Business owners demand ROI from their investments, especially in their websites. With the speed of technological change, business owners need to modernize every 3-5 years, so the ROI needs to happen quickly to make this investment worthwhile. And it’s pretty much impossible to get good at buying web services because business owners don’t buy websites every year, and good web and marketing services aren’t cheap. So, I’d like to share a few critical quality-checks you can use to size up your next web design firm.
Figure out what the web firm specializes in.
Web design has become quite complex over the last decade and the best web design firms specialize in working with a specific type of business. If you sell clothes or jewelry, find a firm that specializes in marketing to women and has a portfolio with ecommerce sites. If you are a real estate firm, look for a team that builds websites connected to listing databases with beautiful search functions and lead captures. If you sell professional services, find a firm that can design a site that will impress and a deep understanding of marketing and how to sell services.
Look at their portfolio.
As you review each web design firm, consider whether your business would benefit from the level of work evident in their portfolio. Are the sites visually attractive, professional and eye catching? For instance, if your firm wants to come across as “handsome and conservative” make sure this is what you see in their portfolio and don’t depend on a promise. Does the firm create beautiful, easy-to-read layouts? Does the branding look professional? Does the design enhance the reputation of the firm it represents? In other words, would you be happy to have a website that looks like the websites featured in their portfolio? It is key to actually go to the websites in the portfolio to make sure they exist and check to see if they load fast, work as expected and look good on a mobile phone.
Consider the price ranges of the firm.
Websites can get expensive fast. And you typically get what you pay for, so be wary of ultra-cheap sites. The more customizations, features, and the bigger the size of the site, the more it will cost. Some web design firms have prices ranging anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000. For instance, a large nonprofit that needs to connect with a complex donor management system, or a big law firm trying to outshine its competitors are both going to fit into these higher price points. For websites priced under $25,000, it’s really a factor of the scope of services, refinement, and brand customization. It’s important to know the general price point a web firm builds its process around.
Consider their team.
Take a look at their team and determine if they have the skills necessary to not only complete your project, but also to do an outstanding job. Is there a marketing expert to set strategy? A web developer to customize the site? A graphic designer to make sure your branding is well implemented and your site looks its best? A project manager to keep things moving forward? If not, how will they meet these needs? Last but certainly not least, do you like the main point of contact enough to spend a lot of time communicating with him/her over the next month or two? These are all questions you should be asking yourself.
Consider their reputation.
The web design process is complex and extremely service-intensive. One way to find social proof of quality is to review LinkedIn pages to see how many recommendations they have and how many of their skills are endorsed. This is a good indicator of whether they are a new web design firm or a veteran in the field. Look for testimonials on their website as well, and don’t hesitate to ask for a list of past clients to contact as a final step before you hire them.
Review their process and pricing.
Finally, does the firm have a process in place that is well established and are they able to clearly share it with you? Does their pricing make sense or does it seem random, as if it was marked on the fly? Ask them about project management, timing and how often they will communicate with you to make your website come to life. Will there be in-person meetings, scheduled weekly calls or a string of emails? How will your new website be staged and who will launch it? How long with this all take? A firm without a process will hinder the progress of your website from start to finish (if you ever get there).
Before you trust a marketing or web firm to design your next website, it’s a good idea to have answers to the questions above. It can make all the difference to your business development efforts, and to make certain you get the most out of your investment.