Investing in a new website designer can be pretty expensive proposition. Before you settle for any web design company, you should be really sure of what you’re getting into. In today’s difficult to navigate internet, many users are expecting a high level and quality in web design on the sites they are visiting, which cannot be easily accomplished by individual marketers, freelancers or in-house marketing teams or by popular self design site builders.
Because of this, more people are looking into hiring a website designer to get a professional and well coded website. Before investing the time and money in this service, there are several important questions to ask. Let’s dig in ……
Many design firms do not have in-house development teams. This is typically a sign that the person selling you the website doesn’t understand the technology that drives your website. Additionally, having a middleman between you and your developers is a recipe for disaster. You’re actually buying the work of a third party that you know nothing about. Make sure the firm you hire has their own staff of web developers. Additionally, it takes years for a team of developers to settle on a set of technology and become experts. If a team has been together and focused on the same core set of technology for three or more years, they probably have a reliable web solution.
It’s no secret today that everyone wants a website that can be found on search engines. Implementing search engine optimization may not be what you want your website designer or developer to do for you; however, how your site is designed or coded can affect your strategy when you are ready. When you interview developers, this is a great question to ask and see if the person you’re interviewing is familiar with how to code to meet SEO standards. Here are a few items that affect SEO best practices:
If SEO is a strategy you are considering down the line, it’s a good idea to make sure your site will be built with this strategy in mind.
One of the most stressful lessons learned is that the website you built yesterday will not allow you to grow tomorrow. Being told you have to start over is one of those statements every business owner can’t bear to hear. Before you begin, ask the question, “Does the technology you’re using allow me to grow or add additional functions?” You may even want to take this further and think about tools you’d want to add down the line. You can also ask the website designer or developer to provide you with a brief list of tools they have already integrated with sites like yours. This allows you not only the opportunity to see if they are knowledgeable, but also whether they’re supportive in providing you with ideas.
Oddly enough, experience and talent do not go hand-in-hand! Just because a designer has spent years designing, it doesn’t make them an aesthetic-pro. The best designers have a natural gift to see colors and shapes. Web designers must also understand how a user interacts with a site. In order to ensure a quality designer, you must make sure he or she is endowed with these traits.
How long have you been designing?
Where have you studied?
Where do you go for inspiration?
Who is your favorite artist/ designer and why?
Have you designed a website in my genre before?
How do you approach a new project?
Over 50% of all websites are now viewed on mobile devices. Your website should be built mobile ready. These days, that means that the site is “responsive.” In layman’s terms — the site design changes (responds) to the dimensions of the screen on which it is viewed.
This is another good item to ask references about. What timeline did they give the client versus how long it actually took to build the site. Speed for development also goes back to question #1. A team that has worked together and on the same technology has probably encountered most bugs and can work quickly. An outsourced third party developer working on new technology is probably going to encounter new bugs and miss deadlines.
Process is critical! A firm’s processes and systems are a great sign of reliability, consistency and quality. At Burt Systems we may go a little overboard. We have a detailed 32 step process for our web development. Ok, we go way overboard with our systems and processes.
Finally, the question of cost. The answer to this question will always vary. The cost of a website design usually depends on a number of factors, including:
Since many web design firms do not publish their pricing online, it is hard to shop around and know if you are getting a good deal. The only way to really be sure is to compare the pricing you are quoted against a site that does publish its pricing, or to trust your gut.
You know better than anyone what you can and can’t afford, as far as a website design is concerned. So don’t be afraid to say “no,” or to ask for a lower price. You can even walk away if you don’t like the quote you’re given. But remember one thing: you get what you pay for, and a cheap website often has many downsides.
As I mentioned above, not all of your consumers use the same technology. But to ensure things are operating the way they should or displaying correctly, the web developer need to test their work. This issue might seem trivial, but you’d be surprised how many firms only test for one web browser. I recommend you ask specifically what web browsers and versions the website designer test for during the development process. If you’re building an online community, social or e-commerce website, testing is an important part of your success. Secure payment gateways need to be tested in a real environment. Be sure to get the specifics of what your firm considers to be part of a test phase and what it’s being held accountable for after the website has gone live.
A website is like a car. It requires ongoing maintenance and support (you have to change the oil!) Every single day the world wide web is changing. Web browsers are being updates, new viruses are being born and new functionality is being introduced. Your site may function beautifully today, and be broken tomorrow. You need to prepare yourself for ongoing costs. It’s best to know how the firm you’re going to hire for your website development is going to handle that. After a website has officially launched inevitably there will be a problem–it’s technology; it happens. The question you want to know before you put pen to contract is how does your new website designer handle support or bugs–technical hiccups with the website? Every firm will approach this differently, so pay close attention to how it phrase its response and commitment.
There are many ways to track success of a website deployment. Success may be traffic, conversions, sales, etc. Whatever your metric for success is, make sure that you have ways to track it and make sure the firm you hire includes that in their proposal to you. When the website launches, it should already be built into the site
A reputable designer or company will be more than happy to share their portfolio of past designs, or even offer testimonials from the customers who received these designs. If you receive any resistance here, it’s time to look for another website designer.
It’s very helpful to have a dedicated manager on your project. They build timelines, schedule meetings, coordinate feedback, review and organize content, etc. If the firm you work with does not have a project manager, be prepared to spend a lot more time dealing with web development minutia. And understand that most web development delays occur because of the minutia. It’s the little things that cause the biggest delays!
As important as any of these questions is understanding and communication. Do you understand what they are talking about when they are describing what they do or what they can do for you?
Ease of communication is key in any project, especially a web design project, where things can get confusing or misaligned due to jargon or tech speak.