The below is an excerpt from our recently released free e-book "Successful Website Strategies for Small and Medium Sized Businesses". This chapter gives some great tips on how to choose the correct agency or web developer for your new website, along with some information on how different decisions and features may affect total development costs. To find out what else you need to know to market your business online, make sure you grab a copy of the free guide.
Now that you have a budget, goals, and special requirements for your new website project, you can begin the Request For Proposal (RFP) process. This begins by documenting all of the goals and requirements for your project that you gathered in the previous chapter. In addition to your feature requirements, you may have other time-related goals, such as a project completion date, that you should include in your RFP document.
Selecting a web design agency or web designer can be a stressful step because selecting the wrong vendor could very easily doom a project before it even begins. Consider the following items when reaching out to vendors.
Do you need an agency, or a freelancer?
A business has two options for outsourcing its web development and design needs; hiring a web design agency, or hiring a freelance designer/developer.
Hiring a freelancer can often be more affordable than acquiring the services of a full-service agency. Freelancers quite often have lower overhead costs and charge a discounted rate – commonly between $30 and $70 per hour. However, the higher rates (between $80 - $200/hour depending on service) that come with an agency typically accompany a team that consists of many members, with different specialties and skill sets. While a freelancer may be very gifted in design, they may also lack development abilities – or vise versa. A strong design agency will have all needed skills and abilities covered by a varied team of professionals.
There are many different skill sets that go into creating a great online property. Eight years ago, businesses could simply hire a designer with some basic development skills and get a fair product. However, creating a great site now requires strong design, programming, writing, photography, communication, and SEO skill sets and experience, amongst others.
Regardless if your business hires a freelance designer or an agency for its project, make sure that either party has the design and technical abilities on hand to deliver a product that matches your goals and vision.
This item applies to both freelancers and agencies; be aware if the service provider is outsourcing development or design to another vendor. It is common practice to outsource these services overseas to reduce costs – most often in return for a lower quality product, and an increase in communication lag. If your vendor is outsourcing, ask to see examples of their work and request contact information for the third party
Questions to ask your designer
Being armed with the right questions can help you determine if a vendor is a good ﬁt for your project. Asking the below questions are a great starting place for discussion:
Can I see your latest work?
How many members are on your team, and how many would be allocated to my project?
Can you show me examples of work that fall in a similar budget range as my project?
Once the ink is dry, how does the design and development process unfold? What is my involvement?
What if I am not happy with the creative work?
Does your quote include content creation?
Can I take my completed project to another vendor upon completion and payment?
What assumptions are you making in your quote or estimate?
Is the quote, or estimate, ﬁrm, or will it change as the project moves forward?
Do you do development and design in-house, or is it outsourced to a third party? If so – to whom, where, and can you provide examples of their work?
What is the quoted price based on? Is it an estimate of hours, or a ﬁxed price for the project as a whole?
Will the completed project work on mobile devices?
Consider disclosing your budget
Building a website can be compared to building a home. The same requirements can be met at different price points. An affordable starter-home and a luxury-home have much in common on paper – a roof, a front door, a kitchen, maybe even a ﬁreplace – but the quality of workmanship and attention to detail differs greatly between the two, as do the prices. The same concept holds true for a website. Disclosing your budget to potential vendors ensures that when you compare estimates and quotes that you are comparing apples to apples, and that all vendors understand what resources they have to work with.