How to Find the Right Web Design Company?

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.”

What does the above quotation convey? To have a portal, you have to commit mistakes. Isn’t that funny? No, not at all. It may be a motivating sentence, but in business it can turn out to be doomsday for small start-ups with little investments. This article has been done especially for small start-ups who want to make it in their respective fields and are planning to launch their website or looking for a facelift or adding new functionalities to there existing site or aren’t sure about their design requirements.

Choosing a Web Design Company

With a multitude of web designers and developers out there, from freelancers, to agencies, to online templates, how do you know what the right fit is for your company, and more importantly, for your goals and objectives? Choosing a web design company is not that a serious job. But choosing a good web design company is a real serious challenge. People say that Internet has made business processes simple and global, but how about the complexities that Internet offers which are unique. Just Search for the term “Good Web Design Firm” on Google, and it comes up with millions of results. For normal human being it’s impossible to search through every result. We will go through the entire process of selecting a Web Design and Development company in a structured way.

STEP 1 – Planning

The first step involves defining your needs. While searching for the right web designer, it is important to have a clear idea what role your new Web site or a redesigned one will fill. Will it provide information to your customers? Will it serve the needs of your employees? Or will it include an online shopping section so that you can sell your products to visitors? Most Web designers will need to know the following:

o The role of your new Web site.

o The intended market or audience of your Web site.

o Your budget.

Take time to consider what you expect from your Web site and the type of information you want to communicate to your potential clients before you approach your designer. This will save you and the designer a considerable amount of time and effort.

STEP 2 – Searching and Creating a Primary list

Searching is a vigorous process and does not require any special skill other than diligence to effectively come up with good results that fulfill your requirements. Just scan through directories, check Google listings on specific key word searches and ask for referrals from your friends or business partners. It does not have to be a very extensive research work.

Referral: Ask business acquaintances, friends, and family which web design firm designed the website for their respective organizations, or if they can otherwise recommend a web design firm.

Web sites: Determine the web design firm that is responsible for the websites of organizations that you admire. These organizations may be your competitors, or in related or unrelated industries. Sometimes the web design firm is included in the site credits, or is listed elsewhere on the website. If you cannot find the credits on the site itself, feel free to contact the organization and ask which web design firm is responsible for the website. This can also be a good source for references for that web design firm.

STEP 3 – Evaluating and Short listing

Once you have gathered a list of potential web design firms you are ready to pare them down to a shortlist. This requires a bit of research work.

o Portfolio – It’s about the three C’s – Credibility, Consistency and Capability. How consistent they are? What are the parameters on which the company is capable enough to fulfill your requirement? Are there any testimonials that speak about their credibility? Do the projects in the portfolio have a consistent quality? Have they consistently given good results in the given time frame? Has the Web design company provided solutions to other companies in your industry? Have they dealt with similar challenges to those faced by your organization? These are some important factors to consider. When you’ve narrowed your search to a few design sources (through recommendations, web directories, or your competitors’ sites), evaluate their online portfolios and their rate structure. A web site doesn’t have to be flashy or animated to do its job. Browse sites they have built, check ease of navigation, organization of information, overall cleanliness and visitor-friendliness. Also, consider hiring a firm that demonstrates some familiarity with your type of business. Just go through the success stories/case studies that have been made available on their web site and corroborate the credentials through references if possible.

o Experience and Fees – This is called the EF of web design firm. Experience and fees are very much inter-related. The general norm is the more experienced you are, the more you are paid. This interesting story can tell you what experience is all about.

Once upon a time there was a steam generating plant that was not producing much steam. After a frustrating search for the cause, the plant manager, in desperation, called in an expert. After only two hours on site, the expert found the problem and placed “X’s” on two pipes that were causing the problem, saying that they had to be removed. When presented with the bill, the plant manager asked the consultant how he could charge $5,000.00 for only two hours of work. When he asked for an itemized bill, this is what he got:

1. $400.00 – Placing “X’s” on two pipes.

2. $4,600.00 – Knowing where to place the “X’s”.

The plant manager got what he paid for and probably a lot more. He had already used up more than that amount on his own staff not to mention the loss in revenue while the plant was shut down. For him, securing the advisory services of a consultant was the right thing to do.

It matters a lot if the company has a good experience in diverse business domains and has professionals and specialists from variegated backgrounds. As such they will have an understanding of different business verticals that may be an advantageous point for your website. Another important factor is budget. What you pay is what you get – WYPIWYG. Never compromise with the quality of your website just for saving few quick bucks. In the long run you will end up on a losing side. Have you ever imagined why American diamonds cost less and than real diamonds when at times it’s difficult to differentiate between the two? It’s obvious – the brilliance and hardness of diamond. This makes another interesting point, you can get a cosmetic surgery done for your website for a lesser cost, but it will lack the functionalities and effectiveness. It can draw visitors but can not turn them into business. So when you pay for something, you definitely get a good deal in return.

o Technology – What is their technological competence? Does this match with your requirement? How many projects they have worked on using the same? How frequently their technology is upgraded- both in terms of software and hardware?

o Deadlines – Has the company carried out the projects in stipulated time? Time is one of the most important factors as the longer it takes, the higher the input costs get. Some companies may offer you a shorter time period and may be ready with the design. But after that starts the long and torrid journey of finding and fixing bugs which may turn your visitors off.

o Responsiveness – How promptly the company responds to your queries? Does it listen to your queries? Are they responsive to my suggestions and questions? Do they explain issues in ways you can understand? Do they share your general vision for the site? Are they interested in Return on Investment for the web site? Do they possess the skills necessary to achieve your goals?

o Communication Process – Poor communication is one of the major bottlenecks for business processes. Ensure that the company with which you are working is comfortable with your language. Generally, English (US/UK) is taken as the preferred language to communicate with each other. What are the tools and technologies they use for communicating? How will they keep you updated with the developments with regards your project? These are some of the important factors that should be kept in mind while deciding about the communication process while choosing a Web Design partner.

o Services – What are the other services that company can offer other than designing? What kind of value-added products or services can the design firm offer?

All these points will help you to narrow down to the list of companies that may offer you viable solutions and help your cause. The next step involves inviting proposals from the short listed parties. Just check through as many cross references that you find justifiable or will satisfy your curiosity. The more time you will invest in this phase, the sweeter will be the returns afterwards.

STEP 4- Proposals

Once you have selected your short-list of top web development firms, request that they send you a proposal. Ask that their proposal include an overview of your requirements and their proposed solution. This will help to determine which web design firm understands your requirements best. Also ask that each web design firm include a description of their development process and a price breakdown for the various aspects of the website project.

STEP 5 – Evaluating Proposals

Evaluate each proposal individually on the basis of merit. Take the following points into consideration:

a) Wellness of the proposal.

b) Respective strength and weaknesses of the companies.

c) Evaluate the presentation and format style.

STEP 6 – Selecting the Company

After your organization has reviewed all proposals, compare them with each other. How do they fare in terms of presentation? How do their processes appear in terms of project management? Do they present scalability and/or upgrade paths for your project, which go beyond the needs of the immediate goals outlined?

After going through all the above process, you should be able to zero in on to a particular company. If the doubt persists, establish communication process between the likely companies to understand their process and commitments.

[NOTE: Avoid selecting an individual designer, on a freelance basis, to design and develop your organization's Web site. It is rare to find a single person capable of handling the combined visual and technical elements that make an effective Web presence. Additionally, by depending on an individual, your organization is at risk of losing its investment should anything occur to that one individual - or down the road they simply can't find time to help when you need it.]

I simply love the web. According to me, it’s the most happening place in the world and the best place to interact and gain knowledge. My strong attraction towards site analysis from users as well as search engines perspective made me to pursue the career in Internet Marketing. I started as SEO but now I work as an Internet Marketing Specialist.

7 Must-Do’s When You Hunt for a Web Designer

1. Crawl the web

Your search for the perfect web designer starts with familiarizing yourself with the excess of beautifully designed and well maintained websites that are out there in the World Wide Web. Create a list of the features you liked across all the websites you have visited and arrive at a final wish-list of 8-10 features you would like your website to have. It could be aesthetics, page-load speed, ease of navigation, stickiness (addictiveness), relevance of content, level of engagement, or any number of other features. You should also visit potential designers’ websites. A well-designed and informative website of the web designer projects professionalism. It indicates business confidence and application of expertise.

Now you should have 2 lists, one for web designers and one for your desired features.

2. Talk purpose and branding

The first thing you should do with each of your short-listed designers is to broach the topic of branding and the role of your website in creating the online brand presence you had envisioned. Your website is the face of your brand on the internet!

The design of your website must coincide with your overall brand image and sales goals. Website design differs depending on its purpose. If you are a building consultant, you may only want to list information about you, your services and a contact form for service. If you are a home builder, you most likely will need a gallery to showcase your display homes and jobs completed. If you are a building supplier, then you may need a shopping cart feature. Evaluating the purpose of your website will help determine the features you must have and those you can live without ensuring the best return on investment (ROI).

3. Talk Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You should seek out web designers who are familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Of course, it helps if the web designer is an SEO expert themselves.

You should always keep in mind that you are building a site to sell a product or a service. There is no point of having the most fascinating site when it doesn’t serve its purpose.

Think of SEO as this example:

‘When you first publish a website, it is similar to putting up your sign beside a busy highway. When you first put up the sign it is only 1meter square, and in a field 1000 meters from the highway. It is there, but hardly anyone reads it.

As you develop your site, the sign moves closer to the highway and gets bigger. To increase the sign’s size and decrease the distance from the highway you must get your site listed in the major search engines’

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to all the things you can do to improve your website’s visibility in the search engines’ rankings. Search engine optimization techniques focus on increasing the ‘organic’, or natural, traffic that you receive based on your ranking within the search engines.

4. Find out who does the content writing

This is where most website owners go wrong. Website content is generally thought of as commoditized pieces of text that are needed to fill web pages. Your content is what engages the visitor and is uniquely positioned to convert prospects to customers. Some web designers have access to professional content writers to write an optimized content talking directly to your customers. Alternatively, you can provide the content to your web designer

5. Read the inclusions and know what you are getting for your money

Like many builders who have a list of inclusions for each home design, most web designers have 3 or 5 packages with a list of inclusions. It’s very important to know exactly what you are getting for your money.

Watch out for designers who ONLY charge by the ‘page or by a certain page length.’ Or even worse have a very cheap package with a high monthly maintenance fee. This could end up costing you much more money.

6. Find out details of ownership and hosting

Enquire about the ownership of the web site and the domain name. Make sure you are given full ownership of the website and access details so you have control of your website for future updates should you choose to do so without having to pay the original designer. This will ensure you can still use your website domain name in the future, even if you decide to deal with another web designer.

Many web designers and development firms also provide website hosting services. This is not only convenient for you in terms of any website’s updates and speed of portability, but can also work in your favor commercially. Ask your vendor for a competitive quote for a bundled service that includes website design, development and hosting.

7. Ask for wireframes

Before you jump headlong into awarding the contract to your web designer of choice, ask for wireframes. These are schematics of how your web pages will look like and the functionality embedded. It is the norm for designers to provide wireframes for the home page and another page, or to show you a sample version of the sequence of actions from one page to another. This will reveal the thought process of the designer as they go about conceptualizing the design for your website.

Home Improvement Tips: Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

Reasons for A RedoHome improvement projects often begin with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be nice if… ?” usually followed by a wish for a remodelled kitchen or a room addition for space to accommodate every family member’s needs. More often than not, reality and dreams don’t coincide, due to limited funds for realizing the dream, or limits on the available space. The trick: turning your dreams into reality. Begin with a realistic evaluation of your needs. Homeowners usually consider home improvements for one of the following reasons.You may feel the need to update something that is out-of-date. If your kitchen colour scheme was perfect a few decades ago but no longer works, now may a good time to update it.Some home improvement projects grow out of an immediate need to replace broken or inefficient fixtures. If a sink, tub, or toilet needs to be replaced, consider taking advantage of the opportunity to do a makeover on the entire bathroom.If you’re preparing to sell your home, you’ll want to be sure to get top dollar from the sale. That’s great motivation for some home improvement projects.You have decided that staying put and improving your home is a better option than moving.Your family has grown and you need more space.Improving to Move? or Improving to Stay?Evaluate your plans carefully if you’re improving your home to list it for sale. Cutting corners may hurt your prospects rather than helping them. But don’t go overboard either. Potential buyers may prefer not to pay for some of the extras, such as a hot tub or pool. You’re better off keeping the changes simple.And remember that buyers who view your home may not share your tastes and may not appreciate the care you took to find just the right shade of green paint for the walls.You’ll find that improving to sell is easier if you can think about it from the prospective buyer’s point of view: What is important to the home buyer? Here are a few remodelling projects buyers are likely to find valuable:Adding or remodelling a bathImproving the kitchenAdding a new roomLandscapingAdding a bedroomAdding or enclosing a garage.If you’re remodelling because you want to stay in your home, you should still avoid over-improving it. You’ll probably want to sell it someday, and even if your house is the best on the block, it may be difficult to convince potential buyers to pay for the things you considered important. And when you consider making improvements, keep in mind the value of other homes in the area. Your home’s value should not be more than 20% above the average, which means that a $10,000 kitchen improvement project well could be a better investment than a $10,000 hot tub, especially if yours will be the only home in the area with a hot tub.Home Maintenance versus Home ImprovementsIt’s unfortunate that some home improvement projects are undertaken because something has broken. Replacing a leaky bathtub may be the first step to a major bath remodeling: since the tub has to be replaced anyway, why not do the whole room?While that might be a legitimate reason to remodel, avoid basing your home improvement projects on immediate needs. You’ll be better off if you minimize problems with proper maintenance. Examine every part of your home at least once a year. Check the roof, the plumbing, electrical wiring, etc. As soon as become aware of a problem, fix it. Making repairs when you’re first aware of them will help you avoid larger expenses later on. Keep in mind that maintenance does not add to the value of your home. Usually repairs are not improvements; they are necessities.Hiring Professionals May Save You Time and MoneyIt should go without saying that home projects can be expensive, so you may be tempted to tackle them yourself as a way to save money. That may be a smart move for small projects. You won’t have to wait for someone to fit your house into their busy schedule, and you can boast about having done the work yourself.But unless you’re very versatile, major home improvements are better left to professionals. If you decide to remodel the kitchen and plan to do the work yourself, will you be able to handle the plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work on your own?. And don’t forget that you’ll need to finish it quickly, because you won’t have a kitchen as long as it’s a “work in process” and eating three meals a day in restaurants could get expensive. Keep in mind, do-it-yourself jobs generally take more time. And you’ll be responsible for getting all the necessary permits and inspections.Hiring people who have the required experience can save you money and time, too. For example, these professionals can help you get a custom look using stock products, and that can be a significant savings. Getting something done right the first time will give you value that lasts for years.To find qualified and dependable home improvement specialists, check with friends, business associates, and neighbours for recommendations. Always get at least three references, and check them out thoroughly. Also check with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce. Their numbers can be found in the community services section of your telephone book.Once you’ve located the necessary home improvement specialists, make sure everyone is in agreement about the design, the schedule, and the budget, and get the details down in writing in a signed contract.It’s also wise to check on professional certifications and licenses, where required, and be certain that the contractors you hire are fully insured and bonded. Your town or city Building Department can provide that information. And it’s very important that you make sure contractors carry workers’ compensation insurance: if workers are injured on the job, you won’t be liable if the contractor is covered. Request copies of their insurance certificates. And make sure that either you or your contractor have gotten any necessary permits before the work begins. Contact your local Planning and Zoning Commission for information.Here’s a quick overview of some of the professionals you may need to work with when you remodel your home:Architect: Architects design homes or additions from the foundation to the roof. If your project will require structural changes such as adding or removing walls, or if the design is complex, you will probably need an architect. Since architects may charge an hourly or a flat fee, make sure you get an estimate of the total cost: drawing up the plans for a major remodeling project can take 80 hours or more.Contractor: The contractor oversees the home improvement project, including hiring and supervising workers, getting the necessary permits, making sure inspections are done as needed, and providing insurance for work crews. It’s always a good idea to get proposals from one or more reputable contractors, based on the specific details of your project.Be sure each contractor bids on exactly the same plan so that you can compare their bids more easily. When you’ve chosen a contractor, make sure the contract specifies that you will pay in stages. You’ll usually pay one third when the contract is signed so that the contractor can buy supplies. The number and timing for making the remaining payments will depend on the size of the project. Do not make the final payment until all the work is successfully completed, inspected, and approved.Interior Designers: Interior designers are specialists who will provide advice on furnishings, wall coverings, colors, styles, and more. They help save you time by narrowing your selection, and save money because they usually receive professional discounts from their suppliers. When meeting with an interior designer, be sure to tell them about your personal style and preferences. Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $150 per hour, or you may be able to negotiate a flat fee of approximately 25% of the total project cost.