I don’t envy a business that has to choose a web design company and doesn’t know where to start. We all know that the impressiveness of a company’s marketing does not necessarily relate to how good it is, and it certainly won’t tell you whether or not it’ll be a good fit. But if you’re taking a few stabs in the dark with local web design companies, hoping to strike gold, here are a few things to consider.
Firstly, Google search isn’t a bad place to start. I wouldn’t write off a company just because its website isn’t great, but I’d be concerned if they couldn’t get themselves onto the first page of Google results for “web design timbuktu” (or wherever you are).
Doing some homework
When you’ve got in touch, I’d expect their initial response to show they’ve done some homework on your business. I’d never trust a company which just assumed that it could cope with your market sector, your business size and your likely technical requirements without even asking. The right answer to your enquiry is “it would be great to work for you, but it depends on what you want”.
Examples of previous work which look very similar to what you need would be a bonus, of course, but that probably isn’t going to happen.
If you’re embarking on a rebuild of a big site, or you have ambitious expansion ideas, expect them to be talking about a realistic timeline of many months. “We can put something together for you in three weeks” might sound appealing, but it’s unrealistic and will undoubtedly require you to do as much of the work as they can get away with.
The people you’ll be employing
When you’re past the first filter, are they offering to introduce you to the web designers, or a project manager? These are the people you’ll be employing, not their sales guy. Do these seem like people you’ll enjoy being in contact with …a lot?
If the new site is going to require plenty of new or rewritten content, who’s going to write it? If it’s you, think about an arrangement where the two parties work together on the structure of the site, then leave a gap of possibly several months for you to get the content done, before picking up the project again. What you don’t want is a situation where the bottleneck in the process is you, giving them an excuse for suboptimal work.
Search engine performance
Do they mention SEO and website analytics? I’ve despaired over the years at how many websites are rebuilt only to plunge a dagger through the heart of the domain’s hard-earned search engine performance. Ask simple questions about things you’ve picked up recently (perhaps on blogs like this). Something like: “How would you use Google Tag Manager?”, “What do you think of Google Analytics 4?” or “How could you help us get Featured Snippets?”. They should have opinions on these. Vacant replies should signal a warning.
Finally, their quote is likely to be considerably more than you were expecting, and be prepared for cost overruns too. Don’t be ripped off, but do be fair when it comes to assessing the number of hours the designers are likely to be putting into it.