Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Steps to Finding the Perfect Web Firm

by Jayna Lowe

Choosing a web development firm is an important decision, and there can be many factors to consider. We've assembled some helpful tips on choosing the best web design firm to meet your needs.

Collect a List of Web Design Firms

Start with collecting a list of design firms by searching online and asking friends for referrals. Theoretically you could locate any web development firm in the world to produce your website, however there are some advantages to choosing a local firm, especially if you are less experienced with the process. You will have the benefit of meeting and discussing ideas face-to-face, and if you require other services such as photography and video production, you have the option of doing everything 'under the same roof.'

Firm vs. Individual

If you are considering hiring an individual 'freelance' developer over a web design firm, there are several points to be aware of. First of all, finding the design and technical talent needed to develop an effect web presence is a rare skill-set for one person. In a design firm, the creative director and graphic artist will design the look of your site, and the technical programmers will implement the functionality, SEO and other applications. Also, with an individual you run the risk of being put 'on the back burner' if web development is not the primary business, and at risk of loosing your investment should anything happen to the individual. Assess the long term stability of the web firm, as with any business relationship, value will build over time.

Narrow it Down

Once you have generated a list of web design firms, narrow your options down to the best 3 - 5 firms you feel suit your requirements by doing a little more research.

First, check out each design firm's portfolio for consistent quality in the projects they have produced. Have they provided solutions for other companies in your industry? By examining their portfolio, you should be able to grasp a better understanding of styles and variety that they will be able to offer.

What technical applications will your website require? Check out if the design firm has provided solutions to the challenges you are facing. Do they provide ecommerce solutions? Do they offer hosting?

What Else Do They Offer?

Determine what other products / services the company can offer for your future connivence. Does the design firm offer printing solutions that will enable them to deliver your print needs from concept to completion? Do they offer e-mail marketing software for email marketing campaigns? Photography, video & audio production and copywriting are all value-added services that could be considered.

Define your Objectives

The more defined your website ideas and marketing objectives, the smoother your project will run. To further define your companies goals and objectives take the time to consider and answer the following:

Who is your target audience? What is your intended goal for the project? What is your message? What are the technical requirements for your website? (Ecommerce, SEO, video?) Timeframes? Budget?

Think about your favorite styles, and collect a list of your favorite websites. A good development firm will be able assist you in developing your ideas further and give you feedback on attaining your objects. Use our Client Info Sheet as a Guideline

Contact your Top 3-5 Choices

A good web development firm will take the time to meet with you and discuss your needs and ideas in detail. Meet with your selected firms, discuss your objectives and request proposals.

Good Communication?

Check out whether the web design firm has a good process in place, and takes the time to understand your company and listens to your goals and marketing objectives. Website development could take several months, and will involve numerous phone calls, emails and possibly face-to-face meetings. It's important the design firm communicates effectively and is readily available to offer support.

Website Copyrights

Make sure you will own all the rights to everything on your website. This can become an issue if you want another developer to make changes to your site in the future.

Price Structure

A website development firm can either charge you by the hour, or quote a fixed cost per project, depending on the pricing structure of the firm. If you are being charged by the hour, the company can charge you for any extra unexpected length of time the project takes. With a fixed quote, you will be charged the quoted price even if the project takes the developers twice the estimated time.

If you can't afford everything your website requires then opt to build your site in stages. Avoid cheap package deals and claims of $500 websites - because you get what you pay for. Don't take the risk of driving away traffic and working against your image with a cheap site. The first place people go for more information is online. Be sure to create a great online presence, packed with valuable up to date information for all your potential clients.

Review and Compare Proposals and Presentation

How was their response time? Did the firm demonstrate an understanding of your objectives? Are they able to meet all your needs? Can they deliver on time? Once you are satisfied the web development firm can meet all of your requirements - contact the firm and get started!

It's considerate to contact all the firms you met with, inform them of your decision and the reason why you are going with your chosen company. They will appreciate the follow-up.

About the Author

Article written by: Jayna Lowe, Account Director at Twin Creek Media Inc. www.twincreekmedia.com. Twin Creek Media is a creative design firm specializing in web design, marketing & advertising.