The process of selecting a web design vendor is much like that of hiring a new employee. You can’t afford to take shortcuts or just assume they are qualified to do the work. You need to ask probing questions, get references and make sure they have the skill set and follow-through to get the job done right. This article will address things you should look out for when getting website bids. Keep these questions in mind to avoid the most common pitfalls and choose the right vendor.
Do they have experience?
One of the most important questions you can ask a prospective web designer is, “How many years of experience do you have?” A great follow-up question would be, “Is building websites your full-time career, or something you do on the side?” Hobbyists are a dime-a-dozen in the field of web design. You should only work with a serious expert that has a wealth of experience and who will devote adequate time and energy to your project.
Are they a professional?
Anybody with the right software can build a website, but it takes a professional to produce an effective site that yields a high return on your investment. Find out if the company you’re talking to is accredited by the BBB. Locate their BBB Reliability Report to see how many complaints are on their record. If they have any complaints do the research necessary to determine if they been resolved satisfactorily.
Another important consideration is whether or not they use a service contract. As nice as it would be to operate merely on a handshake and a smile, that’s not a good business decision when outsourcing web development services. It is important that your project be thoroughly documented, that you clearly understand the business policies and procedures of your vendor, and that they be provided in writing. You can expect a professional web design company use a contract. Having such an agreement protects you just as much as it does them.
How do they prepare a quote?
Most web designers prepare quotes without enough information to bid the job accurately. They ask a few general questions then put together an estimate based on a guess of how much time will be required. The problem with this method is you don’t have any guarantee that the price quoted is firm. In most cases it isn’t because their bid was prepared with an incomplete understanding of what the client needs. During production — when the web developer discovers what the client actually wants — more hours are required than originally estimated. The end result is a higher price tag and a frustrated client.
Bids based on an hourly estimate may initially come in lower, but they will almost always end up costing more in the end. A much better way to estimate is to conduct a thorough needs assessment up-front and quote the work with a flat, fixed bid. Because the estimate is based on the scope of work you know your exact costs and there aren’t any surprises.
Are they actually doing the work?
It is common for companies (especially advertising and marketing “agencies”) to claim that they offer web design services when they are actually just a broker which outsources that portion of the project. You should always ask if the people doing the production work will be employees or subcontractors.
If they are outsourcing the work you should be aware of the following:
- Any time there is a middleman there is also a high probability of miscommunication and resulting frustration.
- You will always pay more than going direct because of the markup involved.
- The project will probably take longer than it should because of all the extra people involved.
Do they do quality work?
As with any service-based business there are varying degrees of quality in the field of web design and development. Your website is the first impression most of your prospective customers will have of your business. For this reason it is vitally important that it represent your company with style. Make sure that the caliber of work done by your web design vendor is of the best quality. Ask to see their portfolio if it’s not plainly visible on their site and spend time reviewing it. Do their websites look like the work of a professional or an amateur? Do their sites work properly and look good in each of the major web browsers?
Will they provide you with references?
Always ask for references & actually follow-up on them. Interview those they have done business with by asking the following questions:
- How well and often did they communicate with you during the production process?
- Are they reachable, responsive and courteous?
- Did they talk over your head or were they able to explain things in a way you could understand?
- Did they honor their word and deliver what they promised in the timeline you agreed upon?
- Did they provide service and support after the website was finished?
What happens after the website is finished?
A quality web design company should want to provide good service long after the site has been completed. Ask about their hourly rate for maintenance and if they have minimums. Will they allow you to make your own content changes? If so what training and ongoing support, if any, do they provide? What is their policy regarding technical support if you need help down the road? An effective website requires regular maintenance and content updates. Your vendor should be as enthusiastic about supporting the site after it’s completed as they are about building it.
In conclusion, remember that choosing a website design vendor is an important decision that should not be taken lightly. Investing time up-front will save you many hours of frustration and lots of money in the long run. Make sure that each vendor bidding on your project is of equal professional caliber. Choosing a company to work with based solely on price is a mistake. An effective, quality website will yield such a high ROI that the up-front investment will be well worth it.
Contact us today for information about how we can help make your business more successful using the Internet.