Just like choosing a legal or accounting firm, choosing a website designer is no different. There are good firms and not-so-good firms. Speaking to a few prospective suppliers will help you understand who is out there, and what each company offers. You shouldn't be making your decisions solely on price; it's often true that cheap websites end up costing more in the long run.
The difficulty is deciding which one is the right firm for you to create a relationship with. We've created these 13 questions to ask as a way of helping you get better answers and hopefully reduce the stress of choosing a new web designer or digital marketing supplier.
How long have you been in business?
There are some great web design businesses that have been around for only a few years, and others that have been around far longer. Just as you wouldn't leave accounting or legal advice to a brand new start-up, you'll likely want a supplier that has some knowledge and experience under their belts. With a high percentage of businesses failing in their first five years, you want to ensure your supplier will be around after your project; not disappear the second you've paid your last invoice.
How many staff do you have?
There are some great one or two men businesses out there, but there could be an issue with resourcing. What happens if they are sick? What about if they decide to take full time work? A larger firm may not fit your requirements either; if there are dozens of staff, will you be just another number in the system? Finding out how many staff gives you an indication how their business fits in with yours.
Will any part of my project be contracted out to third parties or sub-contractors?
In any project, communication is the key. If the supplier plans to outsource much of your project to third parties, particularly third parties overseas where there may be language or time zone barriers as well, communication may become an issue, and your project could be in jeopardy.
What associations or organisations are you a member of?
Whilst membership of an association isn't a guarantee of quality, it is often found that those with professional memberships have an active interest in education amongst their employees, and an active role within their industry. A supplier who is passionate about their industry and applying their knowledge to your project, means you'll get the same passion applied to your project.
What is the process we go through to create a website?
The answer will give you a good understanding of your involvement, and the work expected of you. An ideal process will see you actively engaged in the process, from creative briefing meetings to reviewing the website before it gets published. If the answer comes across vague or disorganised, perhaps that's a sign of a larger organisational issue with the supplier.
Do you use templates or 'off the shelf' designs?
Whilst great to keep costs down for the web designer, a template or purchased design often means that your website won't be designed with your needs and brand requirements in mind, and will look the same as many other websites across the globe.
Can I meet the team that will be working on my website?
Engaging a firm to create your website is placing your trust in the people within the firm. It is very important that you are able to meet and speak to the designers and developers who will be the ones you are entrusting with your organisations aspirations and brand.
Will my website be built using web standards?
Whilst this may illicit a geeky answer, it's important to understand if the website you'll be getting is best practise. Web standards means that your website will be more accessible, you'll reduce ongoing maintenance costs, it will be more search engine optimised, and will be easier to maintain by other parties in the future. More information can be found at http://www.webstandards.org/learn/articles/web_standards_for_business/
Will my website be built to be device independent?
Often called 'responsive design', the fact is that mobile and tablet devices are quickly gaining on desktop computers as the predominant devices to surf the web. A website which isn't device independent will frustrate users on mobiles or tablets, and may mean losing that important lead or sale. Find out more about this topic at http://mashable.com/2012/12/11/responsive-web-design/
Where will my website be hosted?
The costs of hosting in Australia are far higher than many countries around the world. Whilst it may seem attractive to pay a lot less to have your website hosted elsewhere, will that result in a loading speed issue, or support issues with different languages and time zones? Google also looks at where your website is hosted, to determine how your website should be ranked. A website hosted in your country makes sense for this reason alone.
What are the ongoing costs of having a website?
Whilst it may be hard to judge what the costs are without knowing the level of support you'll require, this is a good question to ask, as you'll get a feel for any ongoing costs, such as domain name, website hosting, support and maintenance. If here's no easy answer - ask for an estimate if you were to ask for ten hours of support or maintenance per year, just to give you a comparison figure.
What other services do you offer?
You may only be interested in website design and development now, however your scope of needs may change over time. Have you thought about domain name registrations, search engine optimisation, social media, etc? It is often better to have one supplier and one person to contact in relation to all of your digital marketing.
Can you guarantee I'll get on page one of Google?
Having a firm offer you a first page guarantee is a sure-fire sign to avoid them! Let's face it, that's a snake oil tactic and isn't considered ethical within our industry. Even Google warns businesses 'Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google.' See http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291 for more information.
There we go - 13 questions to help you decide on your new digital marketing supplier. We encourage you to print a few copies of this post to carry with you when meeting your prospective suppliers. The job of choosing an agency to work with is a difficult one, and we wish you all the best in short-listing and choosing that digital marketing supplier! (Oh, and we'd welcome your enquiry of course!).
Have any questions? We welcome your feedback via our contact form.