When it comes to selecting a great website design company, your ultimate decision might revolve around two concerns: the price of the website design service, and how quickly the vendor can get the website turned around for you and your small business.

However, if you’re limiting your project scope to these two primary factors, you could risk ending up with a website that drives valuable traffic – and profits – away.  With that in mind, we’re about to conduct a thorough investigation as to how you can select a great website design company.  Keep this article at your fingertips, and you’ll never risk investing your hard-earned time and resources into a faulty website!

Project Outline Based On Your Requirements

You expect plenty from your website design company – and the best ones expect plenty from you.  A website design company will conduct in-depth interviews and project sessions to understand exactly what you’re looking for from your business website. That way, they’ll be able to provide you with accurate templates from the get-go.  If a website design company is quick to move forward, you might not end up with what you’ve paid for.

Provide Sample Website Design Templates

Even the savviest small business owner will need some sense of direction when creating their website.  That’s where sample templates come into play.  A website design company should be more than happy to provide you with two to three sample templates that give an idea of what your website should look like.  The vendor should also give you the opportunity to provide feedback or modifications on those templates so you can get the website you’ve been dreaming of.  If a website design company claims that they need to charge you for the sample templates, move onto another vendor: these are typically free with the overall cost of your website.

Provide Timely Project Updates

Of course, as a small business owner, you understand that most vendors can’t be at your beck and call throughout the day.  But that doesn’t mean your website design company should disappear for weeks at a time, only to re-appear with something that vaguely resembles a website.

You’ll want to choose a website design company that provides you with consistent project updates throughout the duration of the site’s creation.  From sample mock-ups to test drives, your vendor should be all too happy to provide you a glimpse of where your website’s at.  That way, if you have any questions or comments about the progress of your website, you’ll be able to direct them to the vendor before it’s too late to make any adjustments or revisions.

Look For Included Maintenance

There’s a particular website design company that is willing to build your company’s site for cheap.  You’re tempted to award your project to them, as they’re much cheaper than other vendors.  However, if their services don’t include maintenance for at least three months after the website goes live, you might as well attempt to build the site yourself.

Why is this, you might ask?  Simple: you need time to get acclimated to using your website, and how it works.  Additionally, many websites aren’t uploaded in pitch-perfect shape.  If you are left with a website that has a number of bugs, you will be forced to hire another website company that will charge additional money to correct them. This is why it is important to choose a company that will allow testing and has all bugs worked out.  Finally, a website that looks good as a mock-up won’t necessarily look so good once it’s life.  You need these buffer months to get your website into tip-top shape before moving onto the next stage with your website design company.

Speaking of testing your website…

Ask For Several Test Drives

A website design company should always be willing to test, test, and test your website again.  While these are mainly for the reasons listed in the previous section, it’s worth noting that these test drives will help you and your staff members become familiar with the information your website is presenting you.  Besides, if your website design company dumps information on your lap that you simply don’t understand (for example, what are bounce rates?), you won’t be able to use your website to its maximum potential. The information that you will find on these tests will give you the best chance at getting the most from your website.

If a website design company is unclear on whether they charge extra for these tests, back away slowly.  You need a company that treats these important test drives as an imperative part of setting up your website, not as an expensive afterthought.

Time of Delivery

Website design is one of the few items that you will find businesses working on 2, 3, or even 6 months before completion for the simplest website designs. A good rule of thumb for a brochure website design and development is 30 – 45 days. Companies that offer some type of reasonable guarantee that your website will be complete in a given time will take your project seriously, and work to get your project finished.

Avoid Hidden Fees and Set-Up Charges

Getting a website up and running will inevitably involve extra costs. For example, you’ll need to factor in the cost of setting up and registering your domain name, as well as hosting your website. However, you’ll need a website design company that will honestly walk you through these stages. Also, avoid a website design company that charges you fees per photo or product you need to upload. This is an easy way for these companies to charge hundreds (even thousands) of dollars more than the original task projection.

Domain & Website Ownership

One of the most important questions you can ask your website design company is “Will I own my domain name and website?”. To many people that I talk to about this, it seems like an obvious answer, however, there are many circumstances where you may not own 1 or either the domain name or the website. This will vary greatly depending on the designer you are talking to, however, it is important to get the answer to this question upfront and in writing.

There are a few reasons why you may not own your website or domain name(URL) including a website lease, website contract, or a template.

A website lease works very similarly to a car lease. The website designer may charge you a smaller amount or zero money upfront, along with a smaller monthly fee leaving them with the responsibility to cover the entire cost of building the site, as a result, you never own the website. Your upfront costs and marketing costs may be considerably lower while the company maintains ownership of the site.

A website contract is when you agree on upfront that after a certain amount of payments you gain full ownership of a website. This usually happens with website financing programs. If you go with this option, be sure to get clear instructions of how payments are made to the site and when you will own your website.

A website template is when the company that you hire for your website gives you a pre-made website that is simply edited with your logo, phone number, and other company information. While a website design firm may offer you ownership of the template, there may be other websites that have the exact layout of your business.

Domain names are usually owned by the business. This note has been added to this post to remind you of important things to consider when choosing your designer.  The only way to avoid any confusion with regard to your domain(URL) is to buy your domain yourself. Registrars like Godaddy, Dreamhost, Name.com, and Name Cheap are all viable options to buy domain names.

Offer SEO(Search Engine Optimization) Services

Finally, look for a website design company that offers SEO services along with their custom sites.  You can have the most beautiful site in the world, but if no one sees it, you will not be able to use it to grow your business. A company that offers SEO will include very important factors in the coding of your website that search engines require for all websites that receive a 1st-page placement. This also includes creating web content for your site, listing your site on search engines,  and other important components of getting to the top of the search engine charts.

Other Things To Consider

Experience With Your Industry – While this is not a deal-breaker in most cases, a website design company can successfully design and build a great website for any industry, however, sometimes a company that has had significant experience in your industry can save you time and money based off of the work for other companies. If you are in love with a company work with this company regardless of whether they have a ton of experience in your industry however, if you have a few questions in your mind already and they don’t have significant experience, it may be worth continuing to look for the best fit for you.

Content Management System – A content management system is a website that has administrative access in a central place that can be given to 1 or multiple users. This means that as a business owner you(meaning you or your staff) will be able to make updates yourself rather than waiting on your designer. Many companies are going with content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. Each of these has its own strengths, however many people feel that WordPress offers the most user-friendly interface. Find out if your designer offers if a content management system is included with your website design.

Mobile Phone Compatibility – Mobile phone compatibility is becoming more and more vital in the online marketplace. Some companies, however, don’t offer any mobile phone compatibility due to the new trend. Be sure to ask “How will my phone look on mobile devices?”. Either your site will automatically be compatible or you will need to pay for an upgrade.

Now that you know how to select a good website design company, you can be confident your website will do everything you’ve asked for – and then some!

Elite Web Professionals provide custom WordPress website designs to help you build your brand name while making it easy for you to provide information to your customers.  For information on how we can help you with your website needs, browse our WordPress website prices. We provide comprehensive website design, and internet advertising services to help you grow your business online.

Updated October 8, 2013