We’ve all been there. We’re excited about building our new website, thinking it will bring us new customers and take our business forward. That enthusiasm however quickly fades after working with a web design company that is slow to respond, difficult to communicate with and doesn’t deliver on promises made.
Worse yet if you try and take your business elsewhere this same company makes your life miserable. They hold your domain name hostage, won’t turn over certain materials produced (without an additional fee) or even grant you ownership to a website you already paid for.
This is known as “website regret” of wasting thousands of dollars on a web company with little or nothing to show for it. It happens more often than it should and you can easily find yourself in the same boat.
Sadly, the web design industry ranks up there with mechanics in trying to milk every penny from their customers. This is due to their clients lack of knowledge on the subject matter and trusting nature towards “experts” they believe have their best interests.
For this reason, do your research and have the proper information in front of you before hiring anyone. These are some simple tips that will help you choose the right option for your business with full confidence in your decision.
1. Ask for References – Just like you would for a job interview, ask your potential web designer if you can speak to their previous clients. A legit agency will welcome the chance to have their customers sing their praises. If your met with resistance or excuses however instead there’s probably a bad reason why.
2. Read Testimonials & Reviews – Does the web company your dealing with have a testimonials page that’s easy to find on their website? Are their Facebook or Google reviews linked to real people that can be found easily through an online search? Pay attention to not only what reviews say but where they are coming from.
3. Ask For A Contract – It’s always smart to get something in writing. Your web company should provide you a contract that details price, services agreed upon and completion dates. If you don’t have a signed agreement in place you’re taking a big gamble on what final product you’ll receive.
4. Study Their Portfolio – Take a good look through your potential web company’s online portfolio. Do they have a lot of work? Have they built websites that you’d be excited about for your own business? Also ask if they’ve worked with any clients in your industry or have any other relevant experience.
5. Ask How Long Have They Been Around – Unfortunately web design is one of the top fly-by-night businesses today, due largely to low overhead costs. You don’t want to be stuck working with people who are “learning as they go” with your money. Ask how many years they’ve been around and check how long their website has been active.
6. What is Their Response Time – This is a big one. When you first engage with your future web company how quickly do they get back to you? Are they helpful and easy to communicate with or is it frustrating to get any type of response. If the answer is the latter things will likely get worse once you’re fully committed.
7. What Skills Do You Require – Web developers are not always a jack of all trades, they may specialize in some areas and have limited experience in others. Ask yourself what the top priorities of your website and does your web company have the skills to deliver. Don’t simply take their word for it either, ask to see specific examples when possible.
8.What’s Their Social Status – It goes without saying most successful businesses today are active on social media, especially companies that specialize in online marketing. If you find your web company’s social media pages are largely inactive it’s probably a red flag. This is likely a result of laziness, lack of interest and lack of results.
9. Read Their Blog – If there’s one place the showcases the true expertise of a business it’s the quality of their blog. A good blog is typically loaded with helpful content that provides valuable information to its customers. If the blog posts however are lacking in detail or read like they were written by a high school student beware.
10. Do They Charge A Flat Rate or Hourly – Most web design companies offer flat rates except in very unique circumstances. If a company insists on billing you hourly you’re at their mercy with the time and money it takes to complete the job. Charging by the hour is ok for updates or maintenance but those are the only exceptions to the rule.
11. What’s Their Marketing Expertise – It’s nice to have a great looking website but it will eventually need to do more than that. You should have some idea what your web company’s marketing capabilities are and if they can bring traffic to your website. Whether it’s through blogging, online ads, social media or SEO understand how your site will you make money once it’s online.
12. Trust Your Gut – This is another big one. You should know pretty quickly if the web agency you’re dealing with gives off a good vibe or an uncomfortable feeling. Do the people you’re talking to feel trustworthy and have they given you the proper info to make an informed decision? If your answer is no or even “not sure” it’s probably best to move on.
13. What Process Do They Implement – Your web designers should be able to explain the process or building a website from start to finish…along with all the steps in between. Project benchmarks should be laid out clearly along with when you should expect each part of the project to be finished.
14. Can You Update Your Website – Most websites today implement some sort of content management system that allows you to do simple updates independently. You want control over simple things like editing text or changing images without an updating fee. You also don’t want to wait weeks for website changes that may only take you a couple minutes otherwise.
15. Get Ownership Details in Writing – Once your website is done do you become the full and sole owner? Are you allowed to work with other web designers for future work or only them exclusively? Also ask the tough question of what happens if you part ways and what your rights are.
16. Be Prepared to Spend A Little – Everyone wants to save a buck, and there’s no doubt web design services can be pricey. That being said you buy a 50 inch 4K TV over a 20 inch tube television not because it’s cheaper but because its value is far greater. “You get what you pay for” is a saying that applies to web design industry more than most.
17. Understand The Costs – Make sure you fully understand what the short and long term costs of your website will be. After your website launches what are the fees needed to maintain it. Is there a charge for tech support if your site crashes? What about if your emails stop working? Get a rough idea of what you could be paying if the worst case scenario occurs.
18. Ask For A Proposal – For larger websites requesting a proposal that outlines all specific details of the job is probably a good idea. This should be a document that you can review with your team and learn your web company’s gameplan in advance. Some may charge you for this, others may not. Either way having a blueprint to work off of will make the process run much smoother.
19. How Does Payment Work – You should find out how you will be billed, what methods of payment are available and when you should expect to receive invoices. Will you be required to provide your credit card information and are you comfortable doing so? Get these details up front to avoid an unpleasant surprise later.
20. Shop Around – Take the time to explore your options, don’t get lazy about seeing what’s out there. It might be tempting to hire a university student or the random company you found on Facebook but but that can (and often does) backfire. You’re better off getting at least three quotes from legitimate sources and weighing the pros and cons of each.
Remember taking the time to choose the right web design company for your company can mean the difference between gaining more business or losing business you already have. Worse yet you may be forced to switch web design agencies and having to repeat this whole process all over again. Good luck!
Jeff Moyer – Professional Web Developer & Blogger
Jeff is the owner of Advance Web Solutions a web development and digital marketing company based in Calgary, Canada. He has worked over 10+ years in the web design industry and blogged for several high profile websites. To contact Jeff regarding any web related services please visit our website or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.