If you’re totally new to website design, choosing the right partner to help you bring your vision to life can feel like a daunting prospect.
There’s a lot you need to consider, which is why I’ve put together a checklist of the things you need to bear in mind when you’re researching the perfect web design agency or freelancer for your next build.
First thing’s first: be prepared to spend some money
We all want to spend as little as possible on our websites and marketing campaigns. After all, we’re in business to make money, not spend it! However, designing and developing a new platform takes a lot of time and a great deal of specialist expertise, so you should expect to part with a reasonable amount of cash if you want a beautiful, robust, clean-coded website that’s going to deliver a brilliant return on investment for your business in the longer term.
But how much is too much? Well, I recently put together a blog on this very topic. You can read it here.
Know your budget (and stick to it)!
Before you pick up the phone or draft up an email, make sure you know exactly how much you can spare for your website design project – then add a little bit of contingency just in case you need to invest a little more in the project as it progresses. If your preferred web design agency isn’t happy to work with this budget, you’ll need to speak to somebody else.
Aside from design and development costs, you’ll also need to factor in additional fees for website hosting, support and maintenance. Be sure to ask your chosen web design company for a rough idea of costs before you instruct them to start work.
Understand how their pricing structure works
Some web design and development companies will prefer to bill you by the hour, while others will offer to complete the work for a set package fee.
It’s very rare for agencies and freelancers to publish their pricing models, so you’ll normally need to talk to them directly to get an accurate quote.
It’s important to know when you can expect to be charged at every stage of the web design process, too. Some companies will ask for a 50% deposit upfront (with the rest payable on completion), while others will ask for the full amount before they start work.
Discuss their availability
If your preferred agency is booked up for months and you need your website ready in a matter of weeks, you’ll need to go elsewhere. Having a frank, honest discussion about the web designer’s availability can help to establish realistic expectations and save a lot of stress and hassle further down the line!
Ask for examples of the web design company’s work
Most decent web design agencies and freelancers will have a large portfolio of work that demonstrates their level of experience. If examples of their recent projects are not available on their own website, ask them for links to some of the things they’ve been working on recently.
You could even go one step further and contact a few of their past clients to see what they thought of the service they received.
Look up their location
Many companies have no problem working with web design agencies that are based on the other side of the country (and, in some cases, on the other side of the world!). But if you’re looking for a firm that can offer the personal touch, and you’d prefer to be able to meet your web designers in person from time to time, I’d recommend choosing a company that’s local to you.
Find out who will be responsible for your project
Some agencies ensure that their lead web designer is responsible for the smooth-running of the project, while other companies have dedicated account managers who will liaise with the design team on your behalf. It’s best to find out from the start exactly who your point of contact will be, so you know who to call or email if you have any questions or need an update on the project.
Check who will own the rights to the website on completion
Ideally, your web design company should provide you with full access to your website and all of its associated accounts (such as your hosting account) as soon as the new platform goes live. Make sure you scour the company’s terms and conditions for more information on their ownership and copyright policies – and if something seems fishy, give them a miss.
Do they offer other services?
Many companies will offer a wider range of solutions to web design clients, such as copywriting, SEO and ongoing website maintenance packages. You’re inevitably going to need these services as you prepare to market your website, so it makes sense to pick a web design agency that can offer ongoing support in the areas that are going to matter to your business. You’ll already have a great relationship with their team after the site launch (hopefully!), so chances are you’ll feel comfortable taking your investment to the next stage with them.