This week I got a call from a local business that is looking for a new web design firm to take over their website. They are unhappy with the current web firm. Huh, haven’t heard that before. It seems like I get this type of call all the time. Looking at my current client list, 1 out of 4 clients came to me because they were unhappy with their old webmaster. Most complained that once the site was done. There was no follow up. Updates and bug fixes took forever, if at all. Or they felt ripped off in some way.

Unfortunately this is the sad state of my industry. Everyone with a computer and the slightest knowledge of HTML thinks they are a professional web designer. To make matters worse there are all sorts of companies that have website builders. I’m sure you have seen the TV commercials for some of them. No matter where you turn some one wants to sell you a website. Most of the time the website turns out to be total garbage and in the end the only people who end up getting hurt are the customers.

So here is some advice when looking for a new web design firm. First look at the web design firm’s portfolio. Look at some of the sites they have designed. Do the sites look good? Would you be happy with the type and quality of work that they do? Compare their work to other web design firms. How to their sites compare to the competition? The next step is to contact some of the businesses they have done work for. If they are receptive to you asking questions about the service they received ask similar questions to this:

  • Did they deliver on what was promised?
  • Are you happy with the cost versus the end result?
  • Are they timely when it comes to fixing bugs, updating, and in general responding to your inquires?
  • Do you feel they listen to your needs and create solutions/use their professional knowledge to help your business?
  • Do you feel that they actually care about making your business better?
  • Would you recommend this company?

The answers to these sort of questions will usually give you a clear picture on whether the web design firm is professional or not. Yeah, they might be responsive but it might take them 3 weeks to do an update. So maybe not the best firm to go with if you need timely updates.

If they don’t have a portfolio, do a Google search for the company name. Most web design firms will put “Designed By COMPANY NAME”, “Created By COMPANY NAME”, etc at the bottom of the site. It is a good way to find sites that they have done. I looked up “Designed By Liquid Mechanix Studio, LLC” and it took 5 pages before I started seeing some sites I’ve designed. So dig deep into those results. If you do end up talking with the web design firm, ask for client references even if you have done a Google search and talked to some businesses already.

But why is it important to be so picky when finding the right web design firm? In general a poorly designed web site can severely hurt your business. If your site looks terrible, a customer might think, “what is the rest of your business like?” and in general are less likely to become a customer. If a customer can’t find the right information or constantly has to go through road blocks, they are more likely to go else where. And the biggest complaint I hear is that once the site was launched the web design firm stopped responding. At some point a website needs to be updated or there is an error that needs to be corrected. Now what? You don’t have access or the knowledge on how to do it. So the update either doesn’t get done or the error stays on the website. Which in turn will make your business look bad and drive customers away.

In the end you will not only loose customers but it will take a lot of effort, time and money away from your business. So do your due diligence when picking a web design firm to avoid damaging your business.