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How to Choose a Web Design & Development Company

Posted by admin on March 7, 2014

     Since the first online transactions in the early days of the internet, e-commerce has emerged from obscurity to become a daily practice for billions of people around the world. Whether locally or internationally, most people search for products and services online even if they intend to make the purchase at a brick-and-mortar store.

     To gain exposure and attract customers online you need a website which accurately reflects what you have to offer and encourages visitors to choose your product or service. The first step to having a successful, revenue-generating web page for your business is picking a good website design and development company. 

Put yourself in the online shopper's shoes

     Appreciate the importance of a website which looks and feels professional. Your online presence determines how people see you both on and offline. Consider how the shopping environment influences your opinion of a business and decision to buy in real life. Would you feel more comfortable purchasing a suit in a clean, well-lit clothing store with assistance from a friendly tailor, or buying that same outfit out of a plastic garbage bag hanging out of the back of truck parked in a dark alley? A shabby looking website scares away prospects.

shopping_experience.jpg

Think of the website like an online storefront.  It needs to look clean and professional

     In order to be successful at anything online – from marketing and sales to providing information about products and services – you need to control the atmosphere of the experience. Professional appearance encourages people to buy by making them more comfortable and associating the sale with a positive memory. A good website will establish credibility that carries over to the services offered, building your brand and your business.

     Follow these simple guidelines to ensure you have a stress-free experience acquiring a successful website:

• Orient yourself with the project details.

• Research prospective companies and make a list.

• Get in touch and ask for a consultation.

• Think in the long term.

Step 1: Work out the details

     Know what you want before you go searching for companies. Set up a time line of how long you expect the project to take and how much you expect it to cost. Don't get too attached to this guideline, though, because it may change at some point along the creative process. Remember, you are (hopefully) getting a product custom-designed for your specific needs, so it is difficult to pin down exactly how long it will take and how much it will cost.

     Ask yourself what you want the site to accomplish. Is its primary purpose to generate revenue, brand the company, or inform visitors? Feeling confident about what you want is essential for actually getting what you want when it comes down to communicating your idea to the company you choose.

Step 2: Begin researching companies

     Browse the web and ask friends or colleagues for recommendations. This step is perhaps the most important because it can keep your from getting tied up in a bad business relationship. The more research you do the more likely you are to find the company which is right for you.

     Do a thorough analysis of each company which catches your interest. Look at their portfolio and assess their web page. If you don't like what you see, move on. A web design company's website should showcase the skills and experience of the people working there.

     If the portfolio mostly contains work that is similar or bland, chances are the company rushes projects, works only from templates, and cares more about the paycheck than the client. Look at testimonials or speak with previous clients if possible.

coding_website.jpg

There are several stages in the web design process.  It begins with planning and discovery, moves on to content creation and coding, and finally is tested for quality control before going live

    Know the difference between web design and web development. Designers handle the process of carving out an idea for the feel of a website and flesh out the look, layout, and general atmosphere of the website. Web developers, also known as programmers, handle more technical details such as coding a website, managing the server, database maintenance, and programming applications.

    Programmers are flexible and have the knowledge and experience to customize, add, or remove any elements of a webpage. Not all companies offer both services, so check to make sure you are getting what you expect.  

Step 3: Make a list of your favourite companies

     Start getting in touch and find out how each company handles the development process. Try to get an idea of how it feels to work with the company, either over the phone or in person. Many web design & development companies offer free consultations, giving you an opportunity to interact with the people who will build your website before making a significant investment.

     After the consultation, a company should be able to give you a rough estimate of cost and time line which you can compare with the document you prepared in Step 1.

web_development_consultation.jpg

Consulting with a web design service is the best way of assessing whether a professional relationship will work out.  If you don't get along with the team it will lead to difficulties later on

     If you ask questions and express your interest in the project, a good company will respond with enthusiasm. Take this reaction as a good sign because it shows the team has a passion for the industry. A passionate company is more likely to produce a quality final product and provide support in the future.

     At this point it is a good idea to clarify how the site will be hosted, stored, backed up, and what kind of servers will be used. Will you own the domain or rent it? Get technical and make sure that the site will belong to you – some companies simply give you certain rights to the website but withhold ownership for themselves.

 

Step 4: Think about the long term and make a decision

     Investing in a website is like buying a house - You will be using it for many years. It will require constant care and maintenance to be successful. The priority is to be sure a business relationship with your chosen company will successfully grow your business. Based on your experience in the consultation and the details of the contract, decide whether you feel confident engaging in a long term relationship with the company.

     Will the team be there to support you if you need further assistance in the future? Do you intend to provide the content or do you expect the company to provide it? Ask if the company offers copywriting services. A professional content marketing team that includes a copywriter and graphic designer can work wonders for improving conversion rate and increasing traffic.

team_process.jpg

It takes teamwork to get a good website off the ground.  Different departments handle different aspects of development, but they all have the same goal - to serve the client

     Inquire about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and combine it with content marketing, copywriting, and social media management to create the best possible web presence. Websites at the top of Google ranking pages tend to be the most successful, so it is wise to implement a strategy for achieving a favourable ranking early on in the design process to save time later on.

     Some companies offer SEO service but perform it in an illicit manner (known as Black Hat Tactics) which is not sustainable and may result in a ban from Google rankings. Evaluate the company's SEO strategy by asking them to outline their approach. If the explanation inspires scepticism, it is not worth dealing with that company. Don't worry if you aren't an SEO pro because common sense will tell you if the strategy seems illegitimate.

     Although you are setting yourself up for a long term commitment, don't buy an engagement ring. The harsh reality is that there are companies which will lure you into a contract with an inviting facade but start mistreating you as soon as you sign. To protect yourself from the old bait & switch, establish an exit strategy to avoid prolonging the pain.

     It may sound like a lot of work, but it is all worth it in the end. A website is a long term investment, so careful planning will pay off in the future.

 

 

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