Web Design Companies: A Buyer's Guide

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Choosing a Web Design Company: A Buyer's Guide

This Buyers’ Guide was written in partnership with Web Design Business Experts SearchQuest.

SearchQuest are one of the UK's first Web companies, having been established in 2000. They provide cutting edge internet marketing, web design, CMS, ecommerce and web development services to a wide range of businesses in a variety of industries, ranging from the small home business all the way through to multi-national blue chip companies.

Web Design Business Experts SearchQuest

Your website will often be the first point of contact for potential new customers. As such, failure to invest in a quality website is no longer an option for a business aiming to be successful in today’s competitive marketplace. Your website should be as important, if not more important, than a shop window or a business card - after all, your website has the potential to be seen by many more people online than via traditional marketing. If you're to make that all important ‘good first impression’ to your clients then your website needs to be attractive, informative, and easy to use. If you get it right at the point of first contact then your visitors will feel confident that your company is one they can choose to do business with.

Your choice of web design company is crucial to getting the right website at the right price - this Buyers’ Guide will introduce you to the main web design concepts and provide valuable advice for selecting the most appropriate web design company.

Web Design Basics

A professional web design company will take your website from initial concept to a live, fully functioning finished product. There are three major elements to any website design project and these are:

  • Design: Getting the right look for your site is essential for attracting the right kind of customer for your product or service. Design also affects the usability of your site and the customer experience – a bad design can cause people to leave the site early or become frustrated and left with a poor opinion of your brand.
  • Development: A website with an online shop, database or content management system requires selection and integration of the right software platform to support the necessary functions. Some software is more expensive than others and as a rule of thumb; the more complicated the site, the more money and time it will take to develop.
  • Hosting: The website needs somewhere to live – a server on which to reside so that it can be accessed at all times of the night and day by your intended audience. A good web design company will often be able to set you up with a hosting provider, or provide hosting themselves.

Some web design companies might also offer to make sure that your website is going to be indexed by Google and other major search engines so that it can be found when searched for. They may even offer search engine optimisation services so that it appears more highly in search results. You might want to check if these services are available from the website design companies who you get quotes from - and ask what level of optimisation, if any, is included in the price.

The DIY Approach

It can be tempting to attempt the job yourself, but the money you save by doing this will most likely be lost in time spent equipping yourself with (only the most basic) skills, and in losing clients through a badly designed and inefficient website. Choosing the right web design company will be a sound investment because a good design company will be proficient in related web technology, be aware of the latest design trends and be able to offer you the latest technological advancements - and have experience and knowledge of the behaviour of Internet users. It is this combination of skills and knowledge that ensures you will end up with an effective website which is attractive to visitors.

Tips for Choosing a Web Design Company

1. Establish the Goals and Priorities of Your Website

This is the shopping list phase of the process. Going to a website designer without an idea of what you want from your website can be compared to going to the supermarket without a shopping list: you end up spending too much money on things you don’t need while forgetting to buy the essentials. You do not need to have knowledge of specific web services and systems; you simply need to have a clear outline of the desired functions of your website.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do users need to be able to do on the website? Are they just looking for information about your organisation? Do they need to register or sign-up? Do they need to be able to search a database? Will they be looking to purchase goods or services online? Mapping out the ‘user-journey’ is a vital step in explaining to the web design company what’s required.
  • How big will the site be, i.e. how much information will it contain?
  • Will the content need to be updated regularly?

It is advisable to rank the required functions according to priority so that you can cut back on the less necessary functions if your budget demands it. Sketch out a diagram of the proposed site - a clear and detailed outline will help you compare the proposals of website design companies and also allow the company to give you an accurate quotation.

2. Determine your Budget

Take into account that cost will depend largely on the total size of the site as well as on the presence and level of interactivity in the site. As we’ve already seen, greater complexity requires more sophisticated software and more development hours.

There might also be incidental costs like hosting, support and maintenance to take into consideration. Ask the design companies who will be quoting you for details of additional costs they charge for these services – again, more complicated sites will require more upkeep.

3. Research Companies and Assess Their Services

Once you have a clear outline of your website's needs, you can begin the search for a suitable web design company. Online is the obvious place to start but while here are countless firms out there, try to opt for companies that offer the specific services that you require - it is advisable to choose a company familiar with supporting services for your website such as Internet Marketing, Web Development, E-Commerce Design. Make sure to ask the design companies what their range of services are that support website design services.

By visiting the company's own site, you will be able to determine a lot about their quality of work and work ethic, including how much they value the user. The central functions of a website are to be user-friendly and attractive, since an Internet user will very quickly leave the site if he or she experiences frustration. Pay attention to the following:

  • The style and design of the site - is it attractive and appropriate?
  • Actual content - spelling and grammar mistakes as well as outdated information and broken links will reveal a lack of attention to detail.
  • Navigation within the site - is it easy to move around within the site or do you get lost easily and find it difficult to get back to where you originally started?
  • The length of time it takes for images to appear; how well videos load and playback.
  • Evaluate the companies’ online portfolios. This is a critical deciding factor in choosing a design firm. You will be able to assess whether their style and design is suited to your needs, and whether they are familiar with your industry and the technical requirements of your website. Again judge the sites with the above-mentioned criteria.
  • Contact the references and ask them about the design companies’ services and delivery – this is a brilliant way of getting an honest assessment of the company.

4. Get Quotations

At this point in the process, you should have a shortlist of prospective website designers which you can contact to discuss your website requirements and get quotations for the job. Cost will obviously affect your final choice, but do not be immediately enticed by the cheapest offer - a trustworthy truism is that you pay for quality.

This stage is also a good opportunity to assess each company's customer services. You’ll want to work with people who are passionate about their work and your vision, who listen to you, who explain their services clearly, are open to all your questions and respond with a quotation relatively quickly.

You should also be sure to obtain answers to the following questions:

  • Is your domain name going to be registered to you?

Some companies will register your website address in their name and not yours, this can cause you problems if you were ever to move your website to another provider.

  • Will you fully own your new website?

Ask if you will have full copyright ownership of the site so that you can transfer it to different hosting facilities in future if you want to. Some companies retain copyright ownership of the websites they create.

  • Is the web design company using its own CMS (content management system)?

If that is the case you will not be able to transfer the site to another provider or host. You will need to have your website rebuilt again, thus costing you again. You will be tied in to the design company for the lifetime of your website. Ask if you will be able to transfer your site away from the design company in future, if you want to.

Before signing and accepting a quotation, double-check what the quotation includes and excludes. Ask if there are any payment plans available or if you have to pay in full upon sign-up. A good design company should do their best to accommodate you as a new client by being flexible with their payment terms where possible. Carefully inspect the legal terms concerning work and payment. You have every right to ask questions about anything of which you are not certain. Make sure you are clear on ownership of the site.

Lastly, be sure to arrange a timeline or deadlines for the project – this will help ensure that the website is delivered on time and within budget.

This Buyers’ Guide was written in partnership with Web Design Business Experts SearchQuest.

SearchQuest are one of the UK's first Web companies, having been established in 2000. They provide cutting edge internet marketing, web design, CMS, ecommerce and web development services to a wide range of businesses in a variety of industries, ranging from the small home business all the way through to multi-national blue chip companies.

Web Design Business Experts SearchQuest

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Cobra Beer Ltd

" I was really surprised that the service worked so fast! Just 10 minutes after I placed a request for a quote on your website I received many calls. I found the service really useful as it gave me the chance to get a quick overview of the translation companies on the market. Great job. "

Web Developer, Cobra Beer Ltd

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