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How to hire a web firm

21 Feb 2006

This article is a repost originally written on May 12th, 2005

How do you find the right web designer or developer? That is easily one of the most difficult questions to answer, especially if you work in either profession.

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive, step-by-step way to hire the right web professional for everyone that is looking. What this is meant to be is a set of guidelines for you to follow to help you determine which firms or consultants are professional, reputable web professionals.

Reputation

A firms reputation is one of it's biggest assets and they will do whatever they can to keep their good reputations in tact. While you're shopping around, check out who each firm has worked with. As a rule of thumb, larger, more reputable companies will hire web professionals that adhere to a very high level of professionalism, and a great track record with past clients. It's just like the old saying, birds of a feather flock together.

How can you check a web firms references? The answer is easy — any web firm with a good reputation will publish a list of current and past clients. Just visit their website and contact a few of their clients. Ask questions like “was the experience working with XXX design firm an enjoyable one?” and “was the project completed on time and in a professional manor?”

So, that being said, tip number 1 is: check their references

Price

This is a very subjective topic and generally has many differing points of view. What you have to do is take a serious look at the project you're looking to have completed and decide how important price is to you.

There are a couple sayings that web professionals use and it sounds something like this — there is price, timeliness, and quality, you can pick two. There are many variables that will determine the price of your web project – time, complexity, and the firms availability.

Most of the time firms with a better reputation and a higher quality of professionalism and workmanship will charge more than less reputable firms. A good place to start would be to ask if an hourly rate is available. Rates will range from as low as $10/hour all the way up to $100+/hour.

Another method of comparison would be to ask for a quote on your particular project. This may be a better route to travel because some firms will give you a better price when they quote a project fee than if they were to quote an hourly rate. Some firms will undercut others during the quoting process simply to get the job. This should be a bit of a warning sign. If a company is willing to give you significant saving over their original quote to get the project their product may not live up to the standards you expect.

Tip number 2: you can choose two of the following — price, timeliness, and quality — but you can't have all three.

Experience

Experience varies from firm to firm and consultant to consultant. A lot of the larger firms will have a more extensive set of experts in different fields at their disposal whereas consultants may be more specialized in specific areas of expertise. While interviewing potential firms ask where there expertise is. Look for a firm or consultant that is honest about what they can and cannot do. If they can't provide a service that you need, a reputable firm will be able to point you to someone that can.

You should also look at how long the firm or consultant has been working in their respective industries or fields of expertise. If the consultant is new to working on their own, ask how long they worked with other companies before they went into business for themselves.

Tip number 3: find out how long they've been doing what they say they can do

Knowledge

This fits in closely with experience because firms get experience by applying their knowledge. When choosing a firm find out what services they offer and how diverse the services are. Do the services compliment each other? What different services do they offer? Are these services in line with what your project will require?

Another good indication of what services a particular firm offers is to look at their past projects. Take a look through the companies porftolio. Are they all the same type of website or are there differences in the various pieces in their portfolio?

Something else to look for is the firms willingness to explain to you when something won't work. Be careful to not confuse this with laziness. A reputable firm will offer test cases or real life scenarios to prove their point, lazy firms or consultants won't. If you've been told a particular idea of yours won't work are you offered alternatives? If not maybe it's time to keep looking.

Finally, when you're dealing with the firm will they offer to build you the solution you need as opposed to the website you want? A good firm or consultant will do enough research to know what you need to make your website succeed in your chosen industry. They will also be able to mention whether something is pure eye-candy and doesn't actually move your websites goals forward.

Tip number 4: find out how comprehensive the firms services are and how they fit with your project

Exceptions

There are always exceptions to the rule no matter what you're talking about. What I have outlined above is not exempt from these exceptions.

The web is a fickle place and it is very easy to embellish your credentials, your experience, and your knowledge. Being very thorough and contacting past or current clients will help to avoid falling for false information. If you're unsure about a particular firm ask around. Do a quick survey and ask your competitors which firm/consultant they used and how they found them. They're not giving out trade secrets and they will give you an honest opinion of what the experience was like.

I'd like to finish off by saying that this is merely a few guidelines and suggestions you can follow when you are looking for someone to develop and design your web-based projects. This isn't the be-all and end-all rules of how to hire a designer or web developer. If you have any suggestions on how you shop or how you found your web team I'd love to hear them.

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