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How to select a web designer or web development company (Ratings: 131,008.6/5)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Steve Curry

Selecting a web designer to design a new web site or redesign your existing web site may seem like a difficult decision. How do you select a good web designer to build a professional web site for your business? Just do your homework. If you do some research and ask the right questions, you can select a web designer that not only works within your budget, but that also builds a web site that will enhance your brand, support your marketing, increase your sales and realize a high return on your initial investment. If you want to feel good, you must take the necessary steps to make the right decision and possibly check several web designers.

Hiring a local web designer vs. a long-distance web designer

Web designers, web design firms, web development companies and freelancers are competing for business locally, nationally and globally. Decide if you are interested in checking local web designers only or if you are comfortable working with a long-distance company. Having a local web design company is great if you like doing business with people you have met, and if face-to-face meetings are important to you. Otherwise, technology allows web designers and web developers to work through the Internet. There are good, reliable web design and web development companies providing services to long-distance clients. Finally, although this may be an option to consider, working with foreign companies may be detrimental to the economy, considering how the current US job market. On the upside of this issue, you can help the economy by keeping your web design project right here in the US.

Template vs. custom web site design costs: you always get what you pay for

With thousands of web designers competing for your business, pricing tactics and web site packages range from a few dollars (!) to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how professionally the sites are built, site size and complexity, and the elements needed to reach your business goals.

Templates are cheap, but be aware. A template web site rarely, if ever, serves a business well. A template web site probably won't help your business achieve the most basic Internet marketing goals, such as: get good search engine rankings, establish credibility or provide the elements that distinguish your business from competitors. Unfortunately, the same is true for build yourself tools.

So, if you want a professional web site, you will need to hire a professional web designer. Your web design costs will really depend on your needs, and on your budget, but it is fair to estimate at least a few thousands dollars for a custom web site package.

Determine your web design budget according to your marketing budget

What portion of your marketing budget can you allocate to your web design? If you know this magic number, you can save a lot of time when contacting web designers you want to interview. Determine exactly how much you are comfortable and willing to invest on your new web site. Let the web designers know what you can afford, in the beginning of your relationship. That way they can work on solutions that fit your budget, and that doesn't blow your total marketing budget.

Don't be afraid to disclose your business revenue to legitimate partners

Many professional web design companies will ask you about your annual revenue. Such companies have a sliding scale pricing system that allows small business to have a professional, custom designed web site for a fraction of the price bigger organizations pay. Why? Because it is usual in the design industry to provide design services according to client's income. Usually the bigger the company, more complex the projects and more resources needed. When contacting a web designer or a web development company be ready to discuss your budget openly, and don't be afraid to discuss financial information. Professional companies will keep your information confidential.

Web designers or web development company checklist:

1) What kind of work has the web designer or web development company done?

Check the web designer or web design company portfolio. Make sure you check live samples of their work. When checking these sites out, make sure the sites are functional. Does the web site company provide a custom developed architecture or only pre-fixed packages? Do they have the capability to provide all services you will need? If not, who will be in charge of photos, illustration, custom graphics, web site content, database development, search engine optimization, search engine submission, etc.?

2) What technology does the company use?

You don't have time to learn about the latest technology used in web design, but a professional web designer or web development company must follow the latest industry trends and use the best web design tools available. Look for professional web designers and web development companies capable of using CSS, XHTML and XML. If they are familiar with these, they are also familiar with basic HTML. If they are not, they are lagging behind not only in technology, but also in usability and accessibility issues facing the industry. The best professional web designers also have knowledge of programming languages and the capability to develop sites that are more functional and dynamic. You also want to ask how familiar the web designer is with search engine optimization (SEO), and if they can or cannot include SEO services in the development of your project to ensure your site has the best chances to get an excellent ranking for your keywords.

3) Insist on a web site designer or developer that can build up your brand

When you invest any amount of money in a marketing tool, you need to focus not simply in solving your immediate problem, but in building a stronger brand for your product or service. How well can the web site designer respond to this need? What kind of branding experience do they bring to your project? How can they integrate your marketing communications concepts into the project?

Selecting a web designer or web development company is a very important decision for your business future success. Make sure you take the time to ask the right questions, review portfolios and take into consideration not only immediate costs, but long term achievement. With more than 160 million shoppers and buyers online in the US alone the cost of your new web site is one of the best investments you can make.

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