If you have ever shopped around for a web design company, you know it can be extremely difficult to narrow down the selection. There are so many design companies out there, and it can be difficult to understand what all the options are, or why some are better for you than others.
We have compiled a list of 10 things that we think make a web development company excel. In the interest of full disclosure, Amadeus Consulting does custom web development, and we do it pretty well. This is the process we take our customers through to ensure their needs are met. Nevertheless, we want people to know what they should look for in choosing a development company and a few simple things that you can look for that will nearly always ensure that you get what you want.
Feel free to contact us right now, and we can walk you through the process below.
Determine your needs
The first step is determining what you need. Now this is not anything technical and can be as generic as “a website.” But you should also be able to determine what you need your website to do. Is it selling something like an ecommerce site, is it a marketing tool, a user engagement tool, or does it help your improve or upgrade internal processes?
Determining your needs helps you determine which type of developer to hire, and lets you ask specific questions when talking to them. Some developers specialize in one area, such as database development or ecommerce, whereas other developers do not have the internal expertise to handle certain requests.
Also, try to determine what you want your website to help your company do. “Make money” is a fine answer, but narrowing it down to real results: increasing sales, providing information on clients, providing tools to engage customers, increasing efficiency, stability or usability will help you find a developer that can meet your exact need. The more specific you can be the better you will be able to narrow down your search.
Get References and Testimonials
When looking at a potential company, look at its portfolio. This can highlight some of its design skills and help you determine if it is the right kind of company for you. Has the company done something in your particular industry before?
Also, look for success stories. If you judge a website only by how it looks, you are only getting a very small part of the story. Find out if the websites were able to help increase sales, or efficiency, or customer service, or accomplish the business goal for which they were designed.
Take a peek at some of our client successes.
Without a degree in computer science, it can be hard to distinguish what the different acronyms mean and what they mean to you. Its like talking to a car mechanic, where all you can do mimic the noises and hope the mechanic can tie that to an actual mechanical problem.
With a website, maybe all you can say is, “I want it to go whoosh and pooom,” and thats okay. A business development consultant and software developer should take the time to listen and understand what you want, and be able to translate your needs into a proposal and eventually into a final product.
Communication also means that they should be able to give you an update during each phase of the project, from conceptual design and wire framing to launching final site. You should know exactly what is happening and be able to provide feedback during each phase of the project.
We have extensive experience in the custom software development process, and communicate every step to our clients.
Many application developers tend to create a long list of skills (and skills that almost everyone offers) hoping that if their list is longer then they will be more appealing. However, most developers neglect to explain the actual benefits of each service, and they dont always provide any evidence of actual proficiency only capability.
Look for companies that can focus on the benefits of using certain technologies to solve your business problems. You will notice a difference as you talk to different companies as some will be focused only on what you want to create, whereas better developers will ask more questions about what the site is trying to accomplish. Focus on companies that are focused on using the right technology to solve your need, rather than one that just provides a list of potential services.
One of the benefits to hiring a design firm, rather than a small team or an individual, is that they will have experts in different areas of web design. Development teams are able to provide the best perspective on what you need because they are not biased by their own personal preferences or skill specialties.
One of the benefits to full service shops is that they tend to naturally integrate each specialty into the overall design. Whereas some shops focus on one aspect of web design (usually the programming), larger design companies are able to divide the work into different specialties. For example, the interface designer will have more training on usability best practices, which leaves the programmers more time to focus on security and stability.
One of the most interesting things about working at Amadeus Consulting is it is a full service custom software development company. This means our specialties extend well outside of web development, which allows us to bring in people for special projects such as database integration or broader IT services.
Full service firms also are more likely use and integrate new technology. For example, many people can do Flash development because it is an older technology, but few firms can develop in Silverlight which has distinct advantages over Flash in certain applications.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Many development companies offer search engine optimization (SEO) as a service as well. This is almost always an optional service; however you should always look for a company that is well versed in SEO best practices.
Part of the challenge of the Internet is making yourself visible among the crowds and above your competitors. Search engine optimization works with search engines, such as Yahoo and Google, to help your site rank as best as it can for particular searches.
Even though optimization is an ongoing process, not a onetime event, it needs to be integrated from the very beginning in order to have the greatest possible success. Otherwise you will have a site that is not performing as you hoped which costs you money and lost opportunities.
In addition to SEO, many larger firms also have marketing experts that can help launch your site and draw people in. This can even include help with advertising, managing pay-per-click campaigns, or social media marketing. It may not be a service you need initially, but having a good relationship with a web-savvy company can benefit you down the road, especially if they are already familiar with your business.
Content and Writing
Most small development firms focus on what they are best at: programming, because each employee is a trained (or self-trained) programmer and they are legitimately good at what they do. However, you might also consider looking at a firm that can provide copy writing and content for your site.
Copy writing is a technical skill that can be difficult to get right, especially as it varies between industries and audiences not too much like a sales pitch, but still interesting and compelling. Like having an expert in SEO, the benefits to having a skilled copy writer can be tremendous, since they assist with all the text on your site.
Copy writers can also help you quickly develop content for your sites. Whether you want to start a blog or just create some informational pages about your company or industry, copy writers can save you time and help enhance the content on your site before it launches.
Graphics and the User Experience
Most users dont know and dont care how a site was built (sorry programmers), they just want it to work and be easy to use. A sad part of programming is that the better you do, the less people will notice it.
When shopping around for a developer, make sure that they have graphic design and user interface skills. In some cases developers can bring in contract designers, however having the ability in-house helps them work together and integrate a lot of the efforts. Usability affects page design and the flow from one page to another and ultimately to the “action page” where you close a sale, or gain a lead. It is important that the developer and designer can work together to make the site as efficient as possible.
Its okay to bring examples of other sites that you like, or even areas of your current site that you still like. Some sites are very flashy and are fun to look at, like MountainDew.com, and other sites like Amazon.com, are very simple but extremely easy to use.
The difference depends on the purpose of your website. An experienced web development company can help you design a site that fits your business.
One of the difficulties in hiring a web designer is that you want to know if they will be able to help you a few months or years down the road.
If there is one thing that is certain on the Internet, it is that things are always changing. As web standards evolve, compatibility issues arise, and smart phones invade the web, how will your site survive? Finding a trusted development company can be important for your sites long term success and will help you adapt as the Internet changes.
Even if you send out an RFP (Request for Proposal) which helps you judge developers on a set list of questions, you still have to go on your gut feeling.
Meet with each of your favorite companies at least once, and get to know them and their culture. Your top few choices are probably all capable of doing what you need. Website projects are more likely to succeed if you get along with the team members.
So there you have it 10 points to keep in mind when shopping for a web design company. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us.