So you’ve finished planning your website – now you’re ready to select a website design/development company to build your masterpeice. For a moment let’s compare a website to a car – after all both can be expensive long term investments, and important assets to your life/business. When searching for a web development company you try to shop around while having to talk to salesman who upsell you every chance they get, have to read contracts you don’t understand, then have to put your faith in a company you don’t really know – who you can only hope will not let you down in the end. Buying a lemon can really set you back & waste valuable time.
The process is exhausting when you’re not sure what you need. The following will help you get thru this process with as little frustration and surprises as possible.
Determine what you need. Start from your company & customer needs. List the problems your company has that can be solved via a website. These problem can range from needing to find certain information, to ensuring the site is usable and loads fast on a mobile devices to simply making sure your phone number is prominently displayed on all devices. The last one may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many sites do not list a phone number on a mobile device, while showing a phone number on a laptop/desktop display.
Next – determine who your audience is. Every company has certain customer profiles, or common traits and/or goals your customers have and are trying to accomplish. Hubspot offers a wonderful guide to creating your buyer personas. Understanding who your audience is is crucial to building a site your potential and future customers will enjoy using.
If you really want to be successful, put some thought into your personas buyers journey. This is simply an excersize in listing what your personas are coming to your website to find, and helps guide you thru the different steps your clients are at.
Walking into a web development relationship with these assets in hand will not only empower you with a much better understanding of your audience & what they are trying to solve – it will allow you to build exactly what they are looking for while having a format you can easily convey them to a web development vendor. These documents will allow a company to design & build exactly what you need.
Got all your homework done? Great. Now you should have a really good understanding of the people who will be using your site, and what they need to be able to accomplish. Now you have to find a number of web development vendors and narrow them down to a workable list. Where do you find a web development vendor? Local! You probably live within 50 miles of dozens of great companies. The benefit of choosing a local vendor is being able to meet them in person. In-person meetings are simply invaluable. Get a list of these companies via your chamber of commerce, Google and review sites like Yelp & Facebook.
First get some references and call every one of them. Ask what their experience was like, ask if there were any surprises and ask if the project finished within timeframes and scope. These few questions will give you great incite. The barrier to entry is really low in the web design business, so doing your homework is really important. You want an experienced company with a few examples of sites they’ve built, and you want to understand how they did with past customers. Feel free to contact websites that appear in the vendors online portfolio as well.
Hopefully you found a handful of prospects and narrowed down the list based on their past customer experiences. You probably have a few proposals floating around your email inbox. Proposals range from very simple list of services with a price, to 10+ page documents that come off more like a huge sales pitch than an actual proposal.
Make sure the following items are clearly identified in the proposal:
There are both great and not-so-great web development companies out there. Prepare yourself, then do your research to find a trustworthy company. Finally iron out a really detailed contract and begin your project. In a few weeks/months you’ll have a brand new website that makes you, your visitors and ideally your bottom line happy!
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