Choosing a Web Design Company: A Checklist for Success
Choosing a web design company can be a confronting process for many businesses, especially if they’re without a referral.
This usually means heading to Google and trolling through the myriad of web design agencies in the hope that you’ll find someone who is price competitive, technically capable of delivering on your requirements, and interested in supporting you once your project is complete.
To ensure you make the best choice for your business, we’ve compiled a checklist of items to help you choose the best web design agency for your needs.
From knowing how much to pay, to understanding which platforms are right for you, to managing your site after it’s delivered, we’ll give you the tools you need to take control of your next web design project.
1. Before you visit a web design company, know your goals
If you’re looking to design a website, you may be thinking that the web design agency you hire will be able to fill in all the gaps when it comes to your overall project goals. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The best project outcomes usually occur when a client comes in with a well thought out vision, is flexible on how to achieve their goals, and can work well with our team.
Web design by nature is collaborative, so you need to bring something to the table for the best possible outcome. We recommend ensuring you spend some time considering:
- The type of personalities you’re comfortable working with
- What you’re looking to achieve by designing your website
- Any ideas on the look and feel of your site you may have including other sites you have seen you may like
- An idea of your budget
- A clear timeline for delivering on your set of requirements, and
- A budget for post implementation support and marketing of your website design
2. Research the type of clients the web design company has worked with
Like most industries there are high quality and low quality suppliers, and in the case of the web design industry you can generally determine this by looking at who has worked with who.
If you’re looking to determine the quality of a web design company, generally they will display a list of a few of their marquee clients across their site. This is a really easy way to gauge who's in their circle of trust, and is happy for them to display their logo as a partner.
The other valuable insight which can be gained from this is whether you're a good fit for the agency as a client. For example, if you’re looking to get a website developed for $50 and the agency is working with a vast array of national and/or global brands, chances are you’re barking up the wrong tree.
3. Review which platforms the web company works with
In web design, there’s really no such thing as a ‘jack of all trades’ anymore.
If you’re looking to receive a quality product for your dollars spent, then you’re going to want to hire a web design agency that specialises in a given set of niche products and services.
If you’re not sure which platform, programming language or hosting environment is right for you, that’s OK. But you will need to do some research before signing off on your final requirements as this can greatly affect the outcome and cost of your project depending upon which way you go.
Take OSE for example. At present we offer web design services using the following platforms because we have an expert team we can stand behind across these services:
- Magento: We build our eCommerce solutions primarily in Magento. We have a team of experts who specialise in this platform and we know how to deliver a great result for clients looking to sell products online.
- Squiz Matrix: This CMS is a widely used platform by Government and larger private sector clients and provides customers with the ability to achieve almost anything online right out-of-the-box. Matrix is a specialist service, and one we offer due to our many years of expertise using the product.
- WordPress: We’re huge fans of WordPress at OSE and offer sites using this platform for SME’s and clients looking to produce a high quality product at a lower price-point.
4. Custom web development is not the same as platform-based design
Often-times clients will come looking to us produce a website which cannot be produced using off-the-shelf solutions (i.e. WordPress). This means selecting a combination of the right programming languages to work with, a suitable hosting environment, and team of programmers capable of delivering a custom-built solution that is easy to maintain.
One of the most-common mistakes you can make in this instance is selecting a web developer with limited experience in developing custom solutions. Websites of this nature are a whole different beast and require a knowledge level completely separate to that of building platform-based solutions.
When interviewing a web design company for a custom solution, ensure you ask the following:
- Do you have any examples of previously custom-built solutions?
- Which programming languages do you recommend for the solution and why?
- Does your team off-shore their development?
- What hosting environment do you recommend?
- How will I manage the custom-built solution you are proposing?
5. Hosting is equally as important as web design
If you’re new to the web industry, chances are you’re new to managing website hosting.
Website hosting is one of the most important facets to a successful online solution, because if your site runs slow or is constantly dropping out, your customers will go elsewhere.
There are generally two common groups people fall into when it comes to hosting, either:
- You’re looking to build an enterprise solution that scales with your traffic over time, or
- You’re looking for shared hosting that will support a small low-traffic site
The price difference and management needs of these services differ greatly, as well as the type of infrastructure you will likely select. In this instance, try to be realistic about what you need and avoid overspending. However, make sure you partner with a web company who offers managed hosting in the case your site does go down or needs to be upgraded as this support can be invaluable in a time of crisis!
6. Technical and design components of websites need to work together (so meet all the team)
In the web design and development industry there are those who specialise in design, those who specialise in development, and those who consider themselves “uber-developers” and love working with some really extreme technical functionality.
Generally speaking, depending on your project, you’re going to need a combination of these personality types to deliver a product that is both well-built and looks and feels great.
A standard web design process will generally include an array of creative people working together and following a process such as the below:
- An initial strategy and scoping session is held with project managers and key stakeholders to determine the requirements of the project.
- Production of a pixel-perfect design in Invision is produced to showcase to the client for approval.
- Development of the actual product occurs over a timeline.
- Followed by a period of quality assurance and product testing.
- Leading up to a final product sign-off and launch.
This process is built to combine the different personalities that make websites work, so when scoping your next website, remember it’s usually a team-effort that will get the job done, so try and meet all the team members before making your final choice when selecting a web design company as this can either make you feel very comfortable with your choice or run for the hills!
7. Evaluate price, milestone payments and ongoing costs
At the end of the day, any smart consumer should take the time to undertake some form of price comparison between a couple of website design companies, because the variance in quality of service and value for money can be massive in our industry.
The easiest way to do this is to evaluate the following:
- Check the price-per-hour the website design agency is charging.
- Remember that all web design and development is not equal and some platforms will cost more to develop on.
- Look at the outcome for what you pay per hour. If more is less, then you'll need to continue your search to find that perfect web design company for you.
- Determine what the ongoing cost of support will be for your site? Often this can be less than the standard hourly rate if you purchase bulk hours.
- Double-check the milestone payments you'll be expected to pay? Standard industry practice is 50% upfront and 50% on completion of a project.
8. Keep your scope in-check
One of the greatest challenges which occur on a day-to-day basis at many web design companies is working with clients that have to spend more than they would like on a web design project because they failed to properly scope all the areas of their minimum viable product (MVP).
This can be frustrating for many clients, and can cause friction in the best of professional relationships, so make sure when you’re going to market you know what you want, or at least provision some extra funds for any unforeseen items you may need to build.
Choosing a website design company is one of the most exciting times in a new project. You get to meet the team, start your new project, and begin building your empire!
However, if you don’t pair up with a web design company who has your best interests at heart, has the technical and design capabilities to deliver on your requirements, and is price competitive, your project can quickly become a nightmare.
Being prepared for the process that awaits you is the best way to ensure your project runs smoothly. From researching potential web companies, to evaluating price, and understanding the basics of hosting, you can save yourself a whole lot of pain and find yourself succeeding in your online journey.
If you’re looking to start a web project and need some advice, feel free to get in contact with the OSE web team for a confidential discussion.