For many business owners their first experience with a web design firm can be a nightmare for a variety of reasons. It can be very tempting to seek out the quickest or cheapest option when hiring a web company because of the time and effort that’s often involved. After all most web companies are more or less the same anyway and things will probably be fine right?
Well after over 10 years in the web design industry I can tell you with all honestly almost half on my clients have come to me after a bad experience elsewhere. Whether this means their former web developer was hard to get a hold of or failed to deliver on their promises (or prices) it’s a scenario that happens pretty frequently in this line of work.
For that reason choosing a web company should never be taken lightly and requires the proper research and planning to find the right fit. With that being said here are 12 tips that will help you avoid “website regret” and being stuck with a developer who does not meet your expectations…thousands of dollars later.
1. Seek Out The Company You Want: Its never a good idea to hire a web design company based solely on a friend or colleague’s referral alone. It’s very important to explore all your options which may require surfing the internet for an hour or two (at least) to see what various companies have to offer. If you were looking to hire someone for a job you wouldn’t simply pick the first person who shows up for an interview. Be sure to give your website the same kind of respect you would with any other major decision involving your business. Create a short list of web companies that you like the most then follow up with each one to see which offers the best value for the budget you can afford.
2. Check Testimonials and References: A reputable company will likely have a list of clients they’ve worked with along with testimonials from several reliable sources. Unfortunately it pretty is easy to create phony testimonials so you may want to do a quick Google search to see if the people or companies are in face legit. It’s probably even wise to take things a step further and to ask for references so you can actually speak to clients a web company has worked with. Any quality web firm should welcome the opportunity for you to do this so their former clients can sing their praises. If they are hesitant or reluctant to comply however you can probably bet they don’t have a large list of satisfied customers.
3. Ask For Proof Of Their Results: Most web companies are great at promising what they can do and how they can take your business to new heights with their abilities. It’s much harder for them to prove it though so it’s probably not a good idea to simply take their word for it. If they’ve achieved great sales or marketing success for their clients ask to see proof of those accomplishments. They should be able to show you clear examples what they’ve done for previous clients with easy to understand demonstrations. If the best thing they are able to demonstrate is their verbal sales pitch then expect that company to be more talk than action.
4. Do Your Own Market Research: Before you trust your online business future over to the hands of a web professional make sure you take care of business on your end first. Check out what competitors in your industry are doing first and get an idea of what you want out of a website before getting advice from anyone else. Once you’ve done a little research you can meet with your web developer bringing an informed opinion to the table. Make sure you set a standard of what you want your website to look like and how you want it to perform. If you leave it up to your web developer alone that may be content to just do the bare minimum and cash and easy paycheck once the job is over.
5. Study Their Online Portfolio: Any reputable web company will have a strong design portfolio featuring their best work for clients to look at. If not they either lack experience or their services are not in very high demand. When viewing a company’s portfolio also make sure the work featured represents a level of quality you would be satisfied with for your website as well. Don’t assume a web company can do whatever style or look you want at a later time, with web portfolios what you see is what you get. If a certain web company’s work doesn’t wow you enough keep looking until you find a more suitable match.
6. Find Out How Long They’ve Been Around: Unfortunately due to the low start-up costs of starting a web design company there are more fly by night companies in this industry than most others. If a company has only been around for a year or two you may be rolling the dice in terms of their long term reliability. You want to make sure the web development company you choose will be around 5 or even 10 years from now. Fortunately there are many tools online that will allow you to do a simple search of how long any website has been active. You can do a domain name or web hosting search that will tell you how long a website has been up from the date it was registered.
7. Get All The Details Up Front: Don’t ever worry about being too nice to your prospective web company thinking that you’ll come off as paranoid or high maintenance. Make sure you ask them every question in the book such as what the project completion date, how often will they update you on their progress or what are the necessary fees to maintain the website once the job is completed. Make sure you get any important details in writing and your web company should gladly oblige any request. Remember it’s a web company’s job to make sure you are comfortable and secure with every aspect of their service. If that is not the feeling you get it’s probably a sign you are best looking elsewhere.
8. Trust Your Instincts: A web company that has your best interests at heart probably doesn’t have to “sell” or convince you about any of their services. Communication between you and your developer should feel comfortable right from the get go and you should get a sense of trust with them almost immediately. Remember the relationship you have with your web developer is a mutual partnership no different then how you would engage with a co-worker or any other business contact. If getting along with your web developer seems complicated then it probably will be in the future as well.
9. Identify Their Strengths & Weaknesses: Sadly not all web development companies are created equal. Some may excel at WordPress websites but lack overall design skills while others might be social media gurus but have limited SEO abilities. Make sure your web design company’s strengths play into what your company’s most important needs are. If your biggest goal is to get as many new customers as possible then a company that specializes in SEO makes the most sense. If you want to be a successful blogger then a company who understands up datable websites in detail is a better match. If you are not sure what a web design companies greatest strengths are ask them and make sure you are impressed with the answer.
10. Don’t Fall For A Pretty Face: One of the biggest mistakes many business owners make is valuing a websites look over it’s substance. Your website’s visual appeal and professionalism is very important but it’s only one of many key components to a successful site. A website that looks good but does little else won’t help you much in term of bringing in new customers or pleasing the ones you already have. Your website should communicate well with your audience, be simple to use, and effective with all types of browsers and interfaces. People may be enamored with the look of your website for a little while but it’s usability and performance determines its overall success.
11. Understand Their Marketing Capabilities: Does a web design company only know how to build a website or do they also know how to promote it an market it? Your website will only connect with your audience if people know it’s there and if you aren’t generating much traffic then results will be minimal. Successful web design companies of today are skilled in all aspects of online marketing such as SEO, pay-per-click advertising, social media, blogging and even video. Affording all these services at once may not be feasible early on but make sure your web company knows how to get your name out there based on the budget you have.
12. Be In It For The Long Haul: You don’t want to be switching web design services on a frequent basis if you are expecting any kind of continuous success. Enlisting a web design company “for now” pretty much ensures you will be looking for another one later down the road. In today’s day and age your website will play a vital role in your businesses success and can mean the difference between success and failure for many companies. If you are relying on your web design firm to bring in the majority of your business make sure your confident you have the right one moving forward. If not you’ll be yet another website owner with big ambitions but little to show for the time and money you’ve invested.