Websites Get Kidnapped Every Day
Yes, taken and held hostage or simply disappear. Websites get designed, built and launched for businesses and everything is great. Until it isn't. Imagine this: you decide to hire a firm to develop a new website for your business. You do some research to make sure you are choosing a company that does good work. They have a website themselves that looks nice and the pricing was terrific. You put a big deposit down or even pay the complete amount. Along the way, the project seems to be going fine and you email them for a status update but don't get a reply. A week goes by. Still nothing. Phone calls go to voicemail. Then the number doesn't work at all. They're gone. What happened? And could you have done things differently to avoid this scenario?
This happens often — and not only in our industry. Surely you've heard stories about moving companies or remodeling contractors skipping town after getting a big chunk of your money. They flash a smile and say what you want to hear. Then they're gone. It happens even to those who do some digging — even when the company seems reputable. Maybe they have official looking seals and logos for quality on their own website — a lot of good those do now.
The key is you have to check. Homework. Investigating. Due diligence — whatever you call it. It's worth it. It's too easy in today's tech/design world for a company to create a flashy, high-end looking website, when in all actuality the site is being built in another country. And in that case you will have little or no recourse after the fact even if you can get a hold of them.
Organizations like the the Better Business Bureau can help you understand how long a company has been in business and if they have a history of consumer complaints. Yelp.com is an online review site where customers share their experiences both good and bad. Google also has its own reviews. Here are a few more things to look for.
Tips on hiring a web firm
A Real Business
Your web design firm should be a real business. You should probably avoid hiring your family members, friends, and “that guy you know from the deli” as your web developer. You need a business relationship with your web team. You want to feel comfortable negotiating, providing honest and critical feedback, and being straightforward if there’s ever a time when you aren’t happy with the work. Don’t be afraid to ask for references.
Make Sure They Have a Website
Your web firm should have a web site — a good one. It doesn’t have to be designed in a style that you like, but generally speaking it should be up to date and look professional. Don’t let any web firm tell you that they’ve been so busy working on clients’ projects that they haven’t designed their own site. See their work too — it should be easy to find on their website.
Custom Website vs. Template Website
A strong web design firm will design an original site for you. They won’t send you a site design that looks generic, or that is based on a pre-fab template with your logo simply added and a few pages of content. Price can be a good indicator for whether your team is using templates or original designs. If the estimate for your site is under $1,000, it’s more likely that you’re not getting an original design. Why is a template bad? You want your web site to stand out as original and distinct. Your site should be designed to carefully reflect your brand. Thinking about a wordpress site? Think twice. There are very real limitations to developing a s site on WordPress. But what about cost? How much should you really expect to spend? Read more about What Does a Website Cost?
How will you incorporate search engine optimization principles into my site?
When you ask this question, if all they do is talk about meta tags and keywords, that’s a big red flag. If a web firm is serious about their business, they should know and understand principles of SEO and how these principles apply to clean coding, the copy, and all of the content of your site. More on The Search Engine Battle: Organic (SEO) vs PPC.
Can you develop my site in a content management system?
If you want to manage your site yourself without learning HTML or Dreamweaver, ask your web team if they can develop your site using a content management system. Within this framework, you should be able to manage your site, including editing, adding pages, deleting pages, and more, from virtually anywhere in the world that you can access the web via a browser.
The Most Important Thing You Should Know:
Your contact at your web firm should be able to talk to you in your language, but also be able to easily converse with the programmers — or better yet, your contact should actually be the programmer. Do business with the actual people doing your work. You need someone who can explain things that you don’t understand without being condescending. Customer service is paramount in the web industry, and you want someone who will return your e-mails and phone calls in a timely manner.
A custom website is a commitment and an investment. Don't let someone take your site and run away, never to be seen again. The right firm will design and build you an effective site that strengthens your brand and helps grow your business.