I was pondering the other day on just how hard it would be to choose a web design company if I wasn't in the industry. I’ve been a digital project manager for over 10 years so know a bit about websites and I have lot of techie friends. But what if I didn’t? Where would I start?
A Google search throws up all kinds of products, companies, prices but not a lot of information on what is reputable and what isn’t. I’ve spoken to numerous people that have had bad experiences with their website designer and whilst the industry does seem saturated with providers, quality local web designers seem few and far between.
So, what would our advice be?
First and foremost, get recommendations, ask friends, acquaintances, other business owners what experience they have and who they used. Who was good and who wasn’t. Posting the question on Facebook or LinkedIn is also a good idea, be ready for the deluge of names and messages which may then follow though.
Once you get some names, google them - look at their websites, see if they have any reviews, look at their portfolio of work and if you like what you've found, contact them to find out more. Choose a few to contact so you can compare and contrast the approach they take and the costs they give you. Make sure you’re noting which ones come back to you promptly and courteously. For ones you really like, ask them to provide a name of a current or recent client you can talk to direct.
A reputable company will definitely want to talk to you and a face to face meeting is best to talk about your needs and requirements as well as to explain their process to you. They will encourage you to talk about your business, your customers and your own personal likes and ideas. From this meeting, you’ll get a good gauge as to whether your personalities will fit and how professional, as well as friendly, they are.
When it comes to costs, you will find a vast range from £199 to costs in the thousands for website builds. If someone can sell you a £300 website, even, £500, without actually knowing what you want, I would be dubious. Whilst as a small business, you always need to keep costs down, cheaper is not always better. Cheaper often means there will be hidden costs along the way or it’s a template like thousands of other sites or it’s a one man band, who may or may not be here in 6 months or may be too busy to answer your questions. Although this may not always be the case, no matter who you pick, before any work is commenced, agree a fixed price and what you're getting for that price, in advance, in writing.
Most reputable web companies will have a set of terms and conditions for you to review and sign to protect both you and the web company alike.
Another important point to consider before commissioning anyone is payment. If a company asks for payment in advance be very cautious. Most companies offer some type of split payment, for example 40% in advance, 30% when the website is ready for first review and the remainder when the website is live. Make sure when you read the terms and conditions you specifically check the payment requirements if anything goes wrong, on either side.
And finally, what does your gut say? There’s a lot to be said for instinct and if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and you can find someone else that does feel right.
In summary, although choosing a company to build or refresh your website is potentially a daunting task, if you ask yourself these questions you should avoid any problems:
- Have I got a recommendation for this company?
- Have they got a website, a portfolio of work and do I like it?
- Are there any negative reviews on social media?
- Do they respond quickly? Do they seem friendly?
- How long have they been around?
- How many people make up the company?
- Will they provide a fixed cost? Are there any other potential costs?
- Do they require full payment in advance?
- Does it feel right?