Websites for growing businesses

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo: Choosing the Right Web Design Firm

Deciding Which Door to Choose 2How daunting it must be to hire a web design firm. The industry is awash with creatives and techies who speak a mysterious language mostly filled with acronyms.

HTML5 – CSS3 – SEO – PHP – SEO – ASP – XHTML – XML – JPEG – GIF – PNG – JQuery – PSD – PDF – WordPress – SQL – JavaScript – JAVA – AJAX – WML – DOM – DHTML – ADO – SOAP – RSS – .Net – W3C – SVG

What the …. huh?

Seriously, I’ve been working in the industry for almost 12 years, and I don’t even know what a few of the above acronyms mean. How is the average business owner supposed to know?

The truth is that the average business owner doesn’t need to know her HTML from her XML to hire a company that will create a hard-working website for her business. She does, however, need to determine which criteria she will use when shopping for web design services.

Comparing two web design firms is not like comparing apples to apples. No two web design companies work using the same processes, provide the same services, or produce results of the same quality. She needs to know what she wants her website to do for her business and find a web design firm that she can trust to make that happen.

So, how do you choose between web design firms?

You start by doing your homework. To hire the right web design firm, you must define your expectations for both them and for your website.

  1. Determine your budget –  Cost should never be the sole deciding factor when hiring a web design firm. However, you should know what you’re willing to pay for what you want to get before you start making comparisons.
  2. When is your deadline? – If you need a new website launched in less than two weeks, that will drastically narrow the pool of web design firms that can work with you. Many companies can’t even start a new project within two weeks because of their current work load. When vetting web design companies, be clear about your deadline for launching the website. Ask for a project schedule or time frame for launch.
  3. Figure out who will do the hard stuff – You’re hiring somebody to handle the technical stuff and the design stuff, right? That’s a no-brainer. But have you stopped to ask yourself who will do the copywriting? Get clear about whether you want to write the copy yourself or you expect the web design firm to have a professional web copywriter on staff. (Hint, hint. Unless you’re a writer, plan to hire this out.)
  4. Do you want to work with a web marketing company, or do you just need someone to implement your own vision for your website? – Some web design firms will help you figure out your branding and marketing strategy, and some will not. Determine which kind of company you need before you start comparison shopping.
  5. What are your expectations for the website post-launch? – Unfortunately, websites start to degrade the minute they are launched. The content becomes obsolete, technology moves forward, and design trends can make your website seem outdated. What is your plan for the future of your website? Do you need a sustainable content strategy to ensure that the information on your site stays fresh? Do you expect the web design firm that you hire to make changes to your website, or do you expect to be able to make updates yourself through some type of content management system (CMS)? Who will perform the upgrades on your CMS, your blogging software or your shopping cart software?
  6. Do you need customers and prospects to find you via the search engines? – Unless your website is optimized for the search engines, like Google, your target audience is likely to find your competitors before they find you. If this is important to you, be sure to find a company that offers search engine optimization (SEO) services.

What criteria would you recommend for choosing between web design firms? Add it to the comments below.

Creative Commons License photo credit: hang_in_there

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