Every business big and small has a website, or at least they should. All too often we get new clients who have very bad experiences when getting a new website designed for their company. With the stories we have heard and our from our experiences here are some rules on how to choose a website designer or agency:
1. Look at a Portfolio
While this may seem obvious you would be surprised how many people don’t look at portfolios of designers and agencies before contacting them to bid on work. Design aesthetics are important in choosing the right person or firm for your website project. Keep in mind when looking at portfolios you will tend to see a style or pattern that begins to appear across all the designs, if you don’t like the style of the majority of the work you see, you will not be happy with the end result— Think of it like asking Picasso to create something that looks like Michael Angelo did it.
When looking at website portfolios you should ask for actual live working websites to see. Ask the scope of involvement of the person or agency, such as did they design it, code it, host it, etc? Sometimes designers just prefer to design the pages and have someone else code it, sometimes they can do both, all the while agencies tend to have teams devoted to each.
2. Set a Budget
Everyone has a budget when they start looking for a new website designer. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about your budget with the potential designers or firms, even if it is a range. When setting your budget you should want your contract to include all of your needs, if not be clearly defined. For instance Source27 contracts typically include a certain number of designs, pages, coding, implementation, and even hosting. If we think you need more room in your budget for something like custom photography we have a policy to let you know when we submit the bid, but not all designers or firms apply that same policy. So ask. Read your contract. And follow your budget for your new website.
3. Never Pay 100% Upfront
Time and time again we hear of clients paying $5000+ for new websites upfront to only have designers take off with the money and never fulfill their contracts. Most reputable designers and website firms will ask for a deposit and setup a payment schedule for your project. On small website builds Source27 asks for a 50% deposit with the remaining due before final install on the server; larger projects we set up a schedule of smaller incremental payments as we meet deadlines on the project. We find that this works well, especially for those clients who have burned in the past.
4. Cyber Stalk
If you were interviewing a potential new employee wouldn’t look at their facebook page, linkedin profile, or even twitter profile for insight to who they are personally and professionally? Why wouldn’t you do the same when trying to find someone to redesign your website.
5. Street Cred
When cyber stalking look to see what is being said about the person or firm you are considering to hire to create your website. In addition ask for references. Anyone who is reputable will not think twice about handing that over, just make sure you are getting references that are current or past clients— not their mothers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and so on. Ask for the relationship and how they were/are involved with the person or firm you are considering to use.
6. Ask Questions
Never, ever, let a designer or firm over talk you. Don’t assume you know what they are talking about, if you have a question ask. If you don’t understand the answer just tell them that and ask them to explain it differently. All too often designers and firms talk over a client’s head with industry lingo that not everyone knows. If during the beginning if you do not understand one another then communication will break down as the website project progresses, ultimately leaving you the client frustrated and designer(s) feeling unable to please.
7. Get a Contract
A contract seems so business-y we know but it not only does it protect the website designer but it also protects you the client. It helps everyone understand the terms agreed to and makes it an actual business project. Never just shake someone’s hand and hand over a check, or even worse hit pay on that PayPal button. Re-read item number 3 on this list of advice.
8. Feel Confident in Choosing a Designer
By now you should feel confident in choosing the right website designer or firm. You know how they operate, their style of website work, who the employees are, and even what they are tweeting— depending on how deep you dug into their social media networks. If you do not feel confident that you have the right website designer for your project, then you need to keep looking for more designers.