Beware of the Experts: How to Choose a WebDesign Company (that doesn’t suck)

Feb 13th, 2012

Ever since the first release of Microsoft’s FrontPage and other no-experience-required WYSIWYG-tools, everybody is a Web Designer.

And nowadays, there’s a WebDesign company on every corner. They all are the best and the greatest and they all promise you everything from a $99 website to an online store within 12 hours.

To the unsuspecting client their offers all look and sound the same (after all they all claim to be able to build you a website, right?), the only difference is the price.

So what makes one company better or worse than the other? What sets them apart? Is it worth to pay more? What to look for, what questions to ask?

This is exactly what our “Beware of the Experts” series is about: To educate, clarify and simplify, and to answer these questions.
It requires a little bit of homework, but it’s nothing you cannot do and wouldn’t do when looking for a qualified employee, a new accountant or a corporate lawyer.

Be proactive, do your research. It will save you a lot of headaches later.

Before-the-first-meeting: Check List

Things you should do before you meet with your potential WebDesign company.

  • Check their website

    They’re a WebDesign company, right?
    So they have a website, right? (Believe it or not, some actually don’t).

  • Check their domain

    Use a WHOIS query tool to find out who they are.
    Compare the data in the WHOIS record with their company’s information (they DO have their address and other important information on their website, right?).

    If their domain registration is set to private, please read our post regarding Private Domain Registrations.

    If the only contact option on their website is a form or a phone number and there is no address anywhere on the website, you should stop considering them right now.

  • Check the content of their website for Flash (and other weird and/or exotic stuff)

    If you see a “Loading” screen with a Progress bar before you see anything else, chances are their site is made in Flash.
    If the site looks completely different on your iPhone or iPad, or if it doesn’t load at all, it’s probably a Flash site.
    Run their website through the Search Engine Simulator and check if their website contains Flash (or if it’s completely made in Flash).

    Why is this important?
    – The most important thing to point out is that Flash does absolutely nothing for Search Engines. And if you spend money for your website you want to get found, right?
    – It does not display at all on iPhones or iPads.
    – Even when using so-called “alternate” content, the whole “site” is basically only one long single page, meaning the whole purpose and the idea of creating a fully functional website and in fact the whole internet (a multitude of single pages that are accessible via unique “addresses” and and be linked together) becomes completely pointless.

  • Check their website’s performance

    Use Google’s Page Speed to see how well their site performs. Look for the Page Speed Score once the results are in. Even if the other data returned might not mean a lot to you — the higher the number, the better. Do the same thing for some of the websites they have developed for clients.

    TIP: Why not use the tool to compare 2 or more companies that are wooing you?

  • Check for broken Links on their site

    Free Tools like Broken Link Checker or Free Broken Link Check to find any broken or dead links on their website.
    Yes, we are aware that the web constantly changes and sometimes links do vanish, but it’s a website’s owner’s (or the webmaster’s) responsibility to check all links for their functionality.

    Bad or dead links are a sure sign of negligence. And if they neglect their own website, just imagine how much they care about yours…

  • Check their website’s popularity, authority and overall ranking

    The terms popularity and authority refer to the number of incoming links to a website and the amount of indexed pages.
    Google’s lets you perform a couple of really easy tests to see how many external or 3rd party sites link back to any particular domain name.
    – Simply enter link:*.enter-the-domain-name-here (enter it exactly as shown here, no extra spaces & please mind the asterisk (*)) into Google’s search box to see how many indexed pages link back to the domain (and its subdomains) you are checking.
    – Try and enter site:enter-the-domain-name-here and see how many individual pages from that domain currently are in Google’s index.
    Open Site Explorer is another interesting tool that pulls a lot of information from any website. It even allows you to compare up to 5 domain names side-by-side.
    – Head over to Alexa and check their overall ranking and other interesting data.

  • Check their Social Media Presence

    Social Media Channels like facebook, twitter, youtube, google+ and linkedIn are great resources to find out just about everything about just about anyone.
    Check their presence, their reputation, find out about their employees and what clients have to say about them.

  • Check if they are a legitimate business

    Check with the Secretary of State and the County, City or other municipality to see if they are in fact a legitimate business and if they have all required licenses and permits.

They passed? Great!
Now read Part 2: Questions to ask your WebDesign Company before you hire them

About the author:

Nina Khoury is a computer scientist, software engineer, data and information junkie and online marketer. She taught at various universities for more than six years and worked on projects for Fortune 500 companies including cisco, Intel and HP.

2 Responses to “Beware of the Experts: How to Choose a WebDesign Company (that doesn’t suck)”

  1. Zachary D. says:

    Great post. Wish I would I have read this before I hired my current company.

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