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Choosing a web design vendor for your small business

Posted by Megan Seely in Interactive

Example RFP for Acme Widgets

When you’re starting a new business, you’re focused on reaching new customers and clients. Your online presence is a vital part of your overall marketing strategy, and you can’t afford not to have a website.

It’s challenging to find a good web designer. You can work with a full service studio or agency, but the costs might not work with your budget. You can hire a freelancer, but unless they are very established, you can’t guarantee they won’t disappear on you. You can try to learn how to build a website yourself, but is this really the best use of your (very in-demand) time? (Answer: No.)

As a starting point, you should determine what exactly you need for your business’s website. Will it be a brochure-style site, with a handful of pages outlining your services and contact information? Or will it be more involved, with a shopping cart, help forums, a downloads database, etc.? How important is mobile access? How will your business’s market affect your website design? (For example, if your product or service is for the elderly, your website might require a different standard of accessibility than a site designed for a younger audience.) How often do you need to update the website? Lastly, what’s your timeline like? If you needed your website up yesterday, your website vendor needs to know you’re in a rush.

These questions will help you develop an RFP (request for proposal) document. Without a clear idea of what you need for your website, designers and studios can’t give you an accurate estimate. In addition to the project requirements, you can use the RFP document to ask a few questions about the designer or studio:

  • Will they provide web hosting and domain registration, or make recommendations?
  • Will they help setup email services?
  • Will they help with ongoing website maintenance in the future?
  • Have they worked on other projects with a similar scope?

While it’s unlikely your small business’s website would require an extensive bidding process, creating a simple, single page RFP document shows you’ve put at least a little thought into your new site.

Finding a good vendor

You can ask around to find a good designer (though it can be hard to determine if people are just recommending a friend for the sake of their existing relationship.) You can Google search or check the Yellow Pages. When possible, you should consider working with a local, after all, wouldn’t you want your community to support your own business?

Craigslist can be a challenge. You can get hundreds of responses to your post, many of them poor quality. Avoid crowdsource design (e.g. 99designs.com) or bid-based websites (e.g. elance.com): in addition to lack of quality control, none of these services establish a working relationship between the vendor and client.

If you’re looking for an estimate for your web design/development project, get in touch! We accept RFPs at the Pixel Foundry.