How to Choose a Web Design Company
Unfortunately there are a lot of unethical web design companies, sub-par web designers, and web developers that build websites with technologies that belong in the 1990s. Other designers simply modify templates that closely resemble thousands of other websites with nearly identical code. There are several easy things that you can look for to make sure you're working with a good, ethical, and cost effective web design company. Here are several simple tips that can help you to find a suitable web design company for your needs.
Pure CSS Web Design and Long Term Sustainable Web Development
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a web design company is to make sure that the websites they are building use long term sustainable best practices technologies such as Pure Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) web design and development. Traditional websites used tables that were broken into rows and columns to build the layout of the website, the problem being that sometimes a gigantic number of tables and complex row and column layouts are required to design a website. This means an excessive amount of code can be required to render complicated website templates and to debug for making design changes later.
With CSS our goal is to abstract as much of the design as possible out of the individual pages and place it into a separate style sheet. This firstly makes it easier to maintain the design of the website across an entire site with a minimal amount of work (change design attributes for the entire website by editing one file). When you're inspecting example code what you should look for is a lot of div HTML tags and as few table tags as possible except for tabular data (data that requires a table such as statistics). Secondly search engines love CSS as it minimizes the amount of code (lower code to content ratio), and moves the content higher up in the document giving the content more strength.
Additionally the best long term sustainable technologies to use when building a website are server side includes so that repetitive data such as headers, footers, or navigations aren't repeated in every file but in a single file. This makes design changes later much quicker and easier as a single file update can change the design or layout of the entire website. If you're looking for web application development ASP.NET and PHP are the best available technologies, both of these technologies can be used to implement a form of server side includes. Lastly avoid website designers that build pure flash websites as they are harder to maintain, and they get next to no exposure through the search engines, flash is best for eye candy only not content or website navigation.
Web Design Portfolio, Testimonials and References
A web design company's design portfolio, testimonials, and references are one of the most important things to check when hiring a web design company. Their portfolio should give you a sense of the quality of their work. Testimonials should generally be ignored as a lot of web design companies write them themselves, instead of testimonials focus on actual customer references generally check with at least 2 – 3 references per company.
Timeframe for Web Design Project
The average web design project should take around 30 - 60 days provided there is no programming required. Most web design companies that have shorter timelines are either going to give you a substandard website if it is shorter, or they won't meet their timeline. The other issue is most web designers misquote the amount of time required to do a project. In a 30 – 60 day website timeline that gives plenty of time to do a web design and go through several revisions, then code the template, and do the content entry. Keep in mind timeframes are likely an ideal scenario and unfortunately most companies take longer to complete projects then their initial timeframe.
Costs Associated with Web Design Project
Just as there are web design companies of varying levels of skills there prices quite often don't reflect their skill set. The price for quality web design seem to vary anywhere from $40 per hour up to $250 per hour, with an average rate of around $50 – 100 dollars for quality web design. Make sure that when reviewing web design and development contracts that companies account for how many hours are required for each task such as web design, template slicing, programming and that they are not trying to sneak in extra hours. In additional you might want to ask what software they use for tracking time usage on a project.
Maintenance, Licensing Costs and Intellectual Property
Maintenance and licensing are two main ways that unethical companies take advantage of clients over prolonged period of time. Whenever you see the terms Content Management System or Ecommerce Solution always ask about long term licensing and intellectual property ownership. Not only do some of these companies charge their clients long term licensing charges up to $14,000 per year but they also exert their full control over intellectual property rights by restricting the client access to the code. The last thing most companies want is to be stuck with expensive long term licensing on a solution that they very little control over in terms of modifying the functionality.
Hiring a web design company can be a very difficult choice for any company to make. Just about everyone consider themselves to be a web designer so it can be really easy to quickly find yourself with a substandard website instead of something that drives your business to new heights online. When built right a solid website can increase your company revenue and provide a portal for additional clients to find your company. When built wrong it has the potential to prevent people from ever finding your company, including the search engines. Lastly, always remember to do your due diligence and get a web design quote from at least 3 – 5 web design companies.