When shopping around for a professional website development company you’ll come across lots of web design portfolios, some good some bad, but that’s just a starting point. There are some critical things that can really make or break your website design project. Just because a company has a beautiful portfolio doesn’t mean you should start signing contracts and writing checks. Here are a five questions you should ask any web designer, small or large before you give the green light:
1. What is your design philosophy for my project?
When a web design company considers your project they should have a preliminary plan, outline, and a good idea of your target market. If you’re looking for a website that’s going to expand your brand awareness and help sell your office furniture, you probably don’t want to hear “Well first we’re going to start with a sweet animated laser light show…”. Your prospective web design agency’s design philosophy has to match your overall goal. Ask what colors they plan to use, how they will present your content, and where the menu will be. You don’t necessarily need a mockup to decide whether you and the designer are on the same page.
2.Can you describe your ideal client?
This is important. If you’re the type of person who knows exactly what you want and the designer tells you they prefer artistic freedom, there’s trouble ahead. Our ideal client is someone who has a general idea of what they want, is open to suggestions & feedback, and can make solid decisions after being presented with viable options and information.
3.Can you give me some examples of similar sites you’ve done?
Most web developers are going to go on and on about how they can easily handle your project and have experience to back it up. However, ask this question and see what kind of sites you get back. If you’re a car dealership looking for an auto dealership website design and you get examples of flower shop sites, beware.
4.Can you give me some references?
This is a funny one. I say this because it’s actually a question we get quite often, but when we provide the clients not many people actually contact them! Just because a web design company provides you clients doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone on that list is happy. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from previous clients. It’s not always “dirt” you’re looking for. Sometimes it’s just helpful to know something like “Make sure you have your text written ahead of time or it might stall the project”.
5.Where will you develop this site?
Usually we develop websites on our own “staging” servers until launch time. However some developers will start asking you for FTP information or who your web host is. If you don’t know or aren’t ready this can stall the project.
Bonus! – What do you expect from me?
You wouldn’t believe how easy it is for web design agencies to forget that you don’t know everything about the web development process. We do this all the time and things can become routine. I hear collegues and fellow web agency owners complain all the time about how “the client didn’t even have their content written yet” or “they don’t even have a domain name yet”. My response is usually “did you tell them they were supposed to have that ready?”. To some, having a website created means making a design and integrating their professionally written text and in-house product photos. To others it means registering the domain name, setting up a hosting account, bringing in a writer, and designing their logo. Both you and the web design company need to be on the same page when it comes to who is responsible for what or there can be a complete project melt down. And, if you’re not sure get it in writing!.
We hope that this will help you make an educated decision on what web development company you choose. And, if for whatever reason it isn’t us, as long as you do your homework and ask the right questions you’re sure to find a good company. There are plenty of good website design firms out there, the trick is weeding through all the crap to find them!