Web design companies certainly come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. It is important to do your homework and understand what makes a good fit when selecting who will be developing your website. To help you along in this process, we have made a list of some questions that you will want to ask yourself when making your selection.
Is the web design company the right size for your business?
Size is a very important consideration when selecting a web design company, that many clients don't really put much thought into. It is just like the story of Goldilocks, you want to find the company that fits "just right".
If you end up working with an agency that is too large for you, you are likely to not command the kind of attention you expect or ultimately need. Typically in big agencies, the smaller clients are added to the bottom of the list of an already busy account manager who may be servicing five to twenty other clients in addition to you. This is not a good situation to find yourself in as in the scheme of things, you are just not that important a client.
On the other hand, if the web design firm is too small for you, they may not have access to the necessary specialized resources or talent need to succeed. A one man shop, may not be able to deliver the services, skill or volume required to get your project done successfully.
Depending on your project, it is a good idea to identify what types of talent are truly required. Does your project require complex functionality or database development, search-engine-optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social media, video, animation, photography, etc. Once you have identified the types of talent needed, you can ask if those people are available for your project.
Maybe a relatively small project will only need a project manager, web designer, programmer and a copywriter. Whereas a large project may require a project manager, a web designer, a programmer, multiple copywriters, an SEO or PPC expert, a social media manager and even an analytics specialist.
A well-sized company will have team members, either in-house or freelance, that can provide the range of services required for your project.
How many active accounts is your web account manager working on?
As we mentioned, most web design and development companies have account managers that work as a go-between with the client and the developers. It is critical to understand how much of the managers time you will be receiving and how many clients he is trying to juggle at the same time. We have heard of agencies that have account managers handling over 100 accounts at a time! You can imagine how little attention you would get with a business like that. In our experience, an account manager should have no more than 5 to 10 clients maximum to devote his or her attention to.
How many man-hours are going to be assigned to your business for web development?
Another important factor is to understand how many actual man-hours are being deployed on your project. Often web design agencies don't publish an hourly rate, instead, they frequently work on a retainer or fixed monthly price. If you are paying $5,000 per month for services, but you don't know how many hours of work you are getting, you are most certainly being taken advantage of.
Which employees are actually putting in hours on my web project and who are they?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the last question. Knowing how many hours are going into your project is critical, but so is understanding who it is that is actually working on your project. Maybe you were sold on having an SEO or PPC specialist on the team, or maybe you met a really sharp project manager when you interviewed the company, but you need to make sure they are actually the ones doing the work on your project. Many web agencies chose to use many interns or contract labor from countries like India or Malaysia to keep their costs down. This is understandable of course, but we have found that outsourcing and heavy intern reliance most often leads to very poor quality work. The turn-over rate with interns and outsourced labor is painfully high and frequently creates inconsistent programming and design which can become a serious problem down the road.
Does the web design company take the time to educate you on what they are doing and why?
It is imperative that you as a business owner understand the technology that is being used in your business. You don't have to know HOW to do it, but you certainly need to understand WHY you do it. Finding a web design company that will really sit down with you and teach you at a high level what they are doing and why is necessary for long-term success.