How to choose the right web company

Last week we received a phone call from a lady looking to transfer her services to us.  Whilst we are delighted to take on new customers a phrase she used set off a few alarm bells and got us thinking.  She said “you will be the 4th web company I have worked with in 3 years”.  So the big question is, has she been really unlucky and chosen the wrong companies, perhaps by not doing the right research or are her expectations and what she is being promised unrealistic?  I will let you know the answer to that later in the blog.

So, how do you go about choosing the right web company?  Creating a quality website or upgrading your current site, if done correctly, won’t be cheap and this is a good place to start when choosing your web company.

Know your budget

We would suggest that you set out a budget of how much you are looking to spend and choose a company that can support this.  If you are a new starter, with limited funds then there are some companies that will do you a website for under £200.  This will give you a presence and may be a good starting point.  After all, with 50% of businesses failing in the first 12 months it makes sense not to stretch yourself too far.  That said, when dealing with the companies that produce this type of site we strongly suggest you read the small print and ensure there are no separation charges.  Also ensure the domain name is registered in your name as again there have been incidences of excessive fees to transfer the domain.

When considering your budget, remember to factor in some ongoing marketing costs.  Whether this is for Search Engine Optimisation, Google AdWords, E-Mail campaigns or social media. It’s great to have a really nice website but if no one is seeing it and making enquiries then you will end up with a very nice folly.

Do your research

There are many web companies offering the world but sadly, the days of the .com millionaire are long gone, unless of course you come up with the next big App or new social media platform.  We suggest when choosing the company you want to work with, do your research and ask for the following;

  • Do they have any success stories of companies they have transformed and created a significant return on investment?
  • Do they have any testimonials or case studies they can share?
  • Can we contact ‘ANY’ of your clients for feedback? This is a great question as many businesses will point you towards their favoured clients and maybe not those who have posed challenges.

Get Technical

There are a lot of companies such as Graphic Designers and IT companies who have bolted web on as a service. Whilst this is not a bad thing we have seen many incidences where open source software such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla has been used to create quick and easy websites. These can look good but if they are not hosted properly or the security is not updated then this leaves the site open to malicious software that can damage your reputation and in some cases get your site taken offline.  Always ensure the person designing your site understands the technical elements so ask them what security measures are in place? And what back up procedures do you have?

Ask lots of questions

When I started the business I was always mindful of what would happen to my customers if I got hit by a bus.  But more seriously when working on my own I was the sales guy, marketing chap, project manager, accounts department and PR and it amazed me how I actually got work done.  It occurred to me as I was sat in a meeting that I really wanted it to end quickly because I had another deadline to meet. My point is, it’s always good to know the answers to the ‘what if’ questions, especially when dealing with people who are working on their own.

Here are some good questions to ask;

  • How do I get in touch out of hours if I have a problem?
  • What support do I have if you get Ill?
  • Who owns the website once completed?
  • Do I get a copy of my website or access to backups?
  • Where are your websites hosted? UK or Abroad?

Ask for Recommendations

Of course the best way to get the right company is to ask for recommendations. Business contacts and friends will be able to give you the low down on the right companies to use. They will also tell you their shortfalls which might not be a show stopper but certainly gives you a good insight into the company and ideas for the right questions to ask.  We have built our company on word of mouth recommendations and our aim when creating a site is for you to be so impressed that you refer us on.  This is our best and most effective marketing tool as it provides a win-win situation.

Now I said I would answer the question about the lady who said we would be the 4th company in 3 years.  Well it turns out we won’t.  She mentioned a few web companies she had previously worked with, they were good companies with strong reputations. Unfortunately, we decided there was only one common denominator and politely declined.

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