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Choosing a Web design agency

The following information has been compiled from information we have collected from our clients.

Hopefully it will help you avoid some of the pitfalls and commonly overlooked areas in forming working relationships with web design companies.



Seems like a simple one but some companies don't really look at a web companies portfolio.

Also check their sites in all browsers - its amazing how many web sites only work in Internet Explorer.


Understanding the project

Very difficult to judge. Firstly , ensure you are presented with a proposal. One that analyses your requirements and hits the sweet spot regarding your corporate requirements. The web company really should understand your need exactly.

Do you need a micro-site, product focused site or a brochure site. Do you need to collect customer information and use it in a particular way.


Specialist agencies

Some agencies specialise in Telecom sites, working with charities, farming, heavy industry. While good designers can work with anything it may be easier and faster to work with agencies that understand your corporate space.

The downside to this is that they may not give you anything new - if that's what you are looking for.


Provide a good brief

A project can only be as good as the brief. Spending time ironing out the brief can pay dividends. This doesn't necessarily mean a list of instructions to follow, keep it as generic as possible so you get some different ideas of approach from the web team.

A good web company should quiz you for their own understanding of the brief anyway. They should also suggest some alternative ways to meeting your goals.


Total Cost

Its not about project cost. Its about long term cost. Choosing a company in India or South America may seem to be a good cost saver but total costs can build up through miscommunication and cultural assumptions resulting in larger correctional and long-term cost.


Hidden Costs

You may see adverts for web sites from £250/$500. While truthful , this isn't likely to give you any more than a one page template design. Check for hidden costs. Its difficult to do if you don't know what you are looking for. Here are some pointers

  • Hosting costs
    • Web server set up
    • EMail set up
    • What about server updates?
    • Associated domain name costs

  • Extra management fees
    • Nothing wrong with this in itself but check the hourly rate is the same as your initial web build.


  • Search engine set up

To have a solid functioning, well performing web site, will require more work than one that is just built. Its like buying an expensive car but not buying the wheels even keeping it locked in the garage)



When will it be done, how much for, caveats, who's doing what. Have a contract in place. Enough said.


Terms and conditions

Always good to read over. Ensure they are set up to benefit both parties.


Total Cost and Hourly Rates

When shopping around. Feel free to ask for a studio rate. But also ask for a rough quote. Experienced web companies will have code recourses stored in a code library. They will also be able to put sites together faster. This all means a lower total cost to you.

Outsourcing to India may cost $20/hour but you may also be tied in to purchasing monthly minimum blocks. That said it may be the case with some agencies here too!



What happens when you need updates


Hard Copy

Ensure that you have access to the code

At the end of a project, ensure you have the web site delivered on a CD Rom. Then you have ownership of the content should the company cease trading or not be as keen to do updates as they were to build the site.

It is advisable to do this on large projects at pre-defined stages.

Note: this is not necessarily copyright ownership (See below).


Copyright Ownership

The catchy one. Some agencies will build you a web site with great graphics and corporate branding. Its not until you want to use those graphics on collateral marketing material that you find out you cant.

Does your web design company transfer copyright on completion? If not it could cost you another 10-20%.


Check standards

Check that the coders are coding to web standards and not giving you bad/not well formed code. It may not look any different to you but the search engines may not like it.


Does your contract include SEO?

If you need Search engine optimisation or management ensure it is submitted to all major engines and each page is titled appropriately.

Most companies will charge a small fee for this service but its well worth it.If you are basing your decision on the lowest price check that this is included.


Who is building your site?

While your contract may be with one company they may be 'farming out the site' to a company you wouldn't have chosen.

Apart from lack of respect to you this can cause all sorts of problems and delays.


Get References

Your web company should be able to supply you with two recent references of happy customers. If they cant you need to ask for two anyway!

References should give you a good idea of flexibility, courteousness, responsiveness and even value for money in supplying more than you asked for.



Some companies may charge for design and then use pre-formatted templates. Not a bad thing in itself - the templates will be solid an probably nicely designed. It may come as a surprise to see your site with someone else's logo on though.

Also some template sites run from a central system will not do as well as bespoke designs on search engine listings as the search engines have a clever way of finding duplicate sites and only promoting one of them.


What business background and experience do they have? If they have an design degree this may not be enough.


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