a few that really stood out for you, take the company name and check with Yelp, check with CitySearch, check with your attorney general. Make sure that the business really is on the up and up. A good website design company should be registered with the state and have a business license. They also should have plenty of samples of their work posted on their website that you can independently review on your own. BE CAREFUL OF COMPANIES THAT POST BIG BRAND NAMES, WITHOUT DISCLOSING THE SCOPE OF THEIR WORK. A lot of lazy, and cheap web designers will use big company logos like Google, Microsoft, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, or Intel to imply that they have done work for them. Often, those logos are simply there to say that they’ve worked with their products (and who of us haven’t used Google search, Microsoft Windows, Bing or Yahoo search, Facebook social network, or Intel’s processors). Take some of their sample websites that they have done work on and run them through a website code validator and a reputable third party SEO tool. See how they score- if these are ‘portfolio’ quality items, then they should do quite well. Also be sure to read those reviews. If they are a cheap web designer, there should be lots as they do a higher volume of website design and development then a more selective, custom web design agency like ours.
- That review process, if done thoroughly, should have generated a very narrow and focused list of potential contenders. Now take the time to call them. Make notes on how long it takes them to call you back, on the position of the person that calls you, and how willing they are to listen, educate, and brainstorm before they even get the job. A good web design agency doesn’t waste a lot of money on outside sales or on receptionists. You should get a call back from someone who knows how to do some of the work and might actually be contributing to your website design. If its an obvious sales person, you should know that your money isn’t well invested. Don’t dismiss consultants though, as they may sometimes have a high level of knowledge about usability, best practice for web design or ecommerce, and some tried and true strategies to build off of.
- The very last step in this whole process is bids. Take the few, the proud, the brave, who managed to survive your grueling interview process and have them quote you. Clearly spell out in your request for work what items are musts, what items are likes, and what items are gratuitous. We always tell clients to not determine budgets until they really know what they want and need. Based on those discussions with them, and their proposals, you should have a good idea of what your site is going to cost you. IF the numbers are higher then what you expected, then don’t back away. A website is a major business investment and has the potential to make your company grow. Its like selecting prime office or retail space- a good location can make all the difference. If you need to save a little further, or redirect some funds, so be it. But don’t surrender your competitive edge unless there really is no way that you can afford the site development.
- And finally, go to contract or agreement phase. Carefully read over the agreements submitted you, paying close attention to the work scope set out in the design agreement, and any statements about responsibilities for material delivery. If these terms are vague, have them clarified before proceeding- it makes a relationship with a web design company go much more smoothly if you do.
- Once the website is fresh off the assembly line and goes live, take a moment to celebrate. This is a big step for you and your company and if you did your due diligence as we’ve described above, you undoubtedly have a fantastic website. Make sure to take the time to submit a written testimonial to your web designer, a positive review on a few company review sites (like Yelp, or City Search, or Judy’s book). And spread the word- you can save someone else a lot of time by giving a good referral…
Hope we’ve helped you find the right way to a successful online presence!