In this series we have covered what a website should cost and why the costs very so much from company to company. Now lets talk about how to choose the best web design company. Not the best design company for you (I hate those articles that end with the same old "ultimately it is up to you" crapola), but flat out how to choose the best design company period.
The funny thing is that ultimately it really is not up to you to decide.
The best web design firm meets the following requirements every time no matter what you need or who you are:
- They ask what your goals are
If they don't know what your goals are, how can the site they create meet them? If you don't know what your website goals are, how will you know it is working? And don't fall for traffic goals. Its easy to get traffic and even easier to make an analytics report look amazing. Ask yourself "why do I need a website" and go from there, then you will have an answer if they ask. If they don't ask, don't write a check.
- They will not market for you
Marketing is a specialty. You need a good website so you can market, but you do not need good marketing for a good website if your goals don't include it. If marketing is one of your goals find a marketing specialist that will market with the website that a website specialist built. You wouldn't go to an OBGYN to get new contact lenses would you?
- They will not write your content
Your content is the heart and soul of your website. Unless you are a fortune 500 company, you probably don't have the budget to pay a copywriter what it would cost for content that is authoritative enough for your core site. Don't let cut rate copy kill your site's effectiveness because it was written by someone who knows nothing about your company or your industry.
- They will not hold you hostage
Your website should be your website. Copyrights, proprietary code, long term contracts are all ways that web design firms hold their clients hostage. You should want to stay with your web guys (see what i did there? ;), not be forced to. If you can't take it with you, then don't write a check.
- They have a well defined process
But not too well defined as I mentioned in the previous article. I have seen design firms with 24 step processes to build a website. My goodness, it is a website, not a rocket ship. There needs to be a simple yet well defined process with deadlines in place. The more complicated it is, the more likely they are trying to dazzle you with BS.
That's it! Those are the things that the web design company you work with need to have in place. Notice I did not mention anything about portfolio or design awards or testimonials or years in business or outsourced workers or any of the myriad other straw-man sales tactics you have read on other articles? Did you also notice that we do have all those things at Your-Web-Guys, but I still don't mention them?
The reason why is because those and many other things are simply marketing ploys to get you to think stuff like "yeah, I need to ask for their references" so they can hand you a list of all the happiest customers they have.
Here's a quick list of those straw man sales tactics and why they don't mean a hill of beans in the great scheme of things:
Do you really think they will give you a list of clients who have not had the very best experience? Go through their portfolio online and randomly call some of the folks they have worked for... that'll give you a much better idea of who they really are.
- Award Winning Design:
Do you really think that your site is going to win an award and would you want it to anyway? Your site needs to meet your goals. Unless an award on your wall is a goal then who cares?
- All American Workforce:
Do you really think that they shouldn't use overseas workers if they are high quality talent at rock bottom prices so they can pass the savings on to you? Lets face it, code is code whether you speak English as your first language or not. This does become an issue if you cant communicate with their people, but other than that, the more low cost labor the lower your costs in general.
- Been in business since Al Gore created the Internet:
Have you ever actually checked the registration date of a business to verify that they really have been in business for x number of years? Stability is important, but just cuz they say they have been around forever doesnt mean its true and also doesnt mean they wont close tomorrow. Look instead for how much skin they have in the game... do they have an office you can walk into, do they own their own servers, is the team big enough to take care of your needs?
Remember, this is the WWW; the wild wild west. There are no rules, there is no law, there is only buyer beware. So don't fall for the distractions. Don't let the magician swap the coin on the table while he jingles keys in his other hand. Focus on the things you know you need and keep the project specific to meet your needs. Everything else is just fluff that will either cost you money or cause you heartache.
Obviously we here at Your-Web-Guys think that the answer to the question of this article is a resounding "US!" - we like the way we do things and so do our hundreds of clients. If you would like us to be your-web-guys too, just drop us a line.
And to answer the original question of what should you pay for a website? Of course every project is different, but most of our clients wind up with an initial setup fee between $2000 and $3000* which includes everything they need to be online. We think that is a good price to pay for a website so you get the customer service and the well defined process that we discussed earlier.
After posting this I realized I also didn't mention the no-brainer kind of requirements. My job is to give you new information here, not rehash the same thing everyone else has talked about. But just to make sure, obviously you want:
- up front pricing
- ongoing support and hosting
- an actual office with actual people in it
- a responsive design
- a content management system
- on site SEO
- and a slew of other things
If you don't know what one or more of those are talking about, contact me and I will be happy to give you the lowdown.
* Prices are what the current average is at the time this article was written and are subject to change at any time. For a quote with actual prices for your project please contact Your-Web-Guys for a consultation.