If you’re looking to have a contractor or agency build your organization a website, you have more choices than you can possibly consider. There are local design and development agencies, freelance web designers and developers, international developers that can be hired through ODesk and similar services and do-it-yourself services such as Square Space. I estimate there to be at least two dozen agencies in the city of Sioux Falls that do website design, not to mention the countless number of freelancers that do website design and development work.
Selecting a website designer is not an easy task. There are several factors to consider, and often organizations make a decision on the contractor they’re going to hire based on the wrong factors. Cost is often a major deciding factor, but it’s not the only factor. At the end of the day, you need a website that works for you. If your company sells products or services to consumers, you need a website that drives customers to your business. If are working for a non-profit, you need a website that communicates the work you’re doing and encourages people to get involved. More often than not, the website that will help you accomplish your organizational goals is not the cheapest option.
Here are some factors to consider when selecting a website designer:
Portfolio and Design Aesthetics – Does the designer or agency you’re considering have a portfolio of other websites they’ve created? If they don’t, that means they probably don’t have much experience. If they do, you should make sure that the look and feel of the websites they have made in the past meet the level of quality you’re looking for. You should also make sure that you like their design style. If they produce professional designs, but you just don’t like the look and feel of the websites they make, they’re probably not going to make a design for you that you do like.
Customer Service – Construction contractors have a reputation of showing up late and being very difficult to get ahold of if you have a problem. They’re busy and your project will rarely take precedence over anything else they’re doing. This is also true with website designers. Some designers produce great designs, but miss deadlines and are hard to get ahold of when you need them. You need to find a web designer that can offer you service after the sale and get work done quickly when you need to make improvements to your website. Look for testimonials on their website and contact customers listed on their portfolio to verify the quality of work and the level of customer service offered by your designer.
Technology Platform – Most website developers have specific technologies they like to work with. You should make sure that the agency or freelancer you’re working with uses a technology platform that’s widely used, allows you to easily administer your website and can be worked on by another designer or developer if they become available. If a web developer tells you they’re going to build your website using a content management system they made themselves, that means they are the only person who will ever be able to work on your website. You could end up in a world of hurt if they get out of the business or if something happens to them. Instead, look for a website designer that makes use of a common platform, such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, that can be worked on by any number of developers.
Cost – Cost is definitely a consideration in who you’re selecting to build your website. Make sure to read the quotes that you receive carefully. There are many agencies that offer a lower up-front cost, but charge significant monthly fees, often as high as $125.00 per month, to keep your website up and going. Make sure to calculate the total cost of operating the website over a period of three of four years, not just the one-time up-front cost. Also make sure you know what rate that they’ll charge you if you want them to do any additional development work in the future. The hourly rate that developers charge can vary anywhere between $40.00 and $150.00 an hour, so you want to make sure you know what you’ll be paying for additional work in the future.