The time is here. You’ve finally decided to revamp that old and outdated website you and your customers have been tolerating for so long. Well, if this scenario applies to you, your current website is most likely a stale, boring site that leaves visitors less than impressed with your organization. With so many web design firms to choose from, you are probably wondering where to turn and what questions to ask. Building a new website is an important step in improving and growing any business, and choosing the wrong web designer could not only be costly and frustrating, but it can seriously damage your brand. Well, we are here to help you understand just what makes a great web design team, and we want to get you informed and enlightened before you move forward.
Although you may already have a functioning company website, most business owners aren’t familiar with the nuts and bolts of what it takes to deploy an attractive and successful site. You probably already know what you want in a website and what works best for your company, but may be unsure in what direction you want to go. Asking the right questions and having a prospective vendor address your concerns up front will better arm you with the info you need to make the right choice for that all-important online presence.
When you decided to upgrade your website, you, like most of the business world, started researching various companies to find a web developer that can meet your needs. But now you just require a little guidance in determining if they are the right fit for your business needs.
Here is a 7-point checklist that will guide you through your search and have you asking the right questions to find that perfect partner for your website project.
1. PORTFOLIO – What Does Their Web Design Portfolio Look Like?
While having a lot of websites in their portfolio is a plus, you want to see the type of quality in their designs. Ask to see examples of their work. Ask for a list of websites that are live and active so you can check out their functionality and flow. Ensure their portfolio includes sites that match what you are seeking in your site. Check out the versatility of their portfolio. Do they specialize in specific genres? Have they built sites similar to your site? Have they designed sites for competing businesses?
When you hire a web designer, you want to make sure they’re not going to pack it up and disappear before the job is finished. Take some time to dig into the nuts and bolts of their process. Did they adequately explain how their design process works? Ask them to detail the structure of their project and describe the types of management tools, workflow management, and milestones used to see the project through to completion. A well thought-out design plan will be a confidence builder in knowing you have the right web design team who can finish the job. How long will it take for their design team to launch your new website?
3. EXPERIENCE – What Software and Technologies are They Providing and What is Native to Them?
In the web development world, experience not only matters, it’s essential. Start by asking how long they have been in business and how many websites they’ve launched. Have they completed any projects for big-name brands you would recognize?
Depending on the type of website you require for your business, different technology will be utilized. Some web developers stick with a certain type of design structure or software and may not possess the type of experience with the technology you may need implemented into your site. Describe the functionality you are looking for and ask what software platforms they will use to make that happen. Discuss the options that you want implemented on the site and listen to their pitch on how they will make it happen. Do they sound sure in their answers, or are they taking a wild stab in the dark? You may not fully comprehend all of the feedback they offer, but this will provide you with a good idea of their knowledge base.
4. VISION – What is Their Vision for Your Web Design Project?
What is the web designer’s vision for your project as compared to yours? Do they have a clear indication of what you want and the ability to transform your vision into development of a successful website? Ask them to provide reference sites or create a mock-up of their design plan. Of course you have your vision of where you want to go with this, but they may have insights and perspectives you may have overlooked. It’s always good to get a firm understanding of where they believe it’s going as compared to where you believe it needs to be.
Design obstacles can sometimes slow a project to a crawl, or even condemn it altogether. How does their design team overcome such obstacles? Have them demonstrate some of the sites and blogs they follow and explain how they utilize these resources to develop and deliver a final product. Run a search for them on various platform sites where they provide expertise. Sites such as Stack Overflow, Quora, Github, and Eserver all provide programmers and designers a forum from which to collaborate on design concepts and solutions. Search the sites and see what comes up. If they are common users of these sites, there’s most likely links to their contributions.
6. CONVERSION – Do Their Sites Engage Users to Take Action?
Some web development firms concentrate solely on design and may not have a good processes in place, or even the desire to promote your website or business. If this is a need that concerns you, ask them about their ability to market your website to your customer base. Your business has marketing and promotional needs that provide a unique benefit. Is the web design firm you are working with fluent in the types of marketing techniques that work well for your industry? Find out if they have CMS (Content Management Services) which they can provide to help keep your website updated with fresh or customized prepared content. In many situations, updated content is key to driving traffic. Do they have a team in place to write creative and engaging content for your site? Ask for examples of their previous work and success rates. If you are conducting an interview in person, see if you can meet some of the writers and hear directly from them.
7. DIRECTION – Give Direction or Don’t be Picky?
This is a tough decision for most business owners. Typically, everyone who wants a new website has a unique vision or direction for its design and functionality. You can choose to drive the project, or you can allow them to use their best professional judgment. In any case, describe what you are looking for on your site and listen to their response. Web design is subjective, and many times the design you’ve envisioned in your head isn’t always what they have in mind. Do they listen to what you want? Or are they talking over you to “tell” you what you want to hear? Provide reference sites and guidance on what your expectations will be. You don’t want someone to just tell you what you want to hear. For an undertaking such as this, you’ll need a true partner that will work with you every step of the way to ensure your demands and expectations can be reasonably met or exceeded. You can make the choice to provide them guidance for the entire project, or simply provide input for parts of it and let their expertise guide the rest.
Getting the right website built is a tremendous, and sometimes very costly undertaking. You are making a big investment, a commitment if you will, to your business. The web development industry continues to change, and as the business world becomes more interconnected, many firms are outsourcing their work to foreign countries to save a buck. New “economy” web design companies pop up all the time on places like craigslist and through flashy email marketing. They are counting on the fact that you’ll be wow’d by their flashy ads and gimmicky discounts, and not do your due diligence. It’s not always easy to have confidence that your web design partner understands your needs and how your market operates, but getting answers to all of your questions and concerns on this checklist is an important first step in determining with whom you’ll want to work. Building a high-quality and successful website is a project that is made up of many moving parts. It makes smart business sense in spending the extra time to ask the right questions that will help you make an informed decision on what web design team will ultimately provide you with the confidence to move forward.