“If your business platform has a partner network, start by researching its recommended partners,” says Russell Griffin, senior director of design and solutions partner program, Bigcommerce. “A good partner marketplace will have a variety of agencies to review, complete with examples of previous work, expected budget ranges and the industries they specialize in.” And you know that they can design for that platform and are trusted by the vendor.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, be sure to speak with at least two former or current clients.
“Timeframes for websites often extend dramatically, so it is essential that you speak to previous clients in order to understand if this was an issue for them,” says Simon Ensor, managing director, Yellowball, a Web design firm. “References can steer you away from agencies [or individuals] that are very good at selling but deliver projects poorly, or conversely, give you peace of mind [that you are hiring the right] agency.”
4. Make sure you hire a designer who has designed for your platform or CMS – or can help you pick a platform or CMS. “Look for a firm that has expertise in building sites on the [platform] or CMS that you’ve selected (e.g., WordPress, Drupal, HubSpot, Squarespace),” says Patrick Biddiscombe, CEO, New Breed Marketing. “Many of these companies also have partner ecosystems, so using a list of their partners as a jumping off point is a great way to generate a short list of [designers] that you know are properly accredited. If you haven’t chosen a CMS yet, find a firm that can support you in the decision making process on what CMS makes the most sense for your business and your goals.”
Regarding choosing the right platform for your online business or website, be aware that “some platforms are proprietary and template based (Squarepace, Website Tonight, Wix, etc.) while others (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal) are open source,” says Amos.
“Proprietary systems tend have a very simple interface – good for a non-techy person to update but limited in how customized the site can be,” she explains. “Open-source systems are completely customizable and not that much more difficult to update,” she says. “Additionally, the proprietary systems can never be moved if you are unhappy with your hosting company, whereas the open-source systems are independent of hosting company or designer/developer. They can be moved to any hosting company and any designer/developer can take over if your favorite one gets hit by a bus.”
5. Have a realistic budget – and know what you can expect to pay. “The cost of website design is based on the requirements of the project, including the intricacy of the design, the number of pages [and] any special functionality,” says Randy Mitchelson, vice president, sales and marketing, iPartnerMedia, a Web design and Internet marketing agency. “A basic, 5 to 10 page brochure-style website will likely be in the $2,500 to $4,500 range. Ecommerce sites with a bunch of products and integration to manage payments could range from $4,500 to $20,000 or more. Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Sure, there are $500 website developers out there but quality may be sacrificed.”
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