Do you know what’s more painful than building your own corporate website from scratch without any experience? Hiring and paying a third party web design company to build your corporate website without any experience hiring a web design company.
There are better “tells” that indicate quality web design skills than hair gel and fancy tattoos; if you’re in the market for a new corporate website, here’s what to look for and what not to get too fixated on.
What Doesn’t Matter
Before we investigate what matters when it comes to web design in Sydney, Australia, let’s take a look at what doesn’t.
Location, Location, Location
In today’s wired (or wireless) world, a great location is little more than an emblem; put simply, a physical office means overhead costs and travel time.
That isn’t to say that a brick-and-mortar web design business is a bad thing, it just means that it isn’t a defining indicator of how successful the web design company is.
Some of the best web design companies operate out of home offices; team members organise themselves during web conferences instead of in-person meetings. No office means less commute times and more time pushing pixels.
Technology-focused web design houses tend to shoe-horn their own technological preferences into solutions their clients want. In reality, it should be the other way around; how can an appropriate solution that conforms to your unique business requirements be found without enough questions being asked first?
Boiling it down – there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution that is a right fit for every business need, and if you’ve barely opened your mouth before an eager web design company representative is heralding the amazingness of their online tools or content management system, it might be time to move on.
Business goals should always dictate a best-of-breed solution instead of a solution dictating how you will work from that moment forward.
What Does Matter
Moving on, let’s look at some factors that can’t be ignored when you’re considering a web design company.
Planning and Discovery
Ask your prospective web design company about their discovery and planning process; the questions they ask you during the estimation process and the discovery process should be on point and illuminate hidden complexities that might otherwise cause scope creep. It’s their job to know what you don’t; if they are not asking the right questions that uncover complexities or instil trust –run.
This is one area you need to be thorough; ask to see an existing planning document from a previous project and if they don’t have one, what steps are they taking to ensure you don’t simply ‘take our word for it’. A planning document should include website use-case scenarios, wireframes, and dictate the exact functionality, technologies required, and ongoing support pricing (just to name a few things).
Project portfolios are a great way to silently observe how knowledgeable your prospective website design company is in terms of your niche, market, or industry. It isn’t the end of the world if they haven’t worked with a company that shares a similar background as your business, but it’s definitely a factor to take into account if your business model requires custom functions or industry-specific integrations.
If your prospective website design company has worked with a company in your market before, they may be able to build upon efficiencies gained during another project. Modules and functions may not need to be built from scratch, and that can translate into cost savings.
A web design company that’s familiar with your line of work will understand what kind of website product you’re looking for intimately, and they’re easier to trust than those “just trust me” scenarios.
But even more importantly, sometimes there are hidden fees that have nothing to do with labour. Proprietary content management systems can come with licensing fees just for using the software. I’ve seen CMS’ run a business $10k before a single line of code is ever written.
Some licenses are charged per software installation, others are a per-user cost. Be sure to get any license agreement in writing right off the bat; some licensing fees are so high they’ll make or break a web design deal.
Notice how I didn’t mention programming languages or CMS platforms? Exactly. It is prudent to have an idea of what software industry leaders are using to host their websites or web-based applications before calling web design companies. You could save yourself a lot of time!