9-Point Checklist to Filter Best Website Design & Development Companies

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It’s time to refresh the process on how you hire a web development firm for projects that demand creativity, and high-end web design/programming to make it work.  There are a number of factors that add up to an aesthetic, functional and reliable website, be it for an ecommerce store, a social networking platform, or a simple business website. A talented team plus significant experience in custom design services are two major attributes of a professional agency. But how can you judge the talent and expertise of an agency before hiring them? There are a few parameters that can help you define the efficiency of a web development company in this regard; let’s identify them.

1. Portfolio:

Checking the portfolio is the first and obvious thing to do when you are about to hire a web development company for your upcoming startup or a business website. Commonly, clients cite references of existing websites while collaborating with sales teams and analysts of the companies they are in talks with, to build a website from scratch. When your requirement is a design inspired from a pre-existing website, you will come across mainly three answers from all web development companies:

One- We can make a website that looks like this.

Two- We built this website earlier too.

Three- We can offer better than this.

To assess the value of such claims, a portfolio is the best resource. But, in most other situations, especially if your business plan demands premium solutions/services, it’s better to have no prototype in mind. Discuss feature details and business model requirements while requesting the quote. In a few cases, you may not have well-laid FRDs (Feature Requirement Document) in advance, so you can ask (or hire) them first to develop this document that will clearly specify the details of your website.

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2. Experience

Web development companies make websites for all sorts of industries, and more often than not, they also make personal websites. At the same time, it’s also true that each company has a specialized domain. When you are planning to get your website built, it would be a good idea to go for a company that has ample experience in your niche. A web development company that also has profound experience in digital marketing will be a plus point. This will ensure their knowledge and expertise about SEO, conversion optimization and UXO, which are crucial areas for any website to perform better after it goes live.

3. Value, and Not Price

Instead of focusing on how much a company charges for delivering their custom design solutions, focus on the value, the ROI that the final website will be delivering. Do you get complete ownership of the website? Does it have all the features you need? Is it scalable? See, the point is that it’s better to shell out a little more and get a website that grows with your business, and doesn’t need constant revisions and reworks, instead of saving a few dollars now and then spending more of them in years to come.

For instance, there are various ecommerce platforms out there to build online startups if you plan to create an online store.  All of them offer different solutions ranging from hosted, self-hosted, one-seller websites to multi-vendor ecommerce marketplaces. If you compare them, price would certainly be one reigning factor in your mind but the decision to choose one of them must be taken based on the value you expect to get in the future. This can be judged by garnering more details about them like, for example, some platforms offer monthly fee plans for hosted ecommerce stores, and few of them offer paid multi-vendor plugins and few are readymade solutions that cost a one-time fee. To detect value in such packages, you must first have clearly defined goals so you can estimate which platform will prove beneficial and be sustainable in the long-term.

4. References and Testimonials

Look for the testimonials that the company in question has received from their previous clients. Check reviews; both customers’ and third party reviewing websites’. You can search online and get to know instantly from first page results itself, if the company has any history of negative reviews. Use search queries like “about ABC” or “ABC reviews” (ABC is an example of an agency name here).

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5. Customer Service

If possible, talk to the previous clients and ask how their experience was. That may not be possible all the time but if you can manage to get to talk to even one of them, it will be quite valuable. The way a company treats their customers tells a lot about how they run their business. It hardly makes a difference when everything is going alright but client support matters the most if things don’t work as per your plan and you might want to change or need instant support to fix issues. That’s when you see how things move further from this point.

Remember, smooth sailing never made a skilled sailor. How they handled customer grievance is important, and you have to ensure that you know about it beforehand.

6. The Role of Technology

You know what’s common among all the prominent companies in the world that started small? They always had a vision to be big one day; they always planned for the future in advance. They always thought about how things will be in years to come and were prepared for it. They planned, and always kept room for more. And for this, they made sure they used the right technology.

When we discuss technology in the context of website development, programming is one of the important decisions that defines how a website will function eventually. A little knowledge about it will save you from unseen glitches that are commonly faced by many tech startups and new websites, at a later stage. A few points to remember in this regard are the following:

-Too much of Java can make a site sluggish. Be careful about the website loading speed while using different languages as neither users nor search bots like a site that takes too much time to load.

-ASP.NET tends to be a good option but the widely popular choice happens to revolve around PHP.

-MySQL is the preferred database management system.

-PHP is so popular because of the fact that developers find PHP easier to learn in comparison to other languages, it comes with inbuilt database support (MySQL), works really well with CMS and is open source.

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7. Work Model

All web development companies work as per a model. If we talk about it in terms of the system development life cycle, these methodologies are known as work models (not working model, that’s something else). Let’s take a brief look at common work models being followed by agencies these days.

  • Waterfall Model: The oldest and simplest work model. Complete phase 1, move to phase 2, then to phase 3 and so on. The problem with this model is that once the first step is done and closed, it’s impossible to go back to it until the maintenance stage.
  • V Model: the “V” in the name stands for Verification and Validation. This is an upgraded version of the waterfall model. Each development cycle has its own testing module. But then again, once a phase goes “ok”, you won’t be able to make changes to it.
  • Iterative Model: When there is no clear path, and you don’t know your requirements completely, you take off with this model. As you start learning more about the requirements, you keep editing the work. And every time, you have a new version. It’s more like a rinse and repeat. You get a working model of your website quite early, but too much iteration may render you out of budget, time and resources.
  • Spiral Model: It’s another version of the iterative model. Instead of numerous versions, you keep iterating the same model until you get the final product. The problem is, you may never fall prey to the possible never-ending circle.
  • Agile Model: This model breaks the required product into smaller fragments, called the cycles. Each cycle is worked upon simultaneously by a group of dedicated engineers. It’s a time-efficient and realistic approach. Each module is built, tested, adjusted, verified, integrated and then again tested for streamlining, and thus involves a lot of communication between the client, the developer and the testers. If your project requires special attention at each phase and you don’t want it to miss any details, this is the model for you.
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8. Online Presence and Expertise

When a website development company is a team of experts, there are very high chances that apart from learning new skills, they would also like to share their 2 cents. People who have profound knowledge of something love to talk about it, especially the department heads and other experienced people of a company. Read their blogs and see what information they share. Reading what they share on social media and third party blogs will give you a clear picture of how they are efficient in their specialized fields. When considering people who are going to work on your project, analyze their ideas, views, knowledge and expertise through their online presence and contributions.

9. Prep for the Game

All the points we discussed above work in tandem with each other to give you a custom ecommerce website that puts your dream venture into motion. With all these factors in mind, just take your time, research a bit about different web development companies, shortlist them, talk to them, and make a well-informed and well-calculated decision. And always remember to do your homework before talking to them. Know which web-based business model you want to go for and what all goes into different spheres of online businesses. The amount of homework you do is crucial as it proves helpful while you discuss a new project with your custom design solution partner. Ecommerce development takes time and needs a lot of research; invest in them and you’ll see good results. All the best.



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