This is a series of articles about the web design options available and the cost of good web design.
Small firms or freelancers who don’t have the overhead or depth of a full service firm can be economical and risky at the same time.
I’ve covered this option in a number of articles and I’m always careful not to discredit the small design firm or freelance professional. Back in the beginning we were a small design firm too and without the trust of our clients we would have never grown to the firm we are today. Doing business with a small design firm or freelance design professional is like doing business with any small company. Just do your homework. Look at their portfolio, check at least three references and require a detailed quote and contract that spells out exactly what your web site is to include and who is responsible to do it or provide it.
It’s not a bad idea to have milestones in your agreement with due dates that are tied to payment. Chances are you’ll be fine with a small firm that can prove to you that they are capable of completing your site by showing you other sites they have created (recently), who can provide you with references, and who can demonstrate that their web sites achieve reasonably good rankings in Google.
Things to watch out for would be a very vague or design and development agreement. This is a business deal so insist on a detailed contract. Write your own if you need to. Sometimes designers and programmers are great at what they do but a little weak at the formal side of business. It’s even a good idea to give your attorney a few hundred dollars to look it over an agreement.
Make sure the project is scheduled to be completed in a reasonable period of time. It should not take more than 60 to 90 days to complete a 10 to 15 page brochure web site or 120 to 150 days to complete a reasonable data driven, interactive web site. Firms taking longer are more than likely short on internal talent and resources or they are not managing their production load properly and taking on too much work.