10 Tips for Choosing a Web Design Company, and Hopefully Ours!
Choosing a web design company is about finding the right fit. Choosing a web design company is a bit like finding the perfect pair of jeans – it’s all about the fit. You both need to work well together. Your requirements, your expectations and your resources should be taken into account, just as you should assess the skills, style and processes of the company you choose to work with. Remember that last part: it is a choice, and the final decision is down to you!
If that sounds scary, don’t worry. We’re here to help demystify the process and offer some tips to get you started on choosing the right company for you.
1. Think about what you want
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t sure what they want their website to achieve. Is it simply to help your existing client base find more information on you? Do you want to promote your business and reach new people? Is it important that it generates leads or sales? Do you want visitors to the site to interact with the content?
Your budget is also a crucial factor when first discussing your requirements. Simply, you can’t build a website without money! Your budget dictates what can and can’t be done, so have a figure in your head and be ready to present it alongside your website wish-list. Be honest with yourself on this front. A good question to start with is: “what is the maximum I would be willing/able to spend for the website of my dreams?”
You certainly don’t need to know all the ins and outs yet, but knowing roughly what you want your website to achieve and the amount you’re able to spend on it is the first step in sharing the idea with a Web Design Company. After all, only you know what your key priorities are!
2. Ask questions
Do not underestimate the power of questions – they are a useful tool for a couple of reasons:
1. They help you find out what you need to know! If, for example, you want your new website to gain a high SEO ranking then finding out if your Web Design Company has experience in this
field will be crucial. Similarly, if you have a very specific deadline for the work to be completed then finding out if that is achievable is key. Have a think about what you need to know right away so you can ask all the right questions off the bat.
2. Questions can also be helpful when it comes to finding out if a Web Design Company is a good fit for you. Everyone interprets information in different ways, but you need to work with
someone who you can communicate well with. If they are not able to answer your questions in the first instance, it is likely you will encounter further problems down the line.
Never feel afraid to ask to clarify any terms or ‘jargon’ you don’t understand. Any good web design company worth their salt will be expecting to answer a variety of questions from any new client, and should be ready to explain processes on a level that works for you.
3. Do they ask YOU questions?
Just as you will undoubtedly have a lot of questions for them, a Web Design Company should also have some questions for you. A good website encapsulates the values and goals of the company, so it is crucial that your designers understand your business. Once you have shared an outline of what you want (see point 1), they should be able to dial down on the specifics such as your target audience, short and long term goals, how you want to manage the content, and any preferences you have in terms of design and functionality. The more they know, the better they can shape the website to your needs.
4. Do you get on with them?
No one is suggesting you become best buddies with your Web Design Company, but good rapport and mutual respect is the foundation of any good working relationship. You will likely be speaking to your designers A LOT, sometimes over a lengthy period of time. Having someone you communicate well with makes the entire process much smoother, and enjoyable!
5. Check out other work they have done
Established Web Design Companies will have a portfolio of previous work on their own website. Browse through with a critical eye and see if their past websites are in line with what you are
looking for. Remember that design is often a matter of taste and what suits one person may not suit another. For example, one of their previous clients may have stood firm on wanting that purple and orange website! But do look at things like whether the website is easy to use, does it look as good on mobile devices as on a computer, does it feel professional? If the answer is ‘no’ to all these points, then you’re almost certainly better off looking elsewhere.
Make sure to also look through independent reviews on other platforms such as Freeindex, Trustpilot and social media platforms. A Google search of the company’s name can go a long way in finding out more about their past customers and whether they were satisfied.
6. Do they have experience in your sector?
If you are a store that is going into e-commerce, you will need a very different website than, say, a non-profit organisation. A non-profit organisation may need a donation page that accepts different currencies, while an online shop needs to maintain an accurate inventory. Previous experience with your market and industry may mean your Web Design Company understands the users that land on your website better and will have more experience in designing the website which will give you the most value.
It need not be a deal-breaker for a company which otherwise fulfils everything you need, but if you’re feeling stuck then an agency that has experience designing for organisations similar to your own will likely be more aware of common issues (and solutions) from the onset.
7. Company background
Knowing how long a Web Design Company has been trading for is important. Not only because they will likely have a variety of case studies to share with you, but also because you will want to work with an established company that is not going to disappear overnight. A company that has been around for years will have experienced a multitude of changes in the way the web works, and has obviously adapted successfully. They will be able to provide more context to the decisions they make, and have likely had more experience in dealing with a wide variety of clients.
Where the company is based is also useful to know. There are brilliant web designers all around the world, but for ease of communication you may prefer to work with one based in the same
country as you to avoid higher call charges and different working hours. A local company may seem ideal, but unless meeting face-to-face is a top priority of yours, you would be significantly reducing your options.
Finally, size. Tempting as it might be to go with a huge company with hundreds of employees, that alone does not assure you of quality. When it comes to web design, size doesn’t always matter! Much more important is to do your research, ask questions and make an objective decision based on the facts. If it turns out that a huge company is right for you – that’s great. But be open to the fact that smaller agencies and freelance designers can often produce superior work.
8. What do they need from you?
The precise answer to this question depends entirely on your website. However it is safe to say that any Web Design Company will require input from their client at regular intervals.
Nobody knows your business better than you, so establish early on the vision for the website, what assets you will be providing and what you expect your designers to source. They will certainly take care of the design, but do you also require them to provide the images and text for your website? If so, that may be an additional cost.
After the initial design mock-ups they will ask for feedback to make sure they are on the right tracks. Agencies should always take your preferences into account, but do remember that they have certain expertise when it comes to things like usability, compatibility and design, so do listen to the reasons why your designers have done things in a particular way.
9. Read the small print
It is crucial to know exactly what is included in the cost of your website. Before you commit, ask your designer to detail in writing precisely what comes with the quote. Some things to consider:
1. Are there any extra set-up fees?
2. Does it include a Content Management System (CMS) where you can make your own
updates and if so, exactly which areas are you able to update?
3. Does it include domain registration?
4. Does it include web hosting?
5. How many rounds of changes can you make to the initial draft?
6. Does it include any ongoing support?
7. Will you own the copyright to the material on the site?
If any of these services are required but aren’t included in the original fee, ensure you find out how much they are before committing.
10. Set expectations
A lot of problems can arise simply from having mismatched expectations. Once you are ready to progress with a company, be ready to set some expectations so you know how to best work together. Firstly, the finished product! If your website needs to be live before a specific deadline, ensure you have okayed this with the company before committing. If you do not have a set timescale, still establish how long it will take for them to get your site live.
Secondly, timelines. Your Web Design Company should be able to give you an indication of when a first draft of the website will be ready and what feedback they will need from you at that point. They may also set a deadline for you returning your feedback so that they can best manage their workload. Continue to communicate and establish a schedule at each step of the process so that neither party is ever left in the dark.
Finally, method of communication. You may prefer to be contacted by email. They may prefer telephone. In emergencies, they may have a specific number to call. You may not get round to responding to emails until evening-time. Have an upfront chat about your preferred methods of communication and rough turnaround times. It will save you the frustration of plenty of missed calls and unanswered emails in the future!