Running a small business is a huge challenge. Not only do you have to perform day-to-day management duties for your business and employees, you also have the tremendous task of controlling your company’s identity. While Facebook and Twitter can help develop your brand’s web presence, your company website is still the first thing most visitors will find. If you run an e-commerce site, you must have a navigable, attractive site or you’ll alienate most of your potential customers.
Whether your website looks like something pulled from Geocities or just needs a little update, bringing in a web design company’s expertise is a great way to improve your first impressions online. However, with so many different people selling themselves as web developers, it is important to be careful when choosing a web design company.
- When vetting a design company, pay attention to the company’s website. Do you like it? Bold designs and decisive functionality indicate a strong design team ready to help your company. However, if a design company’s website doesn’t strike you visually, your views won’t match up during the design process. Look for some basic principles of web design when exploring your options.
- How does the company’s portfolio look? If you’re unhappy with the company’s work, shop around some more. Look at the recurring elements in the company’s works. Are those websites well-maintained? Has the firm helped the client update the site as needs have changed, or has an amateur update resulted in awkward changes? If there’s no portfolio, close the tab and explore more transparent options.
- What types of industries has the company worked with before? Be cautious when attaching yourself to a company that’s unfamiliar with your industry. While you’re an expert on your industry and your business, you shouldn’t have to educate the design company on the basics of your world. If you want to give a company a chance, be sure that other factors point to previous successes with diverse needs. A portfolio filled with work for diverse clients and subjects indicates a strong design team.
- What are your goals for your new website? Do you feel confident that any of the companies you’ve checked out can achieve them? Again, looking at the company’s portfolio is a safe way to gauge ability. Look for sites similar to yours in the portfolio. Ask for metrics so you can see some hard data to help you make your decision. More design principles, such as Dieter Rams’ opinions of industrial design, can indicate future success for your company’s web redesign.
While there are no safe bets when it comes to choosing a web design firm, some careful research can give you a good idea of which firm will meet your needs. Be sure to trust your gut and be honest with yourself when deciding which firm you want to design your website. I’ll be back in part two of the series with more specific tips on selecting a web design company.