When I started my web design company in Utah in 1999, it wasn’t hard for clients to know where to go, because there weren’t many many web design firms around. Now there are perhaps well over 100 companies providing web design services in Utah, and many times that many companies that are really freelancers masquerading as web design companies. Not that there’s anything wrong with that–it’s how I got my start.
Outside of Utah, which is a relatively small market, deciding who to work with gets even more complex. Then add to it the idea that perhaps one doesn’t need to work with a firm within one’s immediate surroundings, and there are tens of thousands of web design firms one can choose from. How do you choose? Here are a few tips to help you narrow down the choices.
1. Local or not? If you’re the type of person who wants to be able to sit down across the table from your web designer and talk to him face to face, then you’ve just eliminated 99% of the web design firms in the world. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?
2. The specialist. Are you a dentist or lawyer? There are companies that specialize in designing and building websites for certain professions. Typically these companies have a structured process, or a set of templates you can choose from. You may not get the high end, custom website you might like to have, but you might get a website that’s plenty good, and a fraction of the price of going custom.
3. Get a referral. Ask people you know who they recommend. There’s nothing like knowing that a friend you trust has used a service before you and had a good experience.
4. See the work. Web design is a visual art form, so look at what a company has done in the past. If they’ve done bad work, they probably won’t do great work for you.
5. Get references. Some great designers can be notoriously bad to work with. References will help you figure out if the personalities at the firm you’re looking at are the right fit for you.
Now, what are some of the things you shouldn’t do when hiring a web design firm?
1. Don’t tell them you’re shopping around. I think it’s natural for clients to believe that if they tell a web design firm “I’m looking around a several companies and will be making a choice very soon,” that they’re going to get better treatment and a better price. They might get a better set of prices to choose from, but perhaps that’s because the good firms are busy enough and don’t need more work. Whenever someone tells me they’re shopping around, I generally wish them well and don’t give them a proposal. I already know I’ll be competing against other firms, I might as well spend my time going after the potential client who isn’t looking at anyone else.
2. Don’t negotiate the price too low. You want the web design company you hire to make a healthy profit on the work they do for you. A web designer who is working on a project where she makes no money isn’t going to be too motivate to work on it. She certainly won’t be in the mood to add anything creative to the project. Instead, she’ll be trying to get it done as quickly as possible. And she won’t be excited to work with you again. If you want to get the best designers working for you, be prepared to pay for it.
3. Don’t be like these clients in the video above. Trust me, just watch the video. If you’re not sure what they’re doing wrong, you might not be cut out to be a client.