Developing a professional website can require a significant investment, so before choosing a firm be sure to do your research. It can be difficult to build a website exactly the way you want it. There are do-it-yourself options like Wix and Squarespace, or templates for WordPress and other platforms, but if you don’t understand the process, you might struggle. Most companies that need a website don’t have a designer, developer, copywriter, photographer and project manager on staff to build it; yet developing one requires the skills that each of those professions bring. If your company is going to invest in a website, than they should hire an experienced team that will provide guidance, strategy and insight. There are many firms to choose from, so consider these tips when hiring a design firm:
Understand The Process
Every web design firm manages their projects differently. Ask the firm what steps are involved, how each step is managed and how much time is to be expected for each step. From creative briefs to launch, there is a lot of in between. Make sure the firm shares a comprehensive plan and clearly outlines the process. If something doesn’t make sense, ask them to clarify. If they can’t explain the process, then they might not be a great match.
Clarify Costs & Payments
Since pricing varies depending on the type of work you need, find out how the firm charges for their services. Does the firm bill per project or per hour? Does the quote include all of the work or are there hidden costs (eg: hosting)? After the project is complete, are there ongoing costs (ex: maintenance and fixes)? Though pricing varies throughout the industry, you’ll notice smaller discrepancies between firms that are providing the same scope of service. Make sure you compare prices on an apples-to-apples basis.
Perhaps the most important element in the process is communication. Unknowns are scary and if you can’t get a hold of your project manager or if you don’t know when you can expect deliverables, you’ll feel uneasy. It’s hard to quantify good communication skills from an early interview, but be sure you are comfortable with and can talk to your point person at the firm. During your fact finding the folks at the firm should respond to emails promptly and answer the phone (or at least return messages). Decide if you like the way they communicate with you, the language they use and the patience they show. To avoid uncertainties, we strongly recommend that the firm you hire provides a project calendar. The calendar should follow the process that was discussed and highlight due dates. This will eliminate confusion and keep the project on schedule.
Experience matters. You want to hire a firm with a robust portfolio because they’ve likely experienced and overcome common pitfalls. Whether or not the firm has worked in your industry is less important, however. A well rounded firm has probably worked for several industries, yet it’s not their job to know your business better than you. Instead, the web design firm should have a process that will help them understand your business and industry. The web design firm is in the business of developing websites. A good website comes from a deep understanding of your company’s target audience, product, goals, mission, values, message and aesthetic preferences.
Ask For References
Use references as a last step to confirm what you already learned through the interview process. In other words, don’t make a decision based on references alone. If the proposal is clear and you like what you’ve heard from the firm, call their references for confirmation. Ask the references about the great things the firm provided and what might have been challenging through the process. You may be able to avoid conflicts and complications by asking the right questions.