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Choosing An Effective Web Design Company
Here's the scenario...
..You're a business person, you know all there is to know about your industry and your products. You felt the time was right to expand your business by harnessing the power of the internet. You know that with the tools available today, just about anyone can throw together a website, however, you also know that there are many issues and pitfalls that can turn a good idea into a complete disaster... time to call in the professionals.
But here's the problem...
There are hundreds of them!!! Prices range from £50 to £5000 for seemingly the same product, there are big companies, small companies and freelancers all selling web design services. Your friends grandson who just left kindergarten can do you a good deal if you're prepared to pay in cash.
In my opinion, if you are going to buy something...anything...you need to have a basic understanding of the issues surrounding it: The good points, the bad points. Acceptable and unacceptable concessions. Consequences and benefits. In this article, we are going to attempt to show you how to avoid getting ripped off by providing you with the necessary understanding required when choosing a web designer. Once you have read and inwardly digested the contents of this article, you should be confident that the web design company you choose will build you a web site that will fulfil the vision that you have for it.
Step 1: Choose a Few Reputable Web Design Firms
The first step when choosing a web design company is to shortlist a number of prospects. The best method possible is to choose a selection of companies based on personal recommendation. Many business people know other business people who can supply referrals. Given the benefit a well developed web site can have on your business, it is well worth taking the time to tap into your network of contacts to get the name of 3 or 4 satisfactory web design companies to choose from.
In the event that this doesn't work for you, use a local directory, the internet or a newspaper to make a list of potential web designers. (Remember that anyone can pay an internet marketing firm to get them at the top of a search engine such as Google so a company's ranking does not mean that they are capable of delivering a good solution.)
Step 2: Check Out the Web Design Companies Own Web Site
It stands to reason that if a company is capable of creating workable web sites or solutions then its own site should be beyond reproach, so take a look at their own web site as well as a couple of sites from their portfolio, if portfolio items are not available, simply e-mail them and ask.
The Design of the Web Site
The following are a number of things to look for when choosing a web design company from your shortlist:-
Are there apparent errors (spelling errors, missing pictures, broken links etc.)?
Attention to detail is vital in web design. What you see on a web page is the result of a great deal of complex interaction beneath the surface. If that which is visible is full of errors, it stands to reason that the same level of care has been taken over the code which makes the site function. Spelling and grammatical errors will harm your credibility and a dysfunctional web site will frustrate your audience.
Can You Easily Find the Information You Are Looking For?
This is critical. If you find yourself on a web site, the chances are you were looking for something in particular. Ensure that the elements of the designer's web site are easy to find. Check that you are able to quickly and easily spot the contents of the pages and move freely between pages.
Other design considerations are as follows:-
- Is the text clear and easy to read?
- Are the pages uncluttered and easy on the eye?
- Are there elements such as excessive animation distracting the user from the main text?
- Does the site appear quickly?
- Does the colour scheme and design fit in with the brand of the company (take the logo as a benchmark)?
The Technical Bits
Now this is important! Why?
First, because there is legislation in both the UK, the US and a variety of European countries that requires your site be accessible to disabled users. Failure to adhere to this will result in your having to hire a third party company to re-code and possibly redesign your entire web site.
Secondly, if your web site is not coded using standards (set by the www council) it may not function correctly when viewed by different people using different equipment.
Finally, it is a well known time-proven fact that if your visitor is kept waiting more than 10 seconds for a web page to appear, they will move on.
SO HOW DO I TELL ?!
I hear you cry in desperation! Well, you don't need to be a geek or even know the first thing about web design, html or programming. All you need are the addresses of a couple of useful websites and an explanation of how to use the tools found there. A web page has been created for your convenience that contains links to these sites and detailed instructions on how to use the tools provided and evaluate the results. The link appears at the foot of this page.
It should be noted that evaluating these elements will give you some idea of the technical ability of your chosen web site design companies. There are many many more issues that a web site designer should be aware of, and in fact should take care of without you even knowing about it. The points listed here are, in our opinion, those that will have the greatest impact on your business and are so often ignored by less scrupulous web design companies.
Step 3: Contact the Web Design Firms
Now you should have pretty much narrowed down the possibilities you can go ahead and get in touch. Most companies will jump at the chance to talk to you and convince you of their product offerings. However, what you are interested in are the facts, not the sales pitch.
You have already established their design and technical capabilities, now you are interested in their ability to fulfil your needs and provide you with efficient service. Ask for some references from their most recent projects. Ask for the web addresses, contact names, details and completion dates. In approaching them in this way you ensure that you're not getting the one or two satisfied clients that they have serviced in the past, you are getting up to date clients and up to date projects.
Once you have their details, call the referees. The following are some idea's of the kind of information you might want to extract from these people:-
Verify the details you have been given in respect to project completion dates.
Find out about the quality of service the client received
Ask how able the web design company was in establishing and anticipating the needs of their client.
Discuss deadlines and timely delivery
Try to establish how effective the site has been in achieving the original goals of the client
Ask if the client has any complaints
Don't be afraid to speak frankly, whether satisfied with the service or not, most people are happy to be given the opportunity to sing praises or vent frustrations.
Step 4: The End
Well, having done all of this you should have a pretty good idea which company is going to provide a solution that's going to work for you. It may seem like a lot of work, but not only are you about to part with a substantial sum of money, but if the web site you receive doesn't do its job properly, you could well be missing out on new business or worse still convincing potential clients to go elsewhere.
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