HELPLooking for a Web Designer?
10 Rules When Shopping for a Web Designer
We encourage all prospective clients to shop around. Take full advantage of the Internet by choosing a company that best fits your company and project needs. This is all too often not the case. The majority of our new clients come to us with existing websites that have gone stale because the relationship with their web designer has gone sour. Don't let this happen to you! Begin by becoming a student of the web design industry. We've put this list together to help ensure that you have a meaningful and productive web design experience.
Go to your favorite search engine and submit a query for your type of business/organization. While surfing your results, compile a list of likes and dislikes as it relates to your desired website. Also perform a search for competitor websites. Make note of the types of pages and functionality you would like on your site. Contact form? Calendar? Flash Animation? Client Login? Shopping Cart? Make a list and separate items into "Must haves" and "If I can afford it" and group items accordingly.
Create a budget. Web design projects can become very costly in very short order. Make a budget and stick to it. Budget for the design of the website, website hosting, and regular site updates. Ask around and find out what the going rate is for these items. Be open and honest with your web designer when it comes to budget, but don't show your cards too early.
Go to your favorite search engine and submit a query for web design services. Search for local companies but do not exclude a company solely on the basis of their location. Chances are you will not "see" your web designer very often. It is only important that they are readily available by phone and email. Research each company in depth. How long have they been in business? What is their area of expertise? Make sure each company under consideration is a registered member of their local branch of the BBB (Better Business Bureau). Consult the BBB for information and carefully review complaints/reports for each company.
Your website host is almost as important as your website designer. It's no good having a wonderful website without it being available to Internet surfers. Many web design firms offer hosting packages and there are many advantages to hosting your site with its designer. Make sure their hosting is reliable (See "References" below). What is their up-time? Have their sites been offline for any extended periods in the past? Make sure their rates are competitive.
One of the most important factors in the long-term success of a website is the relevance of its content and the extent to which the content is updated. Who is going to update the site? If you are going to update your website, make sure your web designer provides you with the means to do so. Ask for a demo. If your designer will make updates, confirm the rate they charge for minor changes and updates to the website. Make sure it is within your budget to make regular site updates.
This step is most often overlooked and is one of the most important. Search web designers' websites for work they have done. Be sure the list is as comprehensive as possible, not the designer's top favorites. Call 3 to 5 of their clients. Prepare a list of questions and make note of each answer. Were they easy to work with? Are they readily available by phone/email? Did they complete the project on time? Did they complete the project within budget? How do you update your site? Would you work with this company in the future? Do you use them for hosting? Is their hosting reliable? Is their service worth the money? Would you recommend them? Answers to these questions will surely offer valuable insight to each company under consideration.
A RFP (Request for Proposal) in this case is referred to as an invitation for designers to submit a proposal for web design services. There are many examples on the Internet of RFPs if you are not accustomed to preparing such documents. You will submit this document to would-be web designers. Your RFP should answer the questions, "What do you want your site to look like?" and "What do you want your site to do?" It may help to use reference sites (a website discovered in your "Research") to describe the desired appearance of your proposed site. Be sure to include a list of functionality with a basic description of each. This completed document will indicate to prospective web design companies that you are a well-informed consumer and should be taken seriously.
Always ask for a written proposal. Be wary of companies that do not offer their services in writing or those that take a long time to submit their written proposal. This may be an indication of how seriously they adhere to deadlines. Written proposals should be well-organized and modeled after your RFP. You should ask for additional components such as animations or calendars to be listed as line-items in the proposal (including the price) so you can decide whether a particular component is necessary at that time. Proposals should offer an estimate for site design, hosting, and time-frame.
It is best not to rush whenever possible. Rushed jobs are usually either painfully obvious or painfully expensive. Plan ahead and speak to as many informed colleagues as possible. Prior planning will allow your web designer sufficient time to perform the job to your exact specifications. Rather than pay another cheap web designer for a new site a year later, it pays to bite the bullet now and get the job done right the first time by the right people.
Arguably the biggest mistake you can make is to shop solely based on price. You will get what you pay for. Pricing is certainly important, but you should choose a company based on other factors such as experience, expertise, time-frame, support, professionalism, and information you learn from their existing clients. Choose a web design company with which you feel compatible and comfortable. Use the proposals you receive from each company to compare. The pricing and time-frame should not be far off from each other; if they are then ask questions. Do not let the proposal be the end of the line. Think of the proposal more as a conversation piece. Ask for clarification and a re-draft. Willing companies should have no problem doing so.