The website of a web development agency should show you various examples of their work but ask to see more that are similar to your requirements.
Get them to explain the process they went through to produce this work, timescales and approximate costs, so you know what to expect. If what you are looking for is a new idea then see how they have approached a bespoke project for other companies and have a good play with the finished website.
Try to talk to their clients directly. Ask them how could the project of been handled better, was the project delivered on time, on budget and did they get what they were promised? We feel the quality of office refreshments, restaurants you will be schmoozed in and being told “you’re looking well, have you lost weight” in each meeting also helps!
If cheap is what you want then template websites can meet your requirements, but they will always come at a compromise to functionality, layout and future development. Websites are not a cost, but an investment for the future so if you want a long term solution that is part of your business for years to come then start with a blank sheet and get exactly what is right for you. You’re worth it!
Think of everything you would like your website to be able to do now and over the next five years. Even if you can’t afford it all at the start the last thing you will want to hear when you want to add functionality is that you have to start all over again. When people come to us after being sold a cheap solution we hate telling them we have to start all over again. Really we do. (Smiley face, wink wink, kiss kiss).
Find out who you will be working with on the project. The last thing you want is to be handed over to a grumpy account handler or anti-social web developer (come on, you know you are!). Communication is key to making your website a success and its development an enjoyable experience.
To produce a website that meets your requirements the web development company needs to totally understand how your business runs. Only then can they build a custom solution that fits with your business keeping workload to a minimum for maximum return on investment. Invite them to your business so they can totally understand how your business operates from who makes the tea to how work flows through the company. Mines coffee, black, no sugar by the way.
Most web development companies have their own software to build websites in which are normally powerful, expensive and great tools that can produce secure websites, but this does not mean they are always right for you. If you use a bespoke CMS created by your web development agency, find out how you could move your website and costs involved. If you can’t then you could get tied in to increasing costs with nowhere to go.
Not me silly, your website! You want your website to look right for your target market but it must also be functional and easy to use. Make sure a creative agency designs your website and a developer builds it and never the 2 should meet! (Well maybe to argue on occasions!)
When you are finally given your finished website you need to make sure you are not left out in the cold as you web developer skips happily to the bank with your hard earned money.
You should be given a bug fixing period when errors will be found by visitors to your site who will be proud to tell you there is a spelling mistake or that a button does not work on their 10 year old version of Internet Explorer! During this period make sure the site is fully tested by as many people as possible who are seeing the site for the first time. After this period discuss a maintenance agreement for ongoing support.
In trying to win your work, a typical web development agency will make a lot of promises that will be forgotten during and after the project. Make sure you get everything in writing and keep it safe so you can be really smug when you have to dig out that one-year-old email to prove your point.