How To Compare Website Design Offers
Your website is an important component of your business marketing and one of the most important investment decisions you can make. By now you should see the value in having a website for your business. If not, go and read all my tips for local businesses! (Good, now we are all in agreement.) But with so many companies out there fighting for your business, how do you decide which one is right for you?
The tendency among business owners is to compare based on price. But that isn't the best way since not all proposals are created equal. You have to take the time to understand what is included and choose the proposal that is going to deliver a great website that meets your specific business requirements while showing you the positive return and value you will derive from your investment. Plus you need to ensure great support after the site is delivered.
Cost is not as important as getting a solution that meets your business objectives and delivers a positive return on your investment
Most business owners want to know how much a website costs before the design company even has a chance to understand requirements. I once had a business call and ask me to come talk about a new website for their business. As soon as I got there, they wanted me to do a full presentation and give them a cost. That's like asking an architect to give you a house design without discussing your needs first. Cost is important, nobody wants to spend more money than they need to - but getting the right solution that will deliver a positive return on your investment is even more important. To get the right solution, you need to spend time on the goals and objectives of your website.
1. Make sure your requirements are met in the proposal in an affordable way
The first step in evaluating website proposals is to make sure that the company you choose has understood your requirements and will deliver them with your finished product. A good dialogue is the key to gathering your requirements and ensuring you are getting the right solution offered for your needs. If you just need to display a few pages of information about your products or services, you don't need a $20,000 fully flash driven "Disney" styled website.
If you have the money and you want a lavish site for branding reasons or just because you can, great. But your website needs to be built around your business needs. In most cases, there is no need for the "Mona Lisa" of designs, just a professional site with a pleasing visual layout that will give your customers the information they need to choose you. This decision is up to you. Your design company should be asking you for your expectations so that those expectations can be met.
2. Are they going to help you make good decisions on your online marketing based on years of experience in the business?
This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. Not only should you get your requirements met, but your web design firm needs to have enough experience in business to help you make good decisions as to what those requirements should be. With some firms, if the customer says that they need dancing bears on the home page with music that automatically plays when a person comes to the site, they will say, "OK" and gladly charge you for it. But what your web design firm should do is ask why you feel that dancing bears is needed and ascertain if the added value will justify the added costs. Likewise they should have enough experience to point out that a very significant number of people will immediately navigate away from a page that starts blaring music at them.
You, as the customer and business owner, of course, have the final say. But it is important that your firm has experience and can offer up more cost effective solutions when it is appropriate. As a business owner, I always love to make more money. But I can't in good conscience sell a customer something that I don't believe in without giving the customer alternatives based on my years of experience. If you never get any alternatives proposed, you are probably not getting the best value for your money.
3. Who will be doing the actual work and will they be there to support you?
There are many companies that offer low rates and outsource the project and you never hear from them again or when they do, they have to charge high rates because of their outsourcing arrangement. Make sure that the firm building your site is building the site in-house and will be there to support you after your site goes live.
4. Are they going to do free small updates for specials for Valentines Day, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc?
This assumes that you have a reasonable hosting and maintenance agreement. If you choose to "pay as you go" you cannot expect free updates. But your website development company should offer this service as part of their maintenance and support options. This does not mean a complete re-design! But you should be able to highlight special offers about 4 times a year for free. Every business should be doing this to entice customers to come back. Your website is never finished - you should be updating it regularly. If not, you might be charged up to $200 an hour... yes, some companies charge this and some charge even more.
5. Is your new website going to be mobile compatible?
These days the need for mobile compatible websites is beyond debate and the days of having separate sites for mobile devices has gone the way of the dinosaur. Do not invest in a website that is not responsive to mobile devices.
6. Will they optimize your site for search engines or is it an extra cost?
Having a website that isn't optimized for search engines is not a wise investment in your business. This doesn't mean that your site will automatically be #1 on Google, but the foundation for SEO is proper on site optimization and it should be included with your site at no extra cost. But some firms just want to "hit and run" and will ignore this very important step.
There are many smaller issues to consider, but if you make sure that your vendor is doing these six things, you will be way ahead of most local business owners looking to have a website built. When you understand and apply these criteria along with price estimates in a true " apples to apples" comparison, you will end up with a great website that will deliver value for your investment dollars.