My colleague sent me a wonderful article about hiring a web design firm that debunked the myth that everyone can design websites and proved that generally, you get what you pay for. I understand that we are in the business of designing websites and that there is competition out there. This competition is good and keeps the market fair while making each of us step up and constantly improve our offerings. My biggest pet peeve about selling design is that all designers are created equal and price is the only determining factor. Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen many prospects return to our company after being burned by another unprofessional company that over promised their abilities for a lesser price.

Please read this article for yourself on, but I’d like to share my thoughts on the author’s 9 points. (Don’t worry, we’ll just cover the first half this time.)

1) Look For This: A Real Business

Someone working out of their house can be okay, but if they’ve only been doing this a few months, you many want to consider their reliability. Many times, free lance designers can not offer their clients fast, reliable service because if that 1 designer gets sick, goes on vacation or is at a sales call for another project, your project sits. A firm with an office shows stability and the office does not shut down because 1 person is out. The author suggest asking for references which is a great way qualify a new vendor. I love when clients call and tell me a prospect called them for a reference.

2) Look For This: A Web Site

I don’t see this too much because if they don’t have a website, I do not run into them usually. I do not understand how a website design and/or development company can sell their services without a portfolio on their website let alone not having a website. A web design firm’s website should engage you and make you want to work with them even if the style is not your own. If the firm can not engage you with their website, how can they help you engage your prospects to do business with you? In our office, we see ourselves more than just designers; we are marketers and business developers.

3) Question to Ask: What are the components that my web site should include?

The author says a web design firm can not offer/sell you components if they do not know about your business. I couldn’t agree more. The first thing I ask a prospect on the phone or in a meeting is to tell me more about their business and their objectives. If they ask if we can do something like a shopping cart or member database, I say that we can and dig more into how they will be utilizing those features. You can not offer the same package to every one and make it work effectively.

4) Question to Ask: Will you design my site from scratch or use templates?

Wow, I am amazed how many companies sell templates as custom design. I understand their is a market and a need for template websites and even logos, but please know what you’re getting. When doing research for a custom website we were creating for a flooring company in New Orleans, I found 3 competitors with the exact same website. The only difference between the websites was the logo and the text on the about us page. Having the same website does not help you differentiate from your competitors.

Next time we’ll discuss pricing, relationships, optimization & content management (CMS).