Websites can be one of the greatest tools for a business, but if you go down a path that is not a good match for your purpose and budget it can be an expensive and time consuming nightmare. Buying a website can be tricky, simply because sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and that can make it difficult to ask the right questions. So to help you out and get you oriented we have put together this awesome guide of what you must know before choosing a web design company.

1. Is the web company established and experienced?

It’s important to find a web design company that has experience. You can measure this in years, number of clients and also through the quality their web design portfolio.

Years in business indicates that the web design company is a stable and successful business and that they will be able to competently work with your business for the long term. Number of clients indicates that the company should be very familiar with the full spectrum of website projects and won’t take on a project that they don’t have the experience in completing. It also indicates that they have had the opportunity to iron out their work processes and are familiar with deadlines and timeframes.

Three important questions to ask are:

  • How long has the company been designing and developing websites?
  • How many clients do they have?
  • How many employees do they have?

In order to try and save a little bit of money there is often a temptation to get your website designed and developed by a small company, a freelancer or a friend of a friends nephew that’s just graduated from university. Often freelancers and small developers just don’t have the experience they thought they did and what seemed like a money saver can become an expensive repair job as you will often need to start from scratch again.We have heard these unfortunate stories time and time again and we have found that going with smaller companies and freelancers is often a short-term approach for ultimately what is a long-term project. Realistically a website is an ongoing project and it is important to partner with an experienced and established company that will be there for the long term and has the experience to offer you ongoing support and advise.

2. What should I expect to pay?

A question we often hear is – “how much should I pay for a website?”

Website prices can range a lot, you can get a website for as little as almost nothing and just pay for hosting, or the price can go all the way through to £10,000 and beyond. One of the interesting things about the web design industry is that you can get quoted a considerably different amount for the same job depending on the company that is quoting you.

As is the case when looking to purchase anything there can be a temptation to go with the cheapest option. You can buy websites from £99, however it is important you understand what you are purchasing as these products always have limitations. Another important thing to consider with these products is that they are often out of the box solutions and you won’t get the consultation and customisation that can be important so that the website is best serving your business interests. These cheap options can still work for some people, but not for all.

To some degree the saying “you get what you pay for” holds true in the web design industry. However there is a point where the price just keeps going up and the quality of the work or expertise doesn’t justify the cost.

Obviously price is highly dependent on the specific functionality that you require, but if you have a budget of between £3000 – £10,000 , and if you follow the points in this document when selecting the web design company, you should be able to get a professionally designed and developed website for your small business.

The best way to look a website is that it is a long term project and an investment in your business. If you are prepared to pay a little extra and choose the right company your website can be an asset and money making tool for years to come.

3. Can you update the website content yourself?

Ensure you will have access to update and edit the content of your website 24/7 on the fly. This is achieved by software which is called a content management system or CMS. Regardless of whether you intend to edit and upload the content of your website yourself or hire someone to do it for you, it’s important that your website is built on a content management system so that it is easy to make changes.

This is considered as best business practice in website development for small businesses and has become fairly common these days. It is something important to consider because if your website isn’t on a CMS, it can create a lot of expense later on when you’re wanting to change or add content. You will also want to make sure that the CMS is an industry standard platform and you also want to make sure that it’s easy to use and that good training and support materials are available to you.

4. Will you get support when you need it?

Does the company you’re purchasing the website from offer ongoing support? When you purchase a website, it is very important that you choose a web design company offers reliable, generous and cost effective support on an ongoing basis. This is incredibly important because a website has a lot of different functions and aspects to it, and it helps to have professional assistance available when you need it.

Things you might need help with:

  • your emails
  • your domain name
  • your hosting
  • how to use the content management system of your website
  • ecommerce setup

Without good quality support, you can find yourself in a predicament where you need to then outsource to an additional developer to fix the problem that you have encountered. This can lead to an extraordinary amount of frustration, wasted time and additional expense on your part..

A story we hear often and our clients have experienced repeatedly is with freelance developers or small web design companies who start working on a project and are fantastic in the beginning, but within 6 to 12 months their enthusiasm and commitment wanes. Often they’ve started a steady job or taken on new projects and then old projects are not as fun to work on, or they don’t have time to work on them anymore. So make sure that the support is in place with a company that has support as a part of their business practice.

5. Keep it all in one place

It’s very helpful and convenient to be able to simply have one company handle everything that relates to your website and online presence. Secondary services are anything that will support your business and your online presence. That could be graphic design services, copywriting, domain names, hosting, support, and most importantly online marketing. You want to know that the company you’re dealing with can offer you a full range of services that relate to your website and that they have good solid marketing skills.

Your website is an investment into the future of your business and you are going to want to make it work for you and it’s going to have a life cycle alongside your business. It’s a long-term project for you and as you develop your business, you will want to make the most out of it using different services to promote your businesss, as you grow professionally.

6. Are there any additional or hidden charges

When you are purchasing a website and receiving quotes, in addition to getting a fixed project price, it’s important to be aware of any limitations, ongoing charges and costs that may be related to the website.

For Example: hosting and support fees. But you will also want to know about additional development costs or future design costs. It is good to know how much the ballpark studio rates are per hour to cover your expectations. It’s also important to establish the project scope and prices straight up.

Sometimes without correct management, a company can allow a project to go out of scope and budget, or get escalated due to unexpected challenges, and suddenly you’re in a situation where you’re 75% invested in the project and now it’s more expensive than what was originally quoted. And this can also happen because you have decided mid way that you want more functionality too.

Another thing to consider are the particular limitations of the service, for example, limited hosting space or design revisions. If the company is placing limits on these you can guess there’s a chance that you will be charged extra if you exceed these limits.

7. See samples of their work

It is important to review and see samples of the work and craftsmanship that the web design company has produced in the past. This will give you a good reference point for what they can provide for you. It’s important in these cases to not only look at the quality of the design, but also the functionality of the websites. Any good web design company should be able to show you a large amount of work that they have done. This will be a very good indication of the service and quality that you’ll receive from their company and it’s a great place to start in terms of evaluating the company.

Along with this, it is also good to review any testimonials or case studies that the company may have from their clients. It is good peace of mind to know that their clients are actually happy with the service that they’ve provided.

8. Keep it British

It’s always great to support and buy British goods and services, however in the web design industry there are a couple of other things to consider above and beyond simply supporting British businesses.

Within the web design industry there is a temptation to outsource development and support to overseas countries to save money, however this is often at the expense of the customers experience as there can be time delays, communication issues. And most importantly they just won’t understand you as an British small business.

Having British support and service means that the company you are dealing with will understand you as another British business, will be working in the same business hours as you and any problems are more likely to be resolved quickly and easily.

In addition to this your website will load faster if it is on an British server. Often time even British web design businesses use overseas servers which means that your web page needs to travel further when loading which can create a time lag.