Web development companies are like any other service provider. Quality, price, and service varies. Unlike other service providers, you can really examine a web company’s work - both for themselves and for their clients.
If you are considering a web development company, visit their site, and look for the following:
- Open the home page in every browser you have. How does it look? What browser do your site visitors usually use (check your stats)? Do any browsers throw errors (look in the lower left-hand corner of IE, watch for popups and other indicators from other browser.
- Scan the page. Is the layout equivalent? Are the images displayed properly? Do the menus work? Is it ‘smooth‘, meaning the page reacts to your actions in a timely manner?
- How long did the page take to load? Is it fast enough for most of your visitors? If you have alot of dialup site visitors, this is a serious issue.
- Click through the site, assessing image quality at all levels. There is a delicate balance between image quality and image size. People can’t see size, but they will see a long image download. They can quickly identify a poor quality image.
- Do secondary pages load quickly?
- Watch for broken links or missing images.
- Look at the quality of the content. Are there many mispellings or grammatical errors? If so, your site will be at risk for the same.
- Think about the content from a marketing perspective. Does it make sense? These people will be defining your site. If they can’t market their company, how will they be able to sell your products? If they don’t do a good job on their own site, how will they perform on yours?
- Are the company’s specialties in line with your interests? There is no sense hiring a company that specializes in design to build an ecommerce site. Be sure they have excellent ecommerce experience before continuing. This site has valuable information about credit card processing: https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/
- If there is a portfolio, are there links to the sites? If not, the sites are probably no longer run by that company. Go check the sites and look for a footer linking back. If they don’t link back, you may want to contact that company to ask who did the site, and to get feedback. Check how those sites run. Are any similar to what you’d like?
- If you change the font size, does it change gracefully in the browser?
- Use ‘View Source’ to look at the code. You don’t need any technical skill to do this. Is the code orderly, meaning reasonably easy to read? Indenting will probably be inconsistent, and that indicates that an application is probably in use. That’s a good sign. Are there any silly comments? Notes such as ‘check this later’?
- If they have a blog, read a few posts. Is it mature? Professional? Relevant to your interests?
- Try to assess the tone of the site. Are the focussed on their clients? Are they focussed on themselves? Are they out in left field? Are images of the company and office appropriate?
- Are they hiring? Are they always hiring? That can indicate explosive growth or high turnover. What are the target qualifications for their positions? Is the bar set fairly high?
- Go to LinkedIn and look at the people in the company. Are they people you would like to hire? Are their profiles and images professional? How many people are there? Is there a logical distribution of titles and positions? If not, the work may be outsourced, or the organization may be off kilter.
Before you contact them, be sure you can clearly state what you would like. What is the objective of your site? If you can’t answer that question, wait until you can.