Whether you're in Knoxville or Hong Kong, hiring a web design company is a lot like buying a home.
You want something that's beautiful, but you also need it to be affordable, reliable, and easy to manage. When you buy a website, you're also buying in to the firm you choose and the experience of working with them.
5 Ways to Avoid Getting Burned by a Web Design Company
I'm sure you've heard the horror stories—someone hires a company or individual to design and develop their website, and either receives a website that doesn't work for them, or the developer runs off with their money after hitting a snag.
At VIEO Design, we hear this tale all too often. We absolutely hate hearing these stories, and we don't want anyone to go through that. Whether you choose VIEO Design or one of our well-respected colleagues here in Knoxville, here are few key web design company red flags to watch out for when shopping around for your new website.
1. Make sure they're a legitimate web design company.
Not just anyone who claims to be a website designer can help you achieve your goals. A web design agency doesn't need a fancy office and large staff to be legit, but they do need to be knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of skills.
The different specialties involved in creating a website include (but are by no means limited to) graphic design, web development, SEO, and marketing. Many claim to be "specialists," but don't just take their word for it. Ask for examples of what they've done that's similar to what you need, both in terms of design and functionality.
2. Find out if they practice what they preach.
Any decent web design company should have a great website themselves—obvious, right? If they don't have an effective website, they probably shouldn't be designing a website for you. Aside from great design and functionality, their website should be responsive.
People will visit your website on a wide range of devices, and it needs to look great and function perfectly on all of them. You need to know that your new agency is capable of creating the kind of responsive website you need. If they don't do it for themselves, how do you know they can do it for you?
Web design companies usually use their own websites to show off some of their best tricks, so keep that in mind as you review the websites of potential partners.
3. Check their portfolio.
Legit web design companies need to have a portfolio of their work, period. If they don't have a portfolio, they're either not proud of their work or they aren't very experienced. Be very cautious with these companies!
4. Find out which CMS they use.
Some web design companies use their own proprietary content management system (CMS) to build their clients' websites. While they may be comfortable working in their own CMS, it may not be easy for you to use if you plan on managing your own website once it's been built. Also, proprietary CMSs can often be limited in features, much like when you buy a website template.
It's in your interest to have a web site built in an "open-source" CMS like WordPress. WordPress allows you to easily manage your site, including adding, editing, and deleting pages without having to pay a developer. WordPress is also fantastic for onsite SEO work, and their plugin ecosystem allows you to add many different features to your website.
One more important point - if you ever need to leave your web design company, an open-source CMS makes it much easier take your site with you uninterrupted.
5. Is their pricing too good to be true?
Websites can vary widely in price due to functionality, level of design, and much more. There are many web services out there that offer canned DIY options, and promise to have your site "up and running in a day."
While this might seem great, you can find yourself stuck with their system, which sometimes can be hard to customize or lacking in features. Also, since you're their customer and not their client, you may find yourself in a position where you lose your site if you decide to leave (in many cases, you're renting it, not buying it).
Many web design companies keep their prices low by offering theme customization. While this might seem like an effective route, it tends to be more costly in the end, and can cause your site to be slow to load.
Just like all other industries, there are those who will overcharge and those who try to undercut the competition. When you pay a pittance for your website, you will make it up in other ways - after all, the company has to make a profit somehow.
The most important things you should know:
- During the sales process, your prospective web agency should be asking questions about your marketing goals and the functionality you need to properly scope your new website.
- Once your project begins, the web design company should take charge of the project by asking questions that help them completely understand you and your business.
- You need someone who can explain things that you don’t understand (yet!) in your language without being condescending, and make the web principles you do need to know accessible.
- They should have a project management system in place to ensure that your project goes as planned and deadlines are met.
- Customer service is paramount in the web design and marketing industry. You want someone who will return your emails and phone calls in a timely manner.
- The best solution for most businesses is to hire a reputable web design company with a substantial portfolio and customer reviews that will take your budget into account and find high-quality solutions. We'd love for that to be us, but as long as you don't get ripped off, we'll be happy!