Four Important Selection Steps When Choosing a Web Design Company

Posted on September 20, 2011 by

Choosing the right team to work on your web design is a crucial step in the development process. A wrong decision could be devastating for your project, which may lead to considerable delays and stress. Some website owners may not face this issue, as they already have an in-house web design team. However, there are a few reasons why they might still need to outsource.

Filtering your selection

After days of research, crafting and refinement, you finally can come up with web design guidelines that have been composed based on your requirements and goals. But with so many web design agencies worldwide, which one should you choose? One major factor to considerable is geography. There are some valid reasons for choosing a web design company within your country. Legal issues and time zones can be two crucial factors when working with a foreign company.

Word of mouth recommendation is often the best approach, especially when it comes from someone you know and respect. Start by talking to the suppliers and business partners, what are their recommendations for your site. If you’re part of a local trade association, see if they can provide some advices. Also check, your competitors’ websites, not to copy their ideas, but to come with alternatives or better ideas, if possible. Searching for a web design in search engine could be convenient, but often their sites don’t tell the whole story. Almost all web design companies put a considerable effort in making their web site look impressive and can project the right image. The challenge is to look far beyond the superficial gloss and see the truth. Its management may have been appalling, the underlying technology could be in shambles and existing projects may have missed specified deadlines and exceeded budgetary constraints. It’s a good idea to look at the portfolio section and contact their previous clients to get more neutral opinions. Don’t get seduced by exciting graphics and alluring animations.

These are four considerations when choosing a web design agency

  • Does the agency have enough capacity? Is the team has the right skill and big enough to deliver the project on time? A good web design company should be able to provide enough information the size and the makeup of its organization.
  • Does the company have enough experience? It would be preferable to choose a company that has been successfully completed projects from similar industry. This will significantly reduce the learning curve and costs.
  • Can the company create the right design style? A good web design company should be able to create an online interface that appeals to users and reflects your brand identity. Check the company’s website and its clients’ websites. Are there elements in the design that you can use and match your requirements?
  • Can the company deliver the right technical requirements? Web projects increasingly involve complex development works. The company should demonstrate the capability to go beyond making simple web design solutions.

Even after combining a number of filters, you should still have a long list of companies to choose from. You need to send your guidelines to the companies in the list. Organize all the responses you receive. Which companies respond intelligently and which had not study the guidelines thoroughly. This could help you get a rough picture of the company and help in the decision-making process.

Assessing the proposals

After all responses are received it’s now the time to choose the winning company. Choosing the right web design company can be intimidating. Proposals can vary widely in approach, technology used and total cost. Without using clear assessment criteria, it would be very difficult to compare the different proposals. Before even reading the proposals, you should already have a criteria list available. If appropriate, you should also add weighting in your criteria. However, you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on certain categories only, as it may result an overall poor quality assessment.

These are some criteria you should consider, you may need to add unique criteria that best meet your requirements.

  • Understanding of the guidelines. Has the company understood the requirements and objectives that are outlined in the guidelines? Can it provide a relevant and satisfactory solution?
  • Proven track record. Has the company provided examples of previous projects that use the technology and approach mentioned in the proposal? You should seek evidences that the company can demonstrate expertise in similar sectors and understand about the challenge they may face in your sector.
  • Innovation. Has the company challenged certain items in your guidelines and offered better alternatives?
  • Value for money. Has the company offered a good ratio between cost and services offered?

Using the above criteria, you may narrow the number of companies down to less than five. Now you’re ready for the next step.

Interviewing the shortlist

This is a necessary step even for the smallest project. Although determining the number of companies you want to interview is subjective, you should keep the number small. Interviewing too many will make them blur together, while sitting through endless interviews and presentations would be unfair for both of you and them. Tell the companies about what they should prepare and bring for the presentation and the time available. You should also make sure that the company doesn’t only send sales team, make sure there also a few developer staffs so you can ask certain technical questions. On very large projects, you may even need to meet the company owner during the interview phase! However, if your project is small, one sales and developer staff each, should be enough. From this phase, you may see what the working relationship would be like. However, some companies may not be able to spare the development staff to every presentation invitation they get, so you should use this approach carefully and be respectful.

Determining whether you can work with a company is very important as you will know whether it approaches problems and challenges in the same way as you? You’ll know whether they share your passions and values for the project. Try to determine their honesty by asking about their weaknesses. Often judging whether you can work with someone is purely a personal decision. After completing the review on the interview phase, you may narrow down the selection to two or even one company.  If you still can’t choose between two companies, you should take the following step.

Taking up references

If you know what you’re looking for, speaking with past of existing clients can be much more informative than studying proposal and presentation results. Allocate enough time to talk with their clients to cover these topics:

  • Relationship: Ask clients who have worked with the companies’ development team. You should know how smoothly the project ran and what the working relationship was like.
  • Skill and experience: A company often exaggerates the capability and experience in the proposal and presentation to make it looks experienced. Clarify about what the company has stated with the client.
  • Approach to design: Ask the client whether the web design company uses collaborative process. Was the company value client’s opinion? Were there multiple iterations and designs? Did the company respond well to user feedback and criticisms? Was the company inflexible or overly protective about design? Did the client talk directly to the development staffs or whether they were confined only to sales team?
  • Budget and deadlines: Being completely confident that the company can deliver on the budget and deadline promises is a cornerstone in an effective working relationship
  • Ongoing support: Did the company respond effectively to problems in their work? Were there hidden fees that emerged after the project is completed? Was the company respond to additional requests quickly? Was the company pro-active in offering future developments? Are the company and the client still communicating?

Avoid contacting only clients the company refers to you, as it may want to hide some disgruntled clients, to avoid only glowing reports, always ask about the company’s weaknesses.

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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