While the internet has been around for quite some time, the need for web design and development service is stronger than ever. With more and more people getting online each day, there is an ever growing pie for business who want to take their operations online. This increased demand means an increase in supply of web design and development service businesses, which can mean a business owner can get dizzy just looking at all the vendors out there.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you cut through the noise. Today we’re going to talk about what you need to know about web design and development providers so that you can make an informed decision for your business. By the time you’re done with this article you will have a good idea of what you’re looking for so that you can feel confident when choosing between the numerous firms that offer web design services.
The Basics – What Exactly Do Web Design and Development Firms Do?
Fifteen years ago it was enough for a web design firm to know just some html and css to get the job done. Toss in some rudimentary Photoshop skills, and you had yourself a full feature web development house. Fast forward to today, and that isn’t the case anymore. Web development and design have grown in functionality and design requirements, with a corresponding increase in complexity. This means that a developer has to have a broad and simultaneously deep skill set to produce professional websites. As such, it’s never recommended that you attempt to design a website on your own. If you’re a business owner this is certain to be a waste of time. Simply outsource and move on with growing your business.
So what does the modern web design and development business do? Ideally, they will help you with all stages of the process. They will help with the design, feature definition, planning, design and development, testing and debugging, and the marketing. This is a lot to manage, so you need to be careful which firms you pick. But don’t worry, we’re in your corner.
Step zero in this entire process is knowing what your budget is going to look like. High quality web design and development services aren’t cheap, so you need to make sure you can pay for the level of quality you are going to need. If you don’t have the money to pay for a professional then there are some other options you can consider. You could set up a simple Word Press site, but this is going to have limited functionality. If all you need is brand awareness, it may very well be OK. You could also hire a freelancer to do the task. This will be less expensive, but one person won’t be able to provide everything you may want. It’s a trade off, but you should at least be aware it is an option.
Honestly, though, if you are committed to being in business for the long haul your best bet is to find a professional web designer to handle the job for you. Beg, borrow, or steal to get the funds together to make it happen. In the long run the cost is going to amortize out and the value provided will be huge.
What to Look For in a Web Design and Development Service
One of the first things that you want to do is make sure they have some credentials. Just like with many other industries, there are quite a few people out there selling snake oil. You want to choose a company with a reputation and some references. The best place to start is with your business friends and acquaintances. See who they have used and you can go from there.
If you want to go with a new firm, that’s not something we would advise against strictly. However, you’re going to have to do a little bit more due diligence to make sure they are legit. After all, everybody has to start somewhere, so don’t be too afraid of picking a new development firm. Having no reputation isn’t as bad as having a bad reputation. Keep that in mind.
The first quality you want to look for is how easy they are to get ahold of. Responsiveness, in other words. If they aren’t responsive to you at the beginning of the sales process, this is a red flag. As you are probably aware, a business will usually spend the most amount of time with you before you make the purchase. Of course, the best businesses provide great follow up, but that’s beside the point. If the company doesn’t return your calls or emails, you should move on.
Be ruthless with your insistence on responsiveness. If there is a problem with your website your business is losing money by the minute, so the faster the web developer responds the less damage to your business.
One of the most critical skills you need to look for has nothing to do with web development. I am talking about interpersonal skills. It doesn’t matter if the developer is one with the machines if they are a pain in the neck or a diva. If you can’t stand to interact with them, you are better off moving on. Remember, you are entering into a business relationship so be careful who you pick.
One thing that may look like a lack of interpersonal skills, but is actually an asset for a developer, is the ability to talk you out of unreasonable requests or bad decisions. A good web developer won’t just let you give her a wish list and then give you a quote. They will enter into a discussion around your business to see which features suit your needs and help guide you to the best possible functionality to support your business. You are simply going to have to accept they are the experts at web design and development, and you are not. That means you need to trust their judgement. You want to find developers that have the courage to stand up to your unreasonable demands and rein you in to reality.
If the firm is local, then make a visit to their local office. This will tell you a lot about their operation. Is their staff friendly and inviting? Or is their staff disorganized and something out of a Mad Max film? The chances are high that if their staff is miserable then you will be too. Don’t neglect your gut instincts on this point.
Another point of consideration is the breadth of their services. Can they handle marketing, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and mobile development? It’s always best to have a one stop shop for your web design, development, and marketing needs. If they don’t, find out what their weaknesses are and who else you would have to contract with. Or you can simply choose another provider.
One word of caution. As we talked about in our article on search engine optimization, there is a lot of snake oil out there. You want to be sure that if the firm practices SEO, they are using white hat techniques that won’t get you banned from the major search engines.
Another hallmark of a professional and trustworthy firm is their contract. While it is a pain to read through several pages of legalese, it’s really for your own benefit. You don’t want any misunderstandings regarding their responsibilities, and neither do they. One thing you may not have previously considered is ownership. You may take it for granted that you own the website, but do you really? Do you own the domain, design, and all other assets? Do you have access to the web server in case you want to make a backup or upload a blog post? All of these things need to be clearly spelled out, so insist on a highly detailed and lengthy contract so there are no surprises down the line.
The final piece of the puzzle is service after the sale. Many firms may be quite skilled in the realm of development but lack salesmanship and will completely neglect you after the fact. Take a look at their list of clients. How many of them have done repeat business? Are all of them one and done jobs? If possible, contact them to see how the after sale service is. This is one factor that can and should be a deal breaker. As we said earlier, it’s a long term relationship so you want to be sure the web developer is going to hold up their end of the bargain.
The need for a feature rich and professional website is greater than ever. With more and more firms moving their operations online every day, a huge number of web design and development firms have sprung up. Separating the bad from the good from the great is a time consuming process. We have given you a series of guidelines that will help you to navigate the process with confidence.
Make sure you can engage in a long term relationship with the web design and development company. Central to that is going to be how they treat you (i.e. how responsive they are) as well as how they treat their staff. You can find out this latter bit of information by visiting their operation. If they don’t respond to your emails or phone calls before the sale, their after sales service is going to be awful. Likewise for how they treat their employees. If their employees look emotionally battered, then you can expect to have a bad time.
If possible pick a firm that can help with not only the design and development but also planning and marketing of your website. This is going to save you the time of shopping around for multiple vendors and simplify your life greatly.
Always insist on a clear and lengthy contract. You want to know precisely what you are getting into and what to expect in the event that you decide to part ways. You don’t want to find things out the hard way, so be sure to insist on this up front.
Take a look at their track record for repeat sales to get an idea for their after sales service. If they have a string of new customers but no repeat business, this could be a bad sign. Sure they may have fired some bad clients, but not every client is going to be bad.
So there you have it. That’s our guide for choosing the best web design and development firm for your business. We hope it has been helpful.
See you all in the next article!