Not all Web design companies are created equal. Even a company with a great reputation may not be the best fit for your particular project. Here are a few questions and tips to help you evaluate your options and choose the right vendor for the job:
- Is the vendor asking questions about your business and your goals? In order to create a custom website for your business, the vendor must first learn what you do and what you hope to accomplish. Your website should be designed specifically with your goals in mind.
- What exactly is included in the price quote? Some vendors might include website and CMS maintenance in their quotes, or adding copy to the pages; others might charge an additional hourly rate or monthly fee for the same work. Make sure you’re aware of every service that will be—or, more important, will not be—included in the total price.
- Does the vendor have relevant samples for you to review? Do you like these samples? Most vendors will display samples of their work right on their website. If you don’t see a sample that’s relevant to your project, ask for one. You should evaluate the work of several different Web design companies before making your decision, and don’t hire a vendor unless you love the majority of their samples.
- What CMS does the vendor recommend, and why? Some vendors use different content management systems depending on the type of project; others stick to one CMS for everything. They should sell you on why their CMS of choice is a good fit for your website. If a particular vendor doesn’t use a CMS, you should immediately cross it off your list.
- What will the vendor take responsibility for fixing? You want to know what will be fixed for free and what will require additional fees. For example, if a CMS update or CMS extension update causes a bug, will that be fixed?
- What search engine optimization (SEO) considerations does the vendor take into account? Any website design project must adhere to SEO best practices when it comes to URL structure, navigation, and metadata. This is especially important if you already have a website that you’re replacing—as content and metadata will need to be migrated, and URLs may need to be redirected.
Glossary of Terms
- Bandwidth: The amount of information (or data) that can be sent or received on a website. This usually translates into the amount of traffic and/or downloads a website can handle.
- Content Management System (CMS): A system to create, update, and manage all pages of a website—typically via a back-end dashboard that often looks like a word processor.
- Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Website: Also known as a “Site Builder” website, this site can be created without any knowledge of HTML or another programming language—and without hiring a Web design firm—via an easy-to-use, but rather limited, CMS.
- Domain Registration: The address of your website, which has to be registered in a public database so visitors can access the site.
- Email Hosting: Allows a website owner to establish email accounts with the registered domain name.
- Page Template: A designed layout for a specific page included within a website theme or template.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The art and science of improving a website’s visibility in search engines. A website should be designed and developed in accordance with SEO best practices.
- Website Design: Creating the actual appearance of a website—including graphics, color scheme, font styles, and layout.
- Website Development: The “behind-the-scenes” programming or coding of a website so that it displays properly in a Web browser.
- Website Hosting: A website is stored (or hosted) on a server so that it’s available for visiting.
- Website Template: A predesigned and coded website theme usually found in DIY websites; customers select the website template they like best, modify settings, and then launch their website immediately.
- Website Theme: A collection of files used with a CMS that includes all the images, design, and layout of a website