We always get calls from companies where web designers have run off with their deposits or suddenly gone missing. Worse yet, some opt to save a few bucks and hire their friend or relative to do it for “free” only to realize that opportunity costs were far greater than the savings. Running a web design business, I get these kinds of frantic fix-it calls every day, which is why I have decided to share my best tips for hiring the right web design firm the first time around.
If you are looking for a place that consistently and regularly churns out the best web design and development projects, the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the best places to look. The southern part of the Bay Area known as Silicon Valley is the leading hub for high-tech innovation and development and home to most of the most successful technology companies, as well as thousands of startups.
Questions to Ask
First and foremost, is this a legitimate web design and development company? Check to see if they are an established business entity. I know this sounds ridiculous, but you do not want to be entrusting you’re the digital face of your business with a fly-by-night moonlighter or freelancer. Do not be afraid to ask for references.
Do they have a good website? Do not let a web design firm tell you that they do not have the time to develop their own website because everyone knows that a website is the strongest and cheapest advertising there is out there. Anyone who tells you anything otherwise does not have any business sense or even common sense for that matter.
How have they been in business? Is their business established enough that you can see them as a long-term web marketing partner? Great marketing comes from a firm who understands your business and target market, which can take years to learn. You want to pick a firm that can grow with your business.
Do they have other designers and developers if someone takes a vacation or gets sick? This is important especially if you have a tight deadline. Even if you do not have a strict deadline, you do not want your website to fall to the wayside after you have committed time and money to it. The sooner your website is launched, the sooner you can improve your traffic, conversion rates and ultimately your bottom line.
Does the project manager or account representative understand all aspects of the design and development process? This is important so that he/she does not always have to defer to the developer. They can address your concerns on the spot and brainstorm solutions if problems arise.
Yes, it is very true that you get what you pay for so you should not just pick the cheapest quote. Pay too little and it will cost your business in other ways. Sure you can outsource your website design overseas and pay a fraction of the price but it will be extremely difficult to find a competent and reliable team. Also, Indian developers are very good at doing exactly what you say (nothing more and nothing less) instead of brainstorming more creative solutions. You will also encounter many other headaches like time zone differences, communication barriers, and cultural differences.
In the long run, it is much better to find a local agency with a good track record that can provide affordable digital solutions. A good way to start is to put out a request for proposal (RFP) which outlines your project details, target market, website goals, content, design, functionalities, SEO expectations, web maintenance and vendor background.
What are their core competencies? If you need an eCommerce website, has the firm launched other similar shopping carts before? Will they be able to implement all the technical requirements of your website? Is this purely a web design and development firm or do they offer other services that you might need like social media marketing, blogging, and SEO? It is much easier to deal with one web marketing firm so make sure that their service offerings cover what you need. At the minimum, the agency should recommend consultants and contractors that they regularly work with who can provide these additional services to you.
Portfolio / Track Record of Success
A great web design portfolio speaks for itself. Most of the examples should be live links. However, do not hold it against them if the linked websites have changed because with content management systems like WordPress these days, most websites are now maintained in-house. With mobile usage surpassing laptop/desktop usage early last year, there should be some examples of responsive design (flexible layouts for different resolutions). There should be some websites in similar industries or some aspects of design that you like.
Customer Service / Responsiveness
How quickly does someone get back to you? Are they always responding quickly to your phone calls and emails? Do they always answer the phone? Most importantly, do you trust them with your business? Our customer service is what keeps our clients from coming back time and time again. We always answer the phone and we always get back to you if you leave a message. Being responsive is just as important as being competent.
Give Them a Call
Nothing is more telling than a face-to-face meeting or a casual phone call. Someone who can seamlessly explain their process to you and answer all of your questions without any preparation means that they have been doing it for a long time. Keep in mind that although selecting the right web design company means that the aesthetics and implementation of your website are taken care of, you will also have responsibilities to provide things like an outline, content and functionality requirements to get started.
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