You need a website. No, you do, and it needs to be a good one. One that will turn visitors into customers. One that is easy to find, friendly to navigate, and tells your business’s story in the best possible way. How are you planning on getting one?
The obvious answer is have someone build it for you. Now you need to choose the right company to do that. Here’s the steps you need to find the company that will do your website right.
The first step doesn’t start with other companies at all, it’s all about you. What do you want out of your website? What are your goals, your needs, your desires? You need to have a firm grasp on what you want before you talk to a web design company. Once you do, you can sit down with them and talk about how they can fulfill your goals.
Have they done what you want before? How successful was it? Can you talk to their customers and get their feedback about the process and the outcome? Successful companies will have no problem with you talking to a satisfied customer. Others might be hesitant about you finding out how difficult a prior project was.
Cost is not the only thing you should think about. Of course, you have a budget and that’s a hard line. If you only have so much money allocated to this project, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the result would be for twice as much. But don’t let a high sticker price drive you off immediately. If a brilliant website can double your revenue, it’s worth more than one that will only add ten percent to the bottom line.
Talk frankly about what kind of return your investment will bring and how it will be measured. See how they plan to track traffic and conversions on your site. Confident companies will have several different tracking methodologies and will be completely transparent, allowing you to watch the metrics directly. They will also have ideas for measuring what those numbers mean to you in terms of business.
You will be hiring a company to do this work, but do they behave like a company should? Look at the communications you have with them. Something as simple as whether they always answer their phone, or at least return their voice mail in a timely manner. Do you always get replies to your emails? Are they clear and willing to explain in non-technical terms what they are talking about?
You plan on having them build your presence on the web, will you be able to contact them and ask questions? Get updates? Just like well-run companies in any other field, web design firms should be able to keep in contact with their customers and answer questions in a timely and professional manner.
You can also look into their process. Different companies have different ways of getting the job done, some better than others. Find out how they plan to do their work. Will there be a dedicated team? Is that team in-house or outsourced? Have they worked together before? Will their process allow for changes? How early or late can those changes be submitted and still be included? What sort of milestones and progress updates can you expect?
Well established companies will have a standard process worked out that they follow on all projects. The best of them will do iterative or agile design allowing for regular deliveries and late changes without huge disruptions in the schedule.
Despite everything else, the content of your website is critical to its success, and yours. A pretty site with bad content is useless. Be sure the company you choose is aligned with you on what that content should be and how is should read. Can they handle the production of that content? What sort of information will they need in order to create it and how soon do they need it? Will there be development of that alongside development of the site structure, or does content come after? What sort of experience do they have writing content for other clients? Can you review it?
Even a reputable company may not have writers on the payroll and outsource the work. Make sure they’ve done that successfully before. Using the same company or freelancers regularly is another benefit.
Once the site is done, is that the end of the story? Probably not. Someone has to maintain the website, host it, and address technical issues as they arise. Is this a company you would be willing to enter into a long-term relationship with for the maintenance of your site? How will that be handled? Will it be necessary for every change, no matter how small, to be handled by their developers? Or will they supply you with tools to do standard updates, new posts, updating staff or phone numbers, on your own?
If you do need more in-depth work done, maybe a refactor of the landing page, will there be staff to handle that? How will pricing be determined? Is there a regular maintenance fee that will cover it? What sort of work is outside that maintenance agreement? Companies looking for partnerships rather than one off contracts will give you the tools to accomplish all planned updates and offer agreements to set rates for more extensive work if needed.
Once you find a company that hits all the right notes you can sign a contract with them with confidence. You’ve asked the right questions, they’ve given the right answers, and you’ve checked those answers with previous satisfied customers. These are the right people for the job and your website is going to rock.