Like many business owners, you may have decided to leave your website’s design and development in the hands of a web design company so you can focus your attention on other important projects. There’s so much that goes into building a website from the ground up, from the actual look and layout to the content that fills the pages to the optimization work that ensures you’re found in search engines.
Even though there are so many facets of a successful web presence, it’s important that you don’t solely rely on the web design company to be the eyes and ears for your site. You want to have a basic understanding of these components to make sure you’re getting a high-quality service that will positively impact your business. After all, your website is likely the first digital impression potential customers get of your brand. Don’t you want to make sure you’re making the right impression?
If you’re currently outsourcing your web design work, or just starting to think about it, take a few minutes to evaluate the company on these key practices to make sure they’re keeping your best interest in mind.
Ownership of Website & Domain
By far the most common misconception about web design and development is where the site’s ownership lies. It’s your business’ website, so it’s yours, right? Well, not necessarily. Don’t sign any service agreement before understanding who owns what. You don’t want to wait until you’re considering another company to find out that your site will be deleted because you aren’t the authorized owner.
There are a few major components that impact ownership, but it’s important to note that hosting is not one of them. When it comes to where your website is hosted, you’ll generally enlist the help of a hosting company (or your web design company if they offer it). What’s important to remember here is that regardless of where your site is hosted, the ultimate ownership of your site is not impacted. It’s simply where the contents are stored and protected.
In terms of your domain name (which looks like yourwebsite.com), you have to acquire/purchase this from a domain registrar (GoDaddy, for example). This registrar is the official owner of the domain name, so you’re essentially leasing it for your business. If you choose to give it up, another company has the right to purchase it for themselves.
The last piece of the puzzle is the actual content of your website, which includes each page’s text, images, and videos. This is where you really need to pay attention. If you’re working with a company that’s doing both content and design work, you should be presented with an agreement at the end of the project outlining ownership of the site’s content. Otherwise, you’ll only be entitled to the content that you contributed.
That means if you choose to work with a different marketing company down the line, the previous agency has the right to remove any content that they created for you. If the company doesn’t address this, that’s a major red flag regarding their credibility. You should never have to question what will happen if you ultimately take your work elsewhere. In many cases, the company will be more than willing to let you keep the content, even if you’re no longer a customer. But you have to have this in writing to ensure no legal ramifications.
Content Originality & Quality
Not only is the ownership of your site content important, but the quality of it. After all, your content is what educates visitors, builds trust, and may ultimately lead to purchase decisions. If you aren’t providing engaging, knowledgeable insights to potential customers, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convince them to consider your company further. And not only is quality content important to visitors; it’s also important to search engines.
Google’s ranking algorithms take into account content originality and quality, so if your content is spammy, copied from another source, or unnaturally stuffed with terms that you want to rank for, don’t think they’re just going to let it slip by. Your rankings will suffer if you don’t provide a positive reading and learning experience for users.
If you’re using a marketing company for content services, it’s important to know who’s writing the content for you. Does the company have specialized writers or freelancers? Are they outsourcing the work to another company or country? You should be aware of who’s in charge of your site’s content and communicate with them regularly to ensure your brand is well-represented and SEO best practices are adhered to. And if you’re not satisfied with any content created, the company should offer to rewrite it until your expectations are met.
Finally, ask yourself if you as a consumer would want to read this content! If you’re uninterested in what you’re reading or it seems too promotional, chances are your target audience won’t like it either. Your content should cover a wide variety of topics, approach them from different perspectives, and serve as answers to common customer questions.
Pricing & Payment Structure
If you compare a few digital marketing companies side-by-side, you’re likely to see some differences in the way their pricing and payment plans are structured. Some companies prefer payment in full before any work begins, and others allow clients to pay in monthly installments. And while some charge by the number of hours designers are working on the site, others charge by the number of pages you need created.
Don’t get too caught up in the way you pay for your services unless your revenue stream is very volatile. What’s important here is the final cost of the project. As a frugal business owner, it can be tempting to choose the most affordable provider; but I would strongly advise against this as your go-to strategy without doing a little digging into what you’re actually going to get.
If you’re comparing two companies and one is significantly cheaper than the other, there’s a good chance that the work quality will be lower, too. On the other hand, a higher-cost provider isn’t necessarily a better fit. Really take the time to discuss your options with multiple companies and compare what you get for the cost. It might make you more inclined to choose a pricier provider that offers additional training and support hours over one that is more of a piecemeal offering.
Some other factors that will impact the cost of a design package include the number of pages you need, whether you’re using a template or custom design, and if you’re bundling any other services with the design, like SEO, social media marketing, or blogging. Whichever company you choose should be completely transparent about the costs associated with the project, offer bundling options, and even discuss with you why they are priced higher than a competitor. Making sure that you’re aware of any unexpected costs should be their responsibility, but it might be up to you to ask the tough questions.
Organization & Planning Process
Something that business owners often overlook when it comes to a web design is the level of organization and planning that goes into it. It’s easy to get caught up in the quality of the service being provided, but don’t underestimate the importance of firm deadlines and regular communication.
You should always have a timeline of when each step in the design process will be completed so you know if things are going as planned or the team is falling behind. With smaller companies, your project might not be done in as timely of a manner, but you might also get a more personalized experience by having a smaller group of contacts to keep in touch with. A larger company will likely get things done quickly, which is helpful if you’re in a time crunch, but you might have a harder time scheduling calls or meetings with your team. No matter the size or scope of the company you select, you should never be left wondering how long it will take to get something done.
Like most situations, communication is key. You should be able to regularly speak with your design team, whether it’s through email, phone calls, or in person, and get responses to any questions or concerns quickly. Ideally, try to have scheduled calls weekly or biweekly to discuss progress and any loose ends that need to be tied up. A successful web design requires the cooperation of both parties, regularly exchanging information and ideas, so regular communication will help keep everyone on-task.
It’s also important to know exactly who is working on your website and the role that each team member plays so you know who to contact with specific questions. Web design teams should have knowledge and experience across multiple facets of digital marketing, including SEO, graphic design, coding, and more.
Finally, company reputation is crucial to the success of any work you have done on your website. Whether they’re featured on the company’s website or you specifically request them, you should have access to case studies and portfolios of similar projects they’ve completed, along with feedback from clients about their experience working with them. Any company that is hesitant to provide this information does not deserve your business. You need to know that they have experience working with companies like yours, and that their customers are happy with the services they received.
In addition to company-provided feedback, you should also spend some time consulting reviews on Google, the Better Business Bureau, and more. Pay attention to both the number of reviews and the average rating, and take the time to read a customer’s reasoning for their rating to determine credibility. For example, a customer explaining how their web traffic increased due to a redesign will give valuable insight into whether or not they might be a good fit for you.
Time to Get Started
There’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to selecting the right company to design and develop your website. It’s such an important part of your online presence that it’s not a decision you want to rush or make without all the necessary information. But if you take the time to evaluate a web design company from all angles and hear what their own clients have to say, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that’s best for your business.