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Looking to Hire a Website Design Firm...
Before You Leap

by Bruce Eckman

Learn & Plan
For many folks website design is a mysterious process.
It’s a combination of creative design and software programming.
And unlike pure design such as a logo or business card, a website must be functional and interactive.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a website design company to do your website.

How can you improve the likelihood you’ll get a website…
  • you’re happy with,
  • that is fully functional in all browsers,
  • that provides a fluid user experience,
  • and is completed on time and on budget
Where do you start?

First you want to make sure the design company isn’t a known “bad apple”.

You’re probably familiar with the Better Business Bureau. Check with them to see if the company has any negative reports...
Go to: http://www.bbb.org.
Search for the companies on the scam report websites.
Watch out for...
Surprises in Contracts & Terms
Next you want understand what you’re paying for.

Website design is a creative service.
Creative services differ from “trade services” such as plumbing and auto repair.
They require skill and a level of interpretation and unique creativity.

In both cases you’re hiring someone to do work – sometimes by the hour, sometimes by the project.
What differs is ownership of the creative product produced.

With trade services, you own it once you’ve paid for it.
With creative services that’s not always the case.

An example of creative services is the entertainment industry.
Actors get paid for a TV episode. Then they often get paid additional fees every time the episode airs… They “retain” rights to the product.

So you want to read through the terms and contract to understand exactly what you’re paying for… who owns the creative product, what are the “use rights”.

The design firm can grant you the right to use the "product" in specific ways, while they actually retain ownership of the product. They can also grant you ownership and retain specific use rights for them.
As part of the contract, the design firm may hold ownership for a period of time – such as a year – and limit your ability to host your website else where. (Similar to cell phone contracts.)

Ownership and rights should all be spelled out in the contract.
Design firms with...
Poor Customer Service
In this day and age your business is negatively impacted by not having a functional website. So of course you need a website design firm that understands that.

As with any business dealings you want a design firm to be service oriented. To treat you and your business with professionalism and courtesy. Does the firm:
  • Answer their phone or at least return your call quickly
  • Are they helpful, courteous and knowledgeable
  • Do they listen to you and respond with answers, options and solutions
  • Do they deliver on time
Design Firms that...
Take Your Money & Run
Many hours - as well as skill - go into website design. Good design is not cheap. That's ok when you get what you pay for. A good website – like a good sales person - can make you money.

But paying for a website and NOT getting one is not good.
Unfortunately there are website design firms and individuals that will, for one reason or another, cash your check and “disappear”. Or, they’ll keep stringing you along with one promise after another, but never deliver a completed website.

Checking the Better Business Bureau website and asking for (and checking) references can help you avoid this situation.
Companies with...
No Experience
Website design doesn’t require a license. So there isn’t a standard way to ensure the designer is capable.
It takes a high level of skill to create a website that’s appropriate, user friendly, aesthetically pleasing and optimized for different browsers.
Experience is one indicator of skill. You want to be sure your website firm has been at it awhile. You’ll also want to take a look at samples of sites they’ve designed.
Fast Talking...
High Pressure Salesman
Pressure may turn coal into a diamond, but it doesn’t make for good business decisions. If a sales person is rushing you to sign a contract or hand over credit card information, that’s not a good sign.
The Local Guy
The local guy may be next door but it's not likely he’ll have the resources and experience of a national web design company. Many companies have gone with the local guy and then been left high and dry when he moves on, gets another job or just plain losses interest.

Websites need updating over time. You want to be sure you have a reliable firm that will deliver on time and on budget and will be there in the future when you need them.
About the Author:
Bruce Eckman started his first business at age 5. He has owned and operated over a dozen different business and is currently the President/CEO of EZ-NetTools.com. He is active in helping others in starting a home business through EZ-BusinessBuilders.com.
Posted: 01/25/2009
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