What should we look for in a Website Development firm?
One of the major frustrations for clients occurs when they receive wildly varying quotes for Web design projects. One of the best ways to avoid this, and ensure the work is completed to the highest standards, is to specify accurately all aspects of the work to be completed. The old cliché of comparing apples to apples rings true. Note down the exact specifications for the project, how many pages you require, how many forms, etc. Our process always starts with the most important document; the 'site map', or flow chart, of the site and pages. Only by doing that will you ensure that everyone is quoting the same and only then can you really see who is the best value - without compromising on quality. Having said that, it usually requires several meetings or conference calls to determine the best way to market a client on the Web. Some other considerations to evaluate as you conduct your search:
- Experience of the team. How many years, clients, vertical markets have they designed for?
- Portfolio. The proof is in the pudding. Do you like their design style? Is it in synch with the look you're trying to achieve? Are their websites easy-to-use and fast loading? Does the print design snap your eyes around?
- Has the Web design firm provided solutions to other companies in your industry? Have they dealt with similar challenges to those faced by your organization? These are some important factors to consider. At the same time, look at the Web design firm's breadth of experience - they may be able to address your immediate needs, but will they be able to provide solutions 6 months down the road, or 1 year later, or 5 years later?
- Thanks to the distributed nature of the Internet, some of the better Web design firms have implemented systems that allow them to work with organizations across the globe as easily as organizations across the street. When reviewing the Web sites of a Web design firm, note the geographical location of their clients. A Web design firm that has worked with clients in many geographical locations will have a more global approach to your Web site.
- Does the Web design firm have a clearly stated process for designing and developing Web sites? Do they spend enough time understanding your Web site goals and planning how those will be achieved? Avoid selecting an individual designer, on a freelance basis, to design and develop your organization's Web site. It is rare to find a single person capable of handling the combined visual and technical elements that make an effective Web presence. Additionally, by depending on an individual, your organization is at risk of losing its investment should anything occur to that one individual.
- What kind of value-added products or services can the design firm offer? Internet Marketing and Web site promotion? Newsletter or email campaigns? If your organization is not currently dealing with a print design agency, for example, this might be a factor for dealing with one group over another. Similarly, can the firm provide database and software development should your organization wish to Web-enable some of its existing systems or processes?
- Responsiveness. How long does it take them to respond to questions? Provide a proposal? Make meetings for follow-up questions? Make sure you know when and who you can reach whenever you need something done.
- Cost. Of course, this goes without saying. When evaluating proposals, make sure that you're comparing apples to apples. Any firm would be happy to revise their proposal if you tell them that another firm had line items in their proposal that they didn't cover. Click here to sample our pricing model, which over the last 10 years has been remakably accurate in rough estimations for over 450 web clients.
- References and testimonials.
- Specialist skills (i.e. Search Engine placement skills, copywriting, programming experience).
As an example, our Executive Team consists of an Art Director, Graphics Designer, Copy Writer, Internet Marketer and PHP-MySQL Database Applications Developer. Each have additional staff at their disposal for their specialty areas. A site completed by us is reviewed extensively by our experts for such critical issues as load time (how long does the site take to come up onto the screen?), browser compatibility (is the site displayed the same by different computers?), W3C and XHTML Compliance and navigational ease. With these extensive skills and review, sites completed are of the highest quality.
A lot of people have Web design skills now. Why shouldn't we use a graduate who has these skills?
We do find that this is one of the most common scenarios we are presented with. Our answer is two-fold; the recent graduate does not have the necessary experience to best identify key selling tools and supporting graphics, and that design skills are only a very small part of Website development. It is no good having an attractive site if it does not attract visitors.
The process we go through in designing a site is exhaustive. Firstly, there are a series of conference calls or meetings with clients to establish exactly what they want and need the site to do. Once the objectives of the site are clearly fixed, we research the target market and assess their requirements for such a site. A comprehensive survey is presented to the client for their completion which targets competitive advantages. This typically takes up to 10% of the total project, and before the Photoshop file is even started.