If you’re ready to take your organization’s web presence to the next level, congratulations! But how do you hire the right web firm? What will it take to achieve impeccable web design and development? Having a functional, well-designed website is a must. This requires many steps across several disciplines – from content creation to design to upkeep once your site is launched.

How to assess the quality of a web firm’s work?

You can start by visiting their clients’ sites and being a critic. Here are just a few of the most obvious things to take note of:

  1. Formatting. Do the words fall off the edge of the page on desktop, laptop or mobile view? Are there huge gaps between the content blocks? Are the fonts, colors and other style choices consistent throughout the website? These are indicators of a company’s design ethic – sloppy margins and inconsistent fonts often indicate poor quality design.
  2. Content. Is the content professionally-written and engaging? Does it provide value to you, the reader, and does it make you want to read more? In today’s online environment, quality content is key to make you stand out to your best customers. There are many businesses with blogs out there, and simply publishing articles is not enough. Does the firm you’re considering highlight their clients’ areas of excellence?
  3. Site Construction. Is the site slow to load? Are there broken links, missing pages or forms that don’t work properly? In the case of a slow website – perhaps images uploaded to the site were not properly sized and there are no image compression features on the site. Perhaps the site navigation was not set up properly, leading to broken links and dead ends. Errors like these can be indicators of poor planning and shoddy quality control.
  4. Branding. Are the colors just not “jiving”? Are the fonts hard to read? Do the logo and messaging seem dated or inconsistent? This is likely a case of incomplete branding. Branding is how you convey your organization’s values, “personality” and mission to the world. It is non-negotiable for a stand-out online presence.

These are just a few of the areas you can assess when you’re gauging the quality of a website. Your objective is to get a feel for a firm’s sense of quality control and attention to detail. Quality control is important, from start to finish. If it’s overlooked, then “finished” will never feel like finished, and yet you may not know why! We hear this a lot from new customers.

So, other than viewing their work for other clients, how can you assess the quality control and know-how of a firm before you hire them? How can you know whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth for your web and marketing dollars? It’s essential to know where a firm you are considering “begins and ends” with their services.

Clients always ask “What do I need to know about a web firm before you hire them?”

  1. Will they help with strategic planning? What does that look like?
    What about site planning? What is the process?
  2. Content planning and development – this is the foundation of every site. Who’s creating content?
  3. Who will provide visual and audio assets?
  4. Do they provide branding (if you don’t have a branding guidelines document already) and company assets including a high-resolution logo?
  5. How is site design handled, and where in the process will this occur? (After content is developed? Hopefully!)
  6. What can you expect for site functionality – what will your site do?
  7. What about security and hosting? Who will manage this? Are you buying your own or using the development team’s hosting?
  8. What tools will they use to achieve fast load speed? Google loves a fast site!
    SEO – Has your content been optimized based on top search for your products and services? Will the development firm handle this? If so, ask for specifics. This is a large part of the content process. What will the monthly costs be thereafter and what can you expect for your investment?
  9. There are other services that you will need that are usually not included in web hosting packages, such as setting up custom email addresses. Ask them about these – do they offer these services or will you need to integrate them through other means? This should not be an afterthought!
    1. Contact forms have to send submissions somewhere, and most current web form technologies (ex. Gravity Forms) require domain-specific email addresses. Why? Because using email addresses (such as your personal email) that are not domain-specific will cause deliverability issues. A competent firm will be aware of these considerations and work with them to make sure all of your bases are covered.

We always recommend that you ask for samples of the work, or to view a portfolio. Can you see them honoring and building your brand with the quality you expect?

To build a functional, secure website with professional content and branding, you’ll need help from those with cross-disciplinary skills and knowledge, or you’ll need to hire multiple contractors who can work together.

Web development is a complex field. There are many competent and talented professionals out there, and it’s more difficult to find one who excels in all disciplines. SEO is one of these particular disciplines that requires a complete dedication of its staff. We excel at organic content creation which builds the foundation for SEO, and we hire talented individuals for more granular SEO strategies and tactics bespoke to the client.

All of what I’m sharing with you is related to the “what” of development and design. We haven’t even talked about the “how” which is about agency communication, meeting deadlines and meeting budgets. Many firms fall short here.

The questions above are designed to help you determine the areas in which your selected agency can help you. There are many others! You might find an awesome agency for development, but you may need to find a web designer who focuses just on design.

If you want a clearer picture about what you will get, and whether a company will be a good fit, establish your requirements and submit an RFQ (request for quote) or RFP (request for proposal) to several agencies to compare offerings. Give them two weeks to complete it. Note who asks the most questions or has the most awesome requirements gathering process. I assure you, the devil’s in the details, and angels too.

Your business deserves to shine, so take the time to ensure that there are no gaps in your finished product and this will help to expedite results.