I needed someone to develop a high-tech website with complex but easy to follow functionality on a limited budget.
The whole premise of our business is built around being able to deliver live interactive lessons from one home PC to another. We knew that what we were trying to achieve was no mean feat, and would require technical expertise as well as design flair. We also knew that there was a strong chance that some aspects of what we had designed on paper would probably need tweaking or completely redesigning after launching it to the public.
The challenge was to stick to a reasonable budget - quotations from our first brief ranged from £2,000 to £10,000. Some companies believed that because they were based in London, they could charge twice as much as others outside!
However, you are naturally dubious of the cheapest quotations. We also knew that the company we went with would have to be flexible and willing to work with us even after the site had been launched, so that further tweaks would be made quickly and without too much additional expense.
It is easier to utilise a low budget if you are able to follow a pre-designed template. However, we were designing a site that doesn't conform to the typical graphic or e-commerce solutions.
We spoke to at least 20 website design firms. You don't need to confine your search to a local provider - advances in online collaboration software and web conferencing applications mean that a working relationship can be just as effective, regardless of location.
Make sure your designer understands your business model - we sent a flow diagram to each company, and then arranged conference calls with them. We found that many hadn't understood our business, and in this manner we were able to shorten our list to a handful of designers.
Lastly, look at how responsive is your designer to emails and phone calls - the last thing a start up business needs is a designer who has too much work on, and is likely to overrun on the estimated completion date.
The more flexible you are and the more willing to listen to ideas, the better your website will be. Speak to your designer and ask them for ideas on how they would improve your initial draft - this not only shows that they have taken the time, it also gives you an insight into whether you are on the same wavelength. If you are comfortable that they understand your business needs, then let them guide the development of your website - they are the experts.
Choose someone who understands your business, and make sure you are happy that everything has been included on the contract before signing.
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