Web design companies – how do you make the right choice?

16th November 2018 / by Steve Dye

So you need a new website. Maybe it’s your first ever website or you have outgrown your existing website and need something that better represents or services your business today. Regardless of your situation, here are some fundamental things that you should consider before placing your new website business with a web design company.

What do you want your website to do for your business or organisation?

Before you even start looking for the right website designers to build your new site you need to understand the answer to this key question.

You must be clear about what your new website needs to do to help your business. What objectives and goals do you have for the website in the short, medium and long term? Is your website going to be a “brochure style” site or will it be a more interactive site where your visitors can download information (PDFs, podcasts etc) or do you need a full e-commerce site? If right now all you need is a brochure site think about how you expect your business to grow and develop – will you need an e-commerce capability in a year or two?

Only you know how the new website should work for your business. But once you have it clear in your own mind, the website design companies that you choose to get quotations from should be very proactive in understanding the requirements, goals and objectives that you have set for the new website – especially before they give you a price!

We can’t speak for others, but here at Pink Fish Associates we always spend time understanding exactly what it is our potential new clients want from their website. We have a comprehensive questionnaire which we work through with our clients. This draws out a lot of really important information which we need to understand before we can even start to put together a proper quotation. If we didn’t invest time upfront with our clients to do this we could never produce an effective quotation – and we certainly could not create a website solution that is going to work effectively for our client!

So the key point here is if the website design company you are interested in working with is not interested in spending time to really understand your website requirements then they are not the web designers for you. The web company should be asking questions about your business and really listening to your answers. If they don’t do this they can’t possibly give you the best website solutions. If they are only interested in talking about themselves and what they have done or about the technology they use and how great it is, then they cannot build you a website that will really work for your business and pay back as an investment.

View your website as a long term investment

Your website should be treated as a long term investment. The word investment is key here because your website should really work for your business and pay back on your investment in it. Your website should deliver a real return and not simply be a cost to the business.

How you view your website will have a real impact on the kind of website you end up with. We see this all the time with our own clients. If you view the website as a cost or an expense then you will be looking to reduce that cost as much as possible, therefore you will be looking to save money at every turn and that will have a significant impact on the type of website you end up with.

Now, don’t misunderstand the point here – there is nothing at all wrong in getting the best possible deal but if you approach your new website with the mind-set that says ‘this is just a cost to my business and I am going to get it sorted for as little as possible’ then you will close down many great opportunities to end up with the website that your business really needs. Why do we say this? Quite simply because you will be focused on cutting costs and saving money and will therefore not make the necessary investment in your website that will allow that website to really work for you as an effective business tool. You will not end up with the best design style or include the features and functionality that your new site could have and therefore you will significantly limit the ability of your website to deliver a return on investment. It is true that you get what you pay for and it’s especially true in the website business. The internet is littered with websites that simply look poor and don’t deliver any value back to that business – in fact it can be worse than that – a bad website can devalue your business.

So the point here is view your website as a business investment, not a cost. In this way you will get a website that can work effectively for your business and deliver a return on that investment.

Make sure you select a website design company that will be there for you over the long term

We just spoke about your new website being a business investment and so you will want that investment to be managed and maintained for the long term. Therefore you want the website company that you select to build your new website to be able to support you with that site over the coming months and years.

When we meet prospective clients for the first time we emphasise that our aim is always to seek to develop a long-term business relationship with our clients. We want to create a business partnership with our clients which delivers real value to both parties and will last many years. We are not just interested in building their new website and then riding off into the sunset!

So when choosing the web development company you are going to work with make sure they are a stable business – ideally they will have been in business for several years. They need to be big enough to meet your website requirements but also they need to be committed to building a long-term business relationship with you. They should have the knowledge, expertise and experience to help you to gain the maximum advantage you can get from the Internet.

Make sure the web design company you pick is truly capable of doing what they say. It’s too easy to set up a website that looks great and makes claims that sound fantastic, but do take the time to view their work, check references etc. Above all make sure you take time to meet with them – see their people, hear what they have to say and how they approach the project (don’t forget, they should be asking lots of questions of you, to get a real understanding of your requirements and objectives – as highlighted in point one). At the end of those meeting ask yourself – do I feel comfortable with that company? Do I trust them? Can I work with them? Positive answers to those questions probably means that you have found your website development business partner.

One-man-band businesses typically don’t meet these criteria. You will find the people who place their website development business with these single player web designers are typically those who see their websites as a cost and not an investment. This leads us neatly to the 4th key point of what to consider when selecting a web development company.

Can your web designers do more than just build the site?

When selecting a web design company to work with think about what you really want from them. Can your web designers do more than just build the site? Consider these requirements, and whether they are important to you:

  • Your new website will need to be hosted – who will host it for you?
  • Will you want to have a management and support contract with the new site?
  • Would regular reviews to measure the performance of the website and analyse the many various statistics that Google will provide via its free Analytics package be useful to you?
  • Do you need advice and guidance about getting the most out of your website investment?
  • Will you need Internet marketing assistance such as Search Engine Optimisation or SEO, or Paid Search Marketing (PPC) to get the website found quickly by your target audience?
  • Do have your own content creators or will you need help with creating new content for your website?

If you want your new website to be a valuable asset for your company then you will need a strategy or at least a plan for maintaining and developing the website. At the very least you should be adding new content that is relevant to your target audience to the website on a very regular basis, and you should have a digital marketing strategy in operation if you really want to get the maximum benefit from your new website.

When we talk of website content creation we are not just referring to words on the pages. Content can be anything that goes onto your site. This includes images and graphics, video, audio podcasts etc. You should have a plan for content creation with a view to enhancing the value of your website for your target audience so that when they do visit your site their needs are met. This will significantly improve your website conversions – i.e. turning site visitors into prospects and customers.

The bottom line here is that when selecting your website development company consider the things that will be important for your business after the website has been built. If the website company you choose is able to offer a full range of additional services this should be a real benefit to you as they will already know your business and your website objectives and so will be able to provide you additional services and support to help you achieve those goals and objectives and helping to make your online strategy a success.

The internet is a very dynamic space, full of opportunities for all businesses and new “stuff” is being created all the time. Ideally you want to have a partnership with a web company which has the experience, knowledge and expertise to help you to gain the maximum advantage from putting your business on the internet.

Finally then, the last major consideration when selecting a website company has to be a financial one.

It’s not about the price tag – it’s all about value

We have covered the point about why you need to view your website as an investment and not simply as a cost. But that investment has to be a good investment, i.e. it needs to deliver a return on the investment you are making or to put it another way your website needs to provide real value for money.

We said that you get what you pay for when investing in a website. If you are looking for the cheapest options you will end up with a cheap looking website, and that could actually damage your business instead of enhance it. But by the same token you don’t want to throw money at the new website buying functionality you don’t require and having something created that is over-designed and over-specified.

So the optimum result would be getting the website you really need to develop your business, meet your immediate requirements, goals and objectives but with the ability to expand and develop as your business grows and develops. Furthermore you should be looking for a website that you can edit and maintain in-house so that you are definitely not dependent on the website company who built it – we have taken on many clients who were effectively being held to ransom by their website developers because only they could do anything with the website.

The price for developing your new website needs to be a fair one and that means fair to both parties, you and the web development company after all – as we discussed earlier – you want your website partner to be around in the months and years ahead it is in your interests that they are.

How do you know what is a fair price representing good value for a website? Getting in a couple of quotes is always a good way of checking prices but do make sure that you are comparing like with like otherwise the exercise is pointless. Also asking to see examples of previous work and checking on reference sites.

At the end of the day however you will need to make a decision, and going with the web design company that has taken time to understand your business and your goals and objectives, that ticks all the boxes that are important to you, and the one that seems to make sense and “feels right” for you is usually the correct decision.

We hope this helps you in selecting the best website company to build your new website and to support you in the years ahead.

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