Is it really worth asking what a web design company does, the answer appears so obvious at first that it seems a pointless question. A company that designs websites, clearly. And that on the face of it is exactly right, so is there any more to it than that? The key element of good web design is making an often vague concept real, bringing it to life, and getting it functioning exactly how you want and expect. A good web design company can understand your vision, and create something that works for you and your company on all levels.
The truth is that the design of your website is absolutely fundamental to its success. If it doesn’t look good, doesn’t present you in the right way, and doesn’t function well, then it really doesn’t matter what is on there.
A professional web design company creates a professional website, allowing you to put your focus on your strengths and your business. The colors, layout, typography, images, graphics, and use of other features will make or break your site, and be of vital importance for your business image and philosophy.
You inform the designer that you are working with about your customers, explain what your business is about, and what you hope to gain from having a website, and they will handle the rest for you.
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1. Prepare your project
Before you hire a company you need to at least have some ideas about your project and what you hope to gain from having or redesigning your site.
If we were to create a perfect flow chart for the process, it would be something like this:
Initial Dialogue – meeting or e-meeting with the company to let them know what and who you are and do.
Further Dialogue (Design)- finding out the website requirements, your ideas, and thoughts regarding style/images/content, number of pages, etc.
Proposal– Website outline and an estimate of costs, approximate timeframe.
Design – Starting to get the ideas into a website format.
Clarification– finalizing the design, timeframe, and cost and signing the contract.
Developing– creating the site.
Launching– getting the website up and running.
The initial dialogue is where some rather big decisions are made, not least on your side, about whether this is the design company for you. But it’s not a totally one-sided affair. Busy web design companies have plenty of work and they don’t want to waste time either. So a little preparation is important and gets the potential relationships off to a constructive start.
Some basic questions to think about even before you hire a company are:
1.1. What is your budget? What is your deadline?
The answers to these questions will massively affect your choice of a design company. You may have a tight budget – so maybe you can try to search for some cool offshore company from another region with lower prices, who can design your website for less money or a freelancer. Equally the faster you want something done will have a knock-on effect on the price. How far are you prepared to compromise if need be?
1.2. What is your project?
You need to decide what is the purpose of your website and what you want to achieve – should it be for online sales, for contact, informative, etc. If it’s for a multitude of purposes, what is your prime focus?
Make a sketch and/or notes of what you want your site to have – this will make it easier to describe what you need and formulate your ideas. It’s important to remember that designers don’t have a crystal ball and can’t read your mind. The clearer you are in these initial stages the more chance you have of getting exactly what you are looking for, without numerous painstaking changes, toing and froing, and perhaps additional charges. Clarity up front is in the interests of both parties.
These sketch ideas will make it easier for the design company to provide you with the correct final price. Most design companies consider the size and number of pages to design when providing a quote.
2. Ways to find good website design companies
So when you’ve sat down and got a pretty good idea of what you are looking for and why then it’s time to choose who is going to design it. You have a number of options, of course.
Hire a website design team of experts or a freelancer to create and build a unique Web site.
Create your own website design using off-the-shelf software
Use online website design tools with pre-set and/or customizable Web design templates to customize your company colors, graphics, and text.
We are going to look at the Expert option
Choosing an appropriate designer should be a careful and well-thought-through decision.
Different companies specialize in different areas. Larger or smaller businesses, different coding languages, CMS, so bear this in mind when doing your research and background.
2.1. Freelance platforms
This is definitely an area that attracts lots of freelancers and some very good quality ones too. There are reliable platforms available to find freelancers based around the world and you can often get a pretty good price. Be sure to pick one with the skills that you particularly want, not all freelancers are experts at everything, and also remember the freelancer is a lone wolf, so any personal issues such as illness could affect the timeline greatly.
There are also a number of specialist directories where you can search for Web design companies. You are able to refine your search by country or skill set on many of these. If you are going for the Design company option it is likely that because they have more staff they have a good chance of being able to meet your needs and the timeframe offer should be quicker.
You may want to check out our list of The Best 15 Places to Find Web Design Agencies.
2.3. Recommendations from friends, family, partners
A great way to find someone to work on your project is to ask around. Recommendations can save you time and effort in your search, and if people are willing to recommend a company they’ve worked with then you can be fairly sure they are confident about the quality and working relationships. Friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues, business associates, have a little think about who might be there for you. If you see a website you like from a company you work with, why not give them a call?
And of course
Of course, you could just search through the net. There is a vast range and variety of companies and freelancers in this field and they all have websites expounding their virtues. Spend some time looking at examples, good practices, assessing options, and even looking at rivals’ sites.
3. Look at their experience, portfolio, and prices
We’ve established that there are a huge number of web designers floating around the web, so how do you narrow down your search? There are certain things to look for when you are assessing the Company that has caught your eye.
3.1. Years of experience
With experience comes knowledge and technical know-how. Design these days is a fast-moving game, with new trends, techniques, and fashions. The design companies that have been around for a while are well aware of this, they use their past successes and add to their box of tools. Not only does experience equate to knowledge but if a company has been successfully functioning for a significant period of time it must be doing something right as regards customer service and satisfaction.
All designers in any field want to show off their best work so why should web designers be any different. Web companies’ sites will contain a portfolio of past projects. These are worth checking out, you’ll see the skills that they use, the styles that they work with, and how varied their work can be. They might also inspire new ideas for your site or at least give you an idea of what look you would like to achieve. Designers like an example of work you like so they can get a feel for what you want, it helps clarify your vision and gives them something concrete to work with, so keep a record of what works for you.
Maybe not at the top of everybody’s list but certainly a consideration for most clients. Prices can vary significantly and it’s definitely worth shopping around. You are dealing in an international, competitive market, don’t be afraid to get a quote from outside your own country. The wages and overhead costs in some developing countries can make them very attractive and the skills are right up there with the best.
3.4. Possible changes
Pay attention to what your price quote includes. Some companies charge extra for changes you want (and there are likely to be some even with the best designs) or additional support. If these are not mentioned, ask about them. Suddenly a very competitive quote can be significantly less attractive.
4. Contact a few of them to explain your project and learn more about the final price
As we said before this is a huge and growing market, there are designers in every corner of the world. Prices and quality vary as does customer service. There is no problem with getting several quotes or entering into conversations with various design companies. In fact, not only do you get a comparison, but you also get to find out about very important communication. Do they reply swiftly? Do they answer your queries openly? Do they sound professional and confident in their ability?
Now that you have a better idea of what web designers do, where to find them, and what questions to ask, you can move forward knowing exactly what you’re paying for. Knowledge is power in business and you don’t need to enter the negotiations or the project itself blind. Time spent researching and making the decision is time spent wisely. Remember your site is not simply an internet presence, it’s a vital cog in your business machine and should be treated as such.