We recently wrote an article about the top web design companies in Ghana.
One of the interesting things is that the criteria for selecting the best website design firms and agencies has a lot of overlap with choosing one to work on your own project.
And as you can well imagine, it’s an important step to choose the right one to ensure your project turns out wonderfully without your investment going to waste.
So below, you’ll find a series of steps you should consider when engaging the design services of a company or freelancer for your website.
Before you choose a website designer…
…there are 2 questions you need to answer.
- What type of website do you want or need? – Different web designers have different strengths and specialties.
- What’s the budget you’re working with? – You have to consider the range within which you’re willing to pay.
Now that you’ve thought through both questions, you can move on to actually finding the company that’ll produce the best results for you.
To find a list of website designers or web design companies to consider, you can look at search results for those in Google.
Finally, your network of contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc would surface some companies or people you might be interested in working with.
And now that you’ve got a list to work with, it’s time to answer a few questions.
What to look for when choosing a website design company for your project
Here are 8 questions we believe will help you a great deal in narrowing down the field to find the best website designer for you to work with.
- Do they have a website themselves?
- What does their own website look like?
- Are they still in business?
- Do they have a portfolio of website works to show?
- Have they worked on the type of website that you want done?
- How much do they charge for their projects?
- Do they have a solid reputation and reviews?
- Do they have acceptable terms and conditions?
Whilst certainly not exhaustive, going through each of these will get you very close to choosing the perfect person or firm for you to work with.
So let’s go through them, shall we?
1. Do they have a website themselves?
Freelancers and individual website designers are an important part of the ecosystem when it comes to creating websites. They most likely create the majority of sites around the world.
However when you search on a popular directory or classified and are trying to find a website designer to work with, probably the very, very, very first question you should ask yourself is, do they have a website themselves?
We’re always quite surprised when doing research like this (even this morning) that we find many website designers who do not have sites themselves.
You’ll see their ad say something like this:
“Need a website? We create all types of websites for schools, banks, insurance companies, ecommerce, etc. Call 0244123456 today!”
Despite having the chance to add as much text to the ad as possible, you won’t find a mention of their own website for you to get the vital information you need.
It’s not very convincing for you to sell me a website, telling me how awesome and amazing it is when you don’t have one yourself.
So that’s the first major point, if they don’t have a website themselves yet they want to sell you one, you’re most likely better off skipping this particular designer (even if it’s your cousin).
2. What does their own website look like?
Now that you’re going with a designer who actually believes in the product they’re selling, the next factor to consider is the quality of work done for themselves.
- Do they have a nice website?
- Is it neat?
- Is it easy to find information on?
- Do they have missing images, grammatical errors, factual inaccuracies?
- Is their site slow?
- Do some of their links go nowhere?
- Does the site look outdated?
- Did you enjoy using their site?
Whilst there isn’t a 100% guarantee between the look/functioning of a designer’s website and the work they’ll do for you, there is usually a correlation.
If they don’t treat their own site well, what makes you think they have any plans on treating yours well?
A lot of designers are only designing part time. They have a full time job elsewhere that requires the majority of their attention.
This is certainly not a bad thing, but a website designer who can’t find the time to update or maintain their own site is unlikely to find time to take care of yours either.
3. Are they still in business?
This is always a useful check to make. A few designers who would have qualified for our list of the best website development companies article were sadly no more in business.
So before you get much deeper into the process, pass by their social media handles and/or their blog and see whether they are still active.
If you find that their last post or article was 3 years ago, there’s a high possibility that they are no longer very active.
All other things being equal, you would rather prefer the doctor performing an important procedure on you to have been active, working and learning within the last month.
If you’re the first patient he’s operating on in 5 years, you have every right to panic. And that’s why there are laws that require a doctor to renew their licence every year or two.
4. Have they got a portfolio of website works to show?
When you check out your potential design company’s website, always make sure you go to their Portfolio or Our Works page.
We believe this page carries more than 50% of the answers to the question of whether they are the right firm for you or not.
That’s because it will give you a clear idea of the work they do and that’s why you want to hire them, right? Because of the work they do.
Note: You should be looking out for a few things. Firstly the quality of work they do and second the quantity.
- Do the sites in their portfolio load fast?
- Do they cut corners when working on projects?
- Have they created a lot of websites?
- Are the websites they create both functional and beautiful?
After all, if they are designing websites you absolutely abhor, it’s not likely they can design the sleek and amazing website that you have in mind.
Whilst it could be that all their clients specifically want dull and boring sites, it is rather more likely that that is just the design style that the firm or designer understands best.
We also think the number of sites they’ve created is as important as the quality of sites. This is because practice makes perfect.
The person who has designed only 2 websites in their entire design career has only had 2 major chances to learn and discover particular mistakes, techniques and inefficiencies. The person who has created 20 or even 200 websites however, has most likely learnt vastly more.
It is certainly not impossible for the former to be better than the latter, but in our experience, this is rarely ever the case.
Disclaimer: Whilst also rare, we do find every now and then that Company A says they designed a website only to check on the site and see a different company’s name displayed at the bottom. This could mean a few things though.
- It could be that they designed the first version of the site but the client has had a redesign with a different firm since then.
- Or it could mean that they were a party to the project (perhaps working as an employee or an outsourcing partner).
- Or it could be plain and outright dishonesty and they had nothing to do with that project whatsoever.
5. Have they worked on the type of website that you want done?
So you have a few designers who have their own websites, their sites are nice and functional, it looks like they’re certainly still in business and they’ve designed some sites for other people.
The next check has to do with the type of website you want created.
- Have they created such a website before?
- Or better still, do they have a specialty in creating such websites?
We mentioned in our article on website pricing that one great blunder comes from mismatching a website project to a designer/company.
Not all website designers or companies can create every type of website. The same way not all doctors can perform open heart surgery.
If you have a heart condition, you need a heart doctor! No matter how great your eye doctor is, no matter how many clients or great reviews she’s received, she can’t help you with your heart condition when you need a heart specialist.
Similarly, a website designer who has created 50 websites for small businesses doesn’t automatically qualify to create a website for a bank. There are so many particular requirements which the designer may not have experience with.
There are some companies who are really, really great at creating corporate websites, others are great at restaurant websites, others specialize in ecommerce websites and some just do a bit of everything.
This doesn’t apply to only industries, but to technologies as well. Most websites today are created with a Content Management System like WordPress. If your website designer is a specialist in hand coding HTML and PHP websites, they won’t be a good fit for you.
Whatever the case is, it is always a bonus if the web developer or company has worked on the type of website you want and has gained the needed skill sets. It means they’ve made their mistakes with other clients already and you get to benefit from all their experience.
In the case where you go with a designer or firm which has never created the type of website you have in mind, make sure you’re prepared.
You may experience project delays because the designer is now learning your industry lingo or the best ways of delivering a particular outcome.
There may be budget overruns too because in his desire to win your business, might have underestimated how much the project would cost.
So we recommend a lot of open communication so your designer knows and understands exactly what you are looking for before they take up your project.
If they are honest and they aren’t a good fit for your project, they’ll save you a lot of time and money by telling you upfront.
6. How much do they charge for their projects?
Remember we asked you earlier to have a budget in mind? Well this is where it comes into play.
How much do your shortlist of website designers charge and is it within your price range?
Regarding pricing, this is something you won’t always be able to determine from their website. When we did the research to answer the cost of a website question, we found that 70% of firms in our research didn’t display any hints on pricing.
For the 30% who display pricing, if the price of the package you need fits into your budget, yipeee!!
Regarding the other 70% of companies, you’d have to find their contact details, send them an email or give them a call to get the pricing information you require.
In the case where your budget doesn’t meet their package or quotation pricing, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions.
If they are only slightly higher than what you have in mind and you’re the business owner, you can consider increasing your budget to meet their quote if you can’t negotiate them down. (You might need your superiors to approve a larger budget for the project if it’s for someone else or the company you work for).
If they are significantly higher than what you have in mind, it might be possible your budget is unrealistic.
We’ve had people who requested that we build a website exactly like Amazon.com. (FYI, even Walmart with a budget of multiple millions of dollars hasn’t been able to build a website exactly like Amazon.com.)
So to ensure your budget is a realistic one, you’re going to have to compare the quotation or pricing of the various designers or firms you’re considering.
There might be a pattern with all of them being significantly above your budget. If that’s the case, again, you might have to consider increasing the amount you’re willing to spend or scaling down the scope of your project.
Most designers usually have multiple packages. The more features you want, the higher package you require. So by scaling down some of the features, you might fit into a lower package.
Disclaimer: If someone quotes or displays a significantly lower price than everyone else, you might have either found yourself a deal or a nightmare. 😀
So whichever it is, just be prepared when paying well below the market average, in case things don’t turn out the way you wanted.
At least once you’re prepared, hopefully you’ll be able to pivot and get back on track with a different designer if needed.
7. Do they have a solid reputation and reviews?
We’re down to two more things that should be considered when choosing a web designer or firm for your project.
We live in a world where word of mouth has gone very digital. With social media along with reviews, you can easily find out which companies are doing a great job and which ones aren’t.
You can sometimes avoid a lot of pain and trouble by just taking the time to read reviews about a company you are considering.
Now we aren’t saying swallow everything you read hook, line and sinker! But we are saying that you should add it to the factors you use in considering which company you end up going with.
A company that has tons and tons of great reviews is not going to be willing to risk that reputation disappointing you. And all other things being equal, companies that do a great job usually have great reviews and testimonials.
They might have these testimonials displayed on their website or on a dedicated testimonial page. This is one place to look. Take out the time to follow up on these to verify if they are true.
We recently noticed a company that lifted reviews from our website and pasted them on theirs, only changing the images and the mention of our company name. This just points to the fact that on-site reviews can be easily manipulated.
So head over to Google, Facebook and other review sites and also take a look there at what others have to say.
The more descriptive and informative the review, the easier for you to understand why they’ll be good for you or not.
If all you’re finding are two letter sentence reviews like, “Simply amazing!” or “Great work!” or “These guys are the best”, take those with a pinch of salt although it doesn’t automatically disqualify them.
8. Do they have acceptable terms and conditions?
Finally, before you choose a designer or company and invest your hard earned money with them, we strongly recommend you take a good look at their terms and conditions.
Yeah, nobody really likes reading terms and conditions, contracts and legal stuff, but real life is a bit messy. You might have a dispute with the firm, major or minor, and what was set out in their terms and conditions might be your greatest protection.
If they don’t have terms and conditions at all, you can request for the service contract that both parties might be bound by. It is however very, very important for transparency and trust reasons to be able to access a publicly available terms and conditions document.
It’s a bit of a warning flag if you can’t.
So those are 8 questions which will help you narrow down and hopefully choose the very best website designer or company you need for your project.
If on the other you need an entire digital marketing strategy for your business or company and not just a website, you’ll find some great information on that here: How to choose a digital marketing agency.
We’d love to hear from you. You can leave us a comment below or get in touch with us.