Finding & Hiring The Right Website Design Company

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 surprise as possible.

Before Looking For A Company

Determine what you need. Start from your company & customer needs. List the problems your company has that can be solved via  experts from collectiveray . 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 better communicate with that design company which will make a huge positive impact in the end result.

While Looking For A Company

Got all your homework done? Great. Now you should have a solid 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.

When Talking To A Company

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 the expected timeframe 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.

Before You Sign Anything

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 read more like a home mortgage than an actual proposal.

Make sure the following items are clearly identified in the proposal:

  • Project scope details – on what is being built & what software/technology is being used. For instance a 15 page website being built on a LAMP server using WordPress.
  • Functional requirements – any functionality you want needs to be in writing. Want contact forms, a photo gallery and your site to have the ability to post to social media accounts? Make sure it’s all in your proposal. Even silly details like a contact page – get it all in writing.
  • Responsiveness – make sure the devices your site will be optimized for are specified, along with versions and software. There are many devices used by your audience, so make sure they are being accounted for. If you have Google Analytics already set up you can simply look at the most popular screen sizes and devices. If you have this info make sure it gets used to ensure your site is optimized for your specific audience.
  • Project timeframe, phases and deliverables – They should have an idea on how long the entire build should take. It may change during the project, but you should have a turnaround time to be used as a basis to keep the project on track as well as phases and specific deliverables to ensure the project is keeping to a schedule.
  • Out of scope – what happens when something is out of scope? The company should have a process when a request is made for something not within the scope of the site build. Normally a change-order is done to amend the contract with the additional cost. Out of scope work happens all the time – clients may change their minds on original plans or maybe something new came out that the client wants to utilize. This is completely common and you just need to understand the process and price for out of scope work.
  • Payment terms – Most web development companies do 50% down and 50% on site completion. Site completion can mean different things to different people, so make sure the milestones are clearly defined details are ironed out.
  • Ongoing management – Who is hosting the site, who is placing the finished site on the host. Who is buying/renewing the domain name. Who is keeping the site software up-to-date and who is going to be updating the site content when needed? Once the site is complete there are a lot of things that have to be accounted for and a website design company is going to consider the project complete.

In Closing

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 a contract that includes details that will save you a headache down the road. In a few weeks/months you’ll have a brand new website that makes you, your visitors and ideally your bottom line happy!