Choosing the right web design company

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say they chose the wrong web desinger, I would be a very rich man. I was speaking with a potential client today and you guessed it, they had really chosen the wrong web designer. I always feel bad for folks who find themselves stuck with a stalled project that isn’t even close to the level of professionalism they had hoped to receive. Especially when I hear how much they’ve invested.

Just like any other industry, there are the good, bad and the ugly in the web design industry. So I thought I would pass on a few suggestions that might help you choose the right designer or design firm for your new web site.

  1. Be very leery of great deals. It takes time to plan, build and optimize a web site that will properly present you or your company and perform well in the search engines. There are of course inexpensive options that will allow you to build your own web site if you want to go down that road, but if you are looking to have someone build a web site for you, plan on spending at least $2,000 for a well built 3-5 page custom web site. Most old timers in this business will tell you that anything less will probably not perform for you and will end up being a lesson learned.
  2. ALWAYS ask to see a portfolio. This will tell you right away of they are experienced, and it will give you an idea of their design capabilities.
  3. Most of us want to take everyone at their word but it’s usually a good idea to randomly call a few of their customers unannounced. If you do this, be fair and call 3 or 4 to get a reasonable sample.
  4. Web design companies, in my opinion are generally a better option than the individual freelance web designer when it comes to a larger web site.  Let me explain because I don’t want to offend my peers out there that are holding down the fort by themselves. What I mean is this: if your web site is going to be a larger web site with flash, many pages of text content, interactive features, databases, and it must also rank well in the search engines; it’s going to be very difficult to find a single person who is well practiced in each area of expertise. A design firm on the other hand will often have copy writers, designers, programmers and SEO / SEM specialists that are very good in their individual area of expertise. If however you feel that your web site is a basic project comparable to most small and mid-sized business web sites, don’t discount the freelance designers. Whichever direction you go, always look over their previous work and check a few references before contracting with a firm or an individual web designer or programmer.
  5. Another tell-tale is how whoever you are considering is equipped to support your web site after it is built. This often gets overlooked by our clients when we first discuss their project. They rarely ask about web hosting or changes to their site. You should expect that you will at some point need to make a change to your web site. So give some thought to the possibility of doing your own updates. If you don’t want to take care of your web site and would prefer support, make sure you choose a person or firm that currently hosts (even if it is through a third party) and manages their current customer’s web sites.
  6. As far as fees go, what you should pay for a quality web site is going to vary. The top level firms in Jacksonville Florida charge between $100 and $150 per hour. You should do what you always do, shop around. This will give you a chance to learn a little about the industry, you’ll be able to see the significant differences in how quotes are written and detailed, and you’ll have the opportunity to review a number of web sites. In the end, you should work with the individual or firm you have the best report with, that seems to have rates in line with other similar options, that has demonstrated the ability to build what you need built, and that gets good marks from current customers.

Check back again later for more on this subject. Unfortunately there is no formula for the choosing the right design firm for your new web site. Web sites are by design as unique as any other totally custom product. So your goal should be to find a person or firm you feel comfortable with and that has a proven track record.

Does Google know about all of your web site’s pages?

This is another one of those things that all of us in the web design industry already know, but for those of you braving the waters of web design for the first time, here’s a helpful tool: If you would like to see which pages of your web site that Google has found or knows of, not evaluated and ranked necessarily. Just the pages Google knows of, perform a Google search with “site:” in front of your whole domain name (site:www.yourdomainname.com). Google will return all of the pages of your web site that it knows of.