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Establish Your Goals
Before you begin looking for company to help you design and build your web site, take the time to understand the goals of your web site. This will be extremely important to help set expectations with the web design company you choose.
In order to set your web site goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want a web site?
- Are you selling something?
- Do you have a catalog of products that changes on a regular basis?
- Who is your target market?
- Do you already have a brand?
- What is your industry?
- Who are your competitors?
- Do they already have web sites? If so, what do they look like?
- If you're selling something, will you accept credit cards over the internet?
- How soon do you want your web site?
- What happens if you never create a web site for your business?
Take the time to answer each of the above questions and if you have time, write the answers down on a sheet of paper. These are the same questions most web design companies will ask you before they begin to create your site. If you have these questions answered up front, you will have some criteria for choosing the right web design company. For example, if you are a real estate agent, and want to publish listings on your web site, you should seek a web design company that knows about the real estate business and has created web pages for other real estate agents.
Determine Your Budget
How much do you want to spend on your web site. Web sites can cost you anywhere from $100 to $100,000 depending upon what you want it to do. Know your spending constraints before you begin negotiating with design companies. Whatever you do, do not tell a web design company what your budget is!! Always get pricing based on your needs, not you budget.
Pick a Web Design Company
Your choice of a web design company is a very important step. Take your time to investigate all of your options. Here are some important items to consider.
Design vs. Build
Depending upon the scope of your web site, you may need to choose two different companies. Building a web site is a highly technical process. Designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. The process of creating a web site is similar to the process of building a new home. Before you ask a construction company to start building, you first seek out an architect who creates a blueprint of your house taking into account what you want (number of stories, square footage, etc.). Creating a detailed blueprint before construction begins can help you accurately estimate the final price. Without the blueprint, you may end up paying a lot of money for a house that does not fit your needs. Creating a web site is exactly the same except most web site "builders" also claim to be "designers". The good news is that you can look at other sites a web design company has created (like looking at other homes that a home builder has made). Make sure you ask the web design company what their process is for designing a web site vs. building a web site. They should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don't, they're probably builder that think they can also architect.
Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? As with any services company, choosing someone that has relevant experience. If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience doing just that?
Review the Portfolio
A well established web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you? In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn't they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?
Pricing for creating a web site can vary. Typically, web design companies will charge one of three ways:
- Time and materials: price is variable based on the actual number of hours spent working on your site. For example, a web design company may charge you $75 per hour. If it takes 100 hours to create your web site, your price would end up being $7,500.
- Fixed Price: some design companies will charge you a fixed fee based on a fixed set of requirements. If you outline your requirements very carefully, many web design companies will quote you a single price.
- Component Pricing: some design companies will charge "by the page". By creating a price based on the number of pages, you can control the cost by designing a specific number of pages. Buyer beware: some design companies will charge by the page but will have "special pricing" for components such as custom graphics, animated images, and the like.
The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front. Also make sure that you understand what "done" means. Try and structure the payments such that a significant portion of the fees (20%) are not due until you "accept" the final web site. Include the agreed-upon dates in your contract and provisions for what will happen if these dates are not met.
Solicit bids from multiple web design companies and compare both the pricing models and the prices themselves.
There are thousands of web designers across the country and they should all fight feverously for your business! Be picky! If a web design company dismisses any of your questions regarding their design process, pricing, or client references, take your business elsewhere!