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Web design companies all promise to built you a great website. But how do you choose the best web design company for your needs? How can you tell the difference between a good web designer and one that will merely cost you time and money?

Fortunately, there are good answers to this question.

What Questions Should You Ask?

These are some of the important questions you should ask:

How long has the web design company been in business?
Web development companies come and go. If you need evidence of this, check the yellow pages from one year to the next; you will see that 50% do not make it into the next year's directory. Choose one that has been in business at least three years if you want to be sure of some continuity. Otherwise you may find the web company is gone when you need to update your site.

Is website design their primary business or is it a sideline?
You do not want a company whose real business is something else. Website development is becoming increasingly complex and difficult. If it is not their core business, it will be very hard to provide you with the level of quality and service you expect. If their real priority is something else, you can imagine where you will be on their list. They may even lose their ability to serve you if one or two of their key staff leave them.

Will they provide you with a set of customer references you can call to check their work?
If they cannot or will not provide you with references, this is a red flag. But, more importantly, if they do give you references, check them. There are some companies who mis-represent their work and reference checks are the only way to determine this.

Do they explain their cost structure to you? Are they offering firm quotes?
Any company with real experience in web page design should be able to explain their cost structure to you. They should also be able to provide you with firm quotes for the work. If they cannot do this, you may be dealing with a company with limited experience, and you will find yourself paying for their learning and mistakes.

Did they take the time to thoroughly evaluate your needs before giving you a quote?
It is not realistic for anyone to give you an accurate quote to develop a web page until they understand what your requirements really are. To do this, they need to talk with you about your goals and objectives, your past experience, the nature of your business and much more. People who can give you a "quick quote" are often doing "cookie-cutter" websites or are quoting you high to cover all the unknowns that may come up.

How big is the company? Do they have specialists in several different areas? Are they contracting out key elements of the project?
The reality is that websites are becoming increasingly complex. It is virtually impossible for a single individual to create the websites that have become the standard in today's Internet world. You should select a company that has a team of individuals to cover the range of skills required for your project.

Do they have a portfolio of completed websites they can show you?
You are looking for a web design company that has a proven track record of developing successful websites. We have seen many web development companies who offer no samples of their work. Insist on seeing their portfolio of completed sites; do not accept sites that are "coming soon" or "under development". When you see their portfolio of sites, you will know the caliber of work they can do and the kind of customers they work with.

What quality control systems do they use to ensure they meet your goals?
As a relatively new industry the website development industry does not have a great deal of history in developing and following quality assurance systems in the same way other industries have done. You want to have answers to basic questions like how do they deal with change orders or rework or enhancements that were not part of the original quote. You want to know what control you have over the project as it moves through the process, including the points at which you will be given the chance to approve the project before it proceeds to the next step.


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