In the interests of full disclosure, I should begin by saying that we are a web design firm, here at Haden Interactive, and we would love to build your website. Call us at 479.966.9761 if you need some immediate assistance.
However, I also think I can give you some unbiased advice on this matter, because as a web content writer I have worked with a lot of web firms, and with a lot of clients who have hired design firms and been happy or sad about it.
Often, these clients have chosen their designer in a fairly random fashion. I was amazed, when Julianne did some research for us a couple of years ago, that the most common way local businesses found a web designer was by asking their computer repair guys — even if that meant the guy from the phone company who came to fix their internet connection.
This is not necessarily a good method.
Now, instead of the three companies that were in existence when I started working in this field, there are literally hundreds of web designers in the town where I live. Even if you make a good start by Googling “web designer,” how can you tell which one is the best fit for you?
Consider these questions:
- Do you like the look of their websites? A web design firm will normally have a portfolio that shows screenshots of websites they’ve made. If you don’t think they’re attractive, you probably won’t be happy with the firm’s design for you.
- Do their websites function well? A designer might actually do nothing more than install a WordPress theme or launch a site that’s no more than a brochure on the web. Check the usability of the sites and see whether it’s easy to use the search function, whether the navigation works smoothly, and whether you can do things with the site. Pretty is as pretty does, when it comes to modern websites.
- Are their websites standards compliant? Ask. If they don’t know what you mean or they say it doesn’t matter, go elsewhere.
- How’s their content? Unless you are a web content writer with good knowledge of modern SEO, you need help on the content for your website. If the designer you’re considering doesn’t offer that, keep looking (or you can call Haden Interactive).
These are questions about the quality of the product. That’s essential — but it’s not everything. Consider these points as well:
- Do they treat you with respect? Plenty of good designers feel that clients are a nuisance. You don’t want to be one of those nuisances, do you? Your web professionals should not make you feel stupid and they should not be hard to get through to. They should answer phone calls, respond to emails, and show up for meetings on time. The time when a web design shop was such a rare thing that the owners could be prima donnas is past.
- Is the price right? Let’s be honest: good designers don’t have to work for peanuts, so they don’t. A rock bottom price can often mean that you’re working with someone who doesn’t have the level of skill you want. But you also need something that can fit in your budget. People often go into discussions about web design with no idea what a site will cost — five dollars? five hundred thousand dollars? who knows? Think about the budget in comparison with a magazine ad (though your website will be up 24/7 for years) or a TV ad campaign.
- Does their time schedule fit yours? Many web design companies are scheduled out months into the future. Ask for a deadline and milestones and consider whether they can realistically meet your needs.
These questions really only apply to custom design firms. You can’t apply these criteria to GoDaddy, and you shouldn’t expect to. These are reasonable expectations for a web firm you hire.
I think one of the best ways to choose a web design company is to look at other sites they have done so that you can get a look and feel for how they design to see if it’s something you would like for your own site.
That can be very useful. Some companies have a very characteristic style, though, and others (like ours) are more responsive to clients’ differences. We don’t have a Haden Interactive Look, so while our sites certainly show the quality of our work, they show a range of styles.