Deciding on a web design agency to work with is not an easy task. I'd always advise a meeting before making any final decisions, preferably face to face, but if logistics don't work a conference call can work.
If you follow some of this advice you can really have a successful meeting:
Thoroughly research the company you are meeting. Make sure you've looked at the company's website and they have a portfolio of work which, one, you like and, two, similar to the type of website you want. Also, make sure you look at any reviews posted. If there's anything controversial, make a note to discuss with them as you want to hear their side too.
Decide what your primary goal for your website is. Is it to gather more leads? Is it to provide specific functionality? Is it to reach a wider audience, potentially through paid campaigns?
Have an idea of what you want to spend. Be realistic. If you walk into a web design meeting with a budget of £500 for a website like the BBC, you will struggle to be taken seriously.
An initial meeting is all about getting to know each other. It's kind of like an interview - the company will be considering whether they are a good fit for you as well as you for them.
Its all about investigating and finding out more. Web design companies will have had hundreds of these meetings, so they will be well versed on what they need to get from you so you should expect a lot of questions about you, your business, your customers, your product or service, what requirements you have for the website etc. Your previous research will be invaluable here in enabling you to answer the questions accurately. You should also expect to receive guidance and advice from the company. They may question your reasoning for certain functionality and as the experts, you should expect a challenge or discussion where their expertise is at odds with your requests.
From your side of things, this may be the first time you've ever had this type of meeting so you need to make sure you get the important things from them too.
Asking questions is key to getting the most out of this meeting, though you can always follow up after. Here are just some of the types of questions you should be asking are:
- Do you design bespoke websites or use pre-made templates? (The reason for asking this is to establish whether your website will be truly unique or not. Most companies will offer both, with the latter being the cheaper option.)
- How much of the website will I be able to edit myself?
- Can you describe the process to me?
- How will my project be managed?
- How much involvement will I have?
- What are the typical timescales for a website build like mine?
- How do you price this type of project and what are your payment terms?
- What ongoing costs are there?
- How are changes dealt with?
- Can I speak to one of your recent clients?
- How soon can you get started?
If you ask just some of these questions, you'll begin to get a good understanding of the company you are meeting and get a feel for whether they are a good fit for you.
Having had a meeting like this, a web design company will be in a much better place to give you a cost and an estimated timescale for your website build.
Depending on how complex your requirements are, I would expect them to follow up within a week. If not they should have set your expectations when leaving the meeting so if you don't hear from them when you expect to, warning bells should start to ring.
No matter what happens and whoever you choose, make sure you get a contract so everything is written down before starting the project. This should include detail on the main requirements, cost and payment terms to protect both you and the company involved.
I still meet clients today who have just verbal agreements with web designers, have laid out funds and not received the product and service they expected. This uncertainty can easily be avoided if you have a written and signed contract.
In summary, don't let meeting a design agency be an intimidating process, go prepared and don't be pushed into making decisions before you're ready. Think it through and take your time as the impact of a wrong choice at the beginning, could cost you dearly.
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