Hire a teacher; not a salesman.
Did someone say elephant in the room? Price can be the most infuriating thing to wrap the mind around for both the client and the web design firm. Price has many variants and it really does vary by project. It is true that some clients take quite a bit more time than others even if the scope of work is nearly identical. But a good web design firm works through pricing by average profitability and is extremely clear and precise with their estimates.
Red Flag: If a firm delivers a proposal with a large estimate gap (like $5,000 – $10,000), beware. This usually means they don’t really have a plan of attack and don’t know how they’re going to be building the system out. Also be on the lookout for a generic “hourly guesstimate”.
(Note: This is typically for very basic websites. For larger software builds or unique projects with a lot of ambiguity, sometimes hourly estimates are the only way. Bottom line: The more specific the scope of work is (and the more prepared you are as a client), the more specific the firm should be in delivering their itemized, priced-out proposal.)
What Artillery Does: We keep our pricing as transparent as we possibly can. We track how profitable each project is and will adjust our pricing accordingly from time to time. You can play around with our quote builder tool by going to our site: https://pageinaday.com/quote/
The timeline and process (item 3 below) go hand-in-hand. It is impossible to have an accurate timeline that doesn’t clearly reflect the process that the web design firm plans to use. The timeline doesn’t need to have exact dates cooked in to the proposal, but there should at least be expectations being managed here. In other words, does the proposal have clear steps and stages? And do those stages have a clear timeline?
Red Flag: The biggest red flag we’ve seen in regards to timeline is simply how responsive the firm is to emails and phone calls. The second biggest red flag we’ve seen is ambiguity in the timeline itself. If you sign the proposal today, is it clear what you (as the client) should be working on? And is it clear when you can expect a first draft?
What Artillery Does: When delivering each proposal, we clearly define how long each step in our process will take. For example, Strategy typically takes 1 week. Wireframing 1 week. Design 1 week. Development 2 weeks, and so on. But we are also very clear that the longest hold-up we experience is always content received from the client and timely feedback. We try to make it clear to the client what they can be working on while we do much of the ground work.
3) What’s the process?
Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions here. A web design firm’s process shouldn’t just cover the steps we’re all going to go through, but why are we going through this step. Why should we wireframe before we design? Why should we get content before we build? What’s the track record of the process and how was it developed?
Red Flag: This step is probably the most rare step web design firm’s get right. This is mostly due to the fact that most companies that build websites don’t JUST build websites, but provide many other services and so each process is more generalized than specialized. The process should be more specific than, “Step 1: Strategy; Step 2: Build; Step 3: Launch!”. That’s not a process, that’s a tagline.
What Artillery Does: Since we only build websites, our process is constantly being refined in order to better serve our customers. We clearly walk through each step of our process from the very first phone call and provide detailed tutorial videos for every step we go through. These videos clearly explain what is next, what is required from the client vs. us, and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
4) What strategies and framework do you use?
This is a great question to ask because the answer you receive typically reveals how customized and flexible your new website will be. If a web design firm plans to purchase a pre-made theme and cram your content into it, it doesn’t really matter the strategy and framework because it can’t be changed anyway.
Red Flag: Be on the lookout for designers who are just building something for it to look pretty. Remember, “Originality isn’t the primary goal of design, effectiveness is.” -Seth Godin. If you were never asked your goals for the new site, you can expect you won’t meet them.
What Artillery Does: We follow the StoryBrand.com framework when building each and every website. This allows us to craft a narrative visually that accomplishes goals, first. Also, since we use the Divi Theme through WordPress, that allows us to be flexible in moving sections around and crafting sites that accomplish goals instead of cramming content into a static theme that can’t be changed.
5) What technologies do you plan to use?
This is an important one to ask because it usually shows how long the web design firm took to research the problems you laid out in your initial call or meeting. Make sure the web designers have crystal clear answers when you ask them things like, “How do you plan to build out our billing platform?”, or “Do you plan to use a plugin to build the Job Board feature on the new site? If so, which plugin”. Even if you don’t know the best solution, make sure they’ve thought about it before you begin.
Red Flag: Don’t be intimidated through these conversations. If you feel like you’re getting “sold” and not “taught”, run. Get clear answers and cross-reference those answers with other firms or through a Google search.
What Artillery Does: We try our very best to approach each proposal with the heart of a teacher. When I take my car into the shop, I certainly don’t appreciate fancy words that I don’t understand thrown at me. Remember that Einstein quote, “If You Can’t Explain it to a Six Year Old, You Don’t Understand it Yourself.”
6) What’s the plan for ongoing support, maintenance, security, and updates?
Let’s say you choose a firm and they do everything right. They build out a beautiful site on time that accomplishes goals, they’re great to work with, decently priced, and great teachers and communicators. But even if all that goes wonderfully and there is no plan to maintain the site for long-term (or training on how you can edit your own new site), it will fail within months.
Red Flag: Don’t get tricked into using a system that isn’t easy to update yourself. Make sure there is a plan in place for every major disaster. Make sure your web designer has a defensive game plan.
What Artillery Does: We require each client get on our Hosting, Maintenance, & Security plan at $49/mo. We pull our build costs down to account for that cost, and are extremely proud of the results. See this page for more info. We also provide extremely clear tutorial videos that allow you, the client, to make any change to the site you want!
7) What’s required/expected of me (the client) vs. you (web designer)?
Be sure the proposal you receive manages clear expectations for the work you’ll be doing as the client vs. the work the web designer will be doing.
Red Flag: Make sure the web designer answers the “content question” and has a plan for how involved you’ll need to be. Don’t fall behind schedule because there was not clear tutorials for you to follow to develop the work you’ll need to provide to the web designer.
What Artillery Does: We break down very specifically what the client will need to bring to the table vs. what we provide. The most common answer to that is: Client brings the words (copy) and photos and has a basic idea of the page structure (site map). Artillery handles the rest.
8) What do you guarantee vs. what do you not guarantee (SEO)?
This step usually answers the SEO and traffic question. Is the firm you’re hiring a marketing firm (typically, marketing and SEO companies get the user TO the site and help the site run more efficiently). Or does the firm (and the quote) just account for building the site?
Red Flag: If a web designer is promising outstanding SEO results or traffic results, beware.
What Artillery Does: We guarantee that when a customer lands on your new website, it will work efficiently and properly for that customer. We cannot guarantee SEO results and how users come to that site. That role is for the SEO and marketing firms.
9) Ongoing fees?
Make sure ongoing work is clearly defined. What is the plan when you want to add a new landing page or blog post?
Red Flag: Don’t get stuck in a new website you can’t control and need to rely heavily on the web designer for minor changes. That gets expensive QUICKLY.
What Artillery Does: We provide a flat $49/mo fee that covers almost everything you’ll need for your new site. We even help out with questions you may have down the road! If you have extensive work to be done to the site down the road, we’ll provide a very specific quote for that work at our 50% discounted hourly rate for our members.
10) Who will be doing the work?
Make sure you’re not being up-sold and outsourced unless you’re fully aware.
Red Flag: If you’re being outsourced, make sure it’s the right fit and you do your due diligence on who is actually doing the work and their track record.
What Artillery Does: We do all our own work in-house. We have a few builders all over the world but you’ll be communicating directly with us on projects and we Q.A. and guarantee the work we provide.
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Want to give Artillery a try? We’d love to hear from you.