Hire a teacher; not a salesman.
Did someone say elephant in the room? Price can be the most infuriating thing to wrap the mind around for both the client and the web design firm. Price has many variants and it really does vary by project. It is true that some clients take quite a bit more time than others even if the scope of work is nearly identical. But a good web design firm works through pricing by average profitability and is extremely clear and precise with their estimates.
Red Flag: If a firm delivers a proposal for a small project with a large estimate gap (like $5,000 – $10,000), beware. For smaller projects, this usually means they have not prepared thoroughly and are unsure how they’re going to be building the system out. Also be on the lookout for a generic “hourly guesstimate”. For larger software builds or unique projects with a lot of ambiguity, sometimes hourly estimates are the only way.
Bottom line: The more specific the scope of work is (and the more prepared you are as a client), the more specific the firm should be in delivering their itemized, priced-out proposal.
At ASC Creative, we keep our pricing as transparent as we possibly can. We track how profitable each project is and adjust our pricing accordingly from time to time. We have an online quote builder that helps you get prices for the functionality that you are looking for.
Delivery timeline and process go hand-in-hand. It is impossible to have an accurate timeline that doesn’t clearly reflect the process that the web design firm plans to use. The timeline doesn’t need to have exact dates cooked in to the proposal, but there should at least be expectations being managed here. In other words, does the proposal have clear steps and stages?
Red Flag: The biggest red flag we’ve seen in regards to timeline is simply how responsive the firm is to emails and phone calls. The second biggest red flag that we’ve seen relates to your participation in the delivery; Is it clear what you (as the client) should be working on?
At ASC Creative, we clearly define each step in our process in our proposal, and the expected delivery time for major steps. But we are also very clear that, in our experience, most delays are related to delays to receiving content received from the client and timely feedback. We try to make it clear to the client what they can be working on while we do much of the ground work.
What’s the process?
Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions here. A web design firm’s process shouldn’t just cover the steps we’re all going to go through, but why are we going through this step. Why should we wireframe before we design? Why should we get content before we build? What’s the track record of the process and how was it developed?
Red Flag: This step is the hardest for an web design firm to articulate because the project size and scope, and client’s willingness and availability after the design process and the other services provided by the web design company. BTW, a web design process should be more specific than, “Develop Strategy, Build, and Launch!”. That’s not a process, that’s a tagline.
At ASC Creative, our process is constantly being refined based on past project and what anticipated changes in technology. What you can expect is that we will walk through each step of our process from the very first phone call and provide details for every step we go through.
What strategies and framework do you use?
This is a great question to ask because the answer you receive typically reveals how customized and flexible your new website will be. If a web design firm plans to purchase a pre-made theme and cram your content into it, it doesn’t really matter the strategy and framework because it can’t be changed anyway.
Red Flag: Be on the lookout for designers who are just building something for it to look pretty. In this day and age, your website has to do something more, whether it be integrated to your operations platform for scheduling, querying inventory or production capabilities,or getting detailed quotes.
Originality isn’t the primary goal of design, effectiveness is.” -Seth Godin.
If you are not asked your goals for the new site, you can expect you won’t meet them.
At ASC Creative, we build each and every website through visual storytelling described in the mockups. This allows us to craft a narrative visually that accomplishes goals. We use standard frameworks that allow maximum flexible for growth and integration.
What technologies do you plan to use?
This is an important question since their response usually shows how long they took to research the problems you originally laid out. Make certain that you are getting clear answers on questions such as, “How do you plan to build out our billing platform?”, “What payment processor do you plan to use, and why?”, or “How will you get access to our accounting/order entry/inventory management/CRM applications”. Even if you don’t know the best solution, make sure they’ve thought about it before you begin.
Red Flag: Don’t be intimidated through these conversations. If you feel like you’re getting “sold” and not “taught”, run. Get clear answers before you start.
At ASC Creative, we try our very best to approach each proposal with the heart of a teacher. Remember that Einstein said, “If You Can’t Explain it to a Six Year Old, You Don’t Understand it Yourself.”
What’s the plan for ongoing support, maintenance, security, and updates?
This is an area that most clients ignore or forget. Let’s say you choose a firm and they do everything right. They build out a beautiful site on time that accomplishes goals, they’re great to work with, decently priced, and great teachers and communicators. But even if all that goes wonderfully and there is no plan to maintain the site for long-term (or training on how you can edit your own new site), it will fail within months.
Red Flag: Don’t get tricked into using a system that isn’t easy to update yourself. Make sure there is a plan in place for every major disaster. Make sure your web designer has a defensive game plan.
At ASC Creative, we highly suggest that our clients get on our hosting, maintenance & security (including backups), because we have taken years to build these plans, and we continuously update them. We have had situations where, during a site hack, we can restore from our backups and be online in a matter of minute or hours. We’ve also unfortunate experiences where the client insisted on their own hosting and it took us days to recreate the original site (after years of client changes).
My favorite story is when we moved a client onto our platform after years on their own hosting environment, and they were hacked 4 days later. We had them running within a few hours; the rest of their data required two weeks of intensive re-building and re-creating. I like to think that we saved the company!
What’s required/expected of me (the client) vs. you (web designer)?
Be sure the proposal you receive manages clear expectations for the work you’ll be doing as the client vs. the work the web designe will be doing.
Red Flag: Make sure the web designer answers the “content question” and has a plan for how involved you’ll need to be. Don’t fall behind schedule because there was no clear explanation and expectation for you to develop the work you’ll need to provide to the web designer.
At ASC Creative, we break down very specifically what the client will need to bring to the table vs. what we provide. The most common answer to that is: Client brings the words (copy) and photos and has a basic idea of the page structure (site map). We handle the rest.
During a project development, you can also expect regular reminders and communication from your project manager.
What do you guarantee vs. what do you not guarantee (SEO)?
This step usually answers the SEO and traffic question. Is the firm you’re hiring a marketing firm (typically, marketing and SEO companies get the user TO the site and help the site run more efficiently). Or does the firm (and the quote) just account for building the site?
Red Flag: It can take months to build your SEO and online digital marketing presence, so if a web designer is promising outstanding SEO results or traffic results, beware.
At ASC Creative, we guarantee that when a customer lands on your new website, it will work efficiently and properly for that customer.
We cannot guarantee SEO results and how users come to that site. That role is for a digital marketing specialist.
Make sure ongoing work is clearly defined. What is the plan when you want to add a new landing page or blog post?
Red Flag: Don’t get stuck in a new website you can’t control and need to rely heavily on the web designer for minor changes. That gets expensive QUICKLY.
At ASC Creative, we provide a flat monthly fee that covers almost everything you’ll need for your new site, including most content updates. We even help out with questions you may have down the road! If you have extensive work to be done to the site down the road, we’ll provide a very specific quote for that work at a discounted rate.
Who will be doing the work?
Make sure you’re not being up-sold and outsourced unless you’re fully aware.
Red Flag: If you’re being outsourced, make sure it’s the right fit and you do your due diligence on who is actually doing the work and their track record.
At ASC Creative, we do all our own work in-house. We have a few builders all over the world but you’ll be communicating directly with us on projects and we Q.A. and guarantee the work we provide.
Contact us if you have any more questions.