Yes, I know this blog is meant for Nigerian web design techies but thought it’d be a good idea to post something helpful to business people and corporate organisations looking to hire a web design company or individual designer for a project in the near future.
This is also inspired by the countless tales of woe I’ve heard from clients and prospects who’d picked the wrong web designer and ended up wasting a tonne of money, precious time and in some cases, went as far as getting lawyers and the men in black involved.
Avoiding the ugly scenarios mentioned above is fairly easy. Although as you will discover reading this piece, there’s quite a bit of work to be done. It all begins with being clear about what you want. Ideally, you should have a well written brief (a description of your project requirements) as well as web addresses of websites similar to what you have in mind.
You also need to understand that picking a website design company is a critical decision and can be difficult, if you do not know what to look out for. This list of 7 factors to consider is by no means exhaustive, but should help take out a huge chunk of the risk involved in picking a suitable web design service provider. Hiring a Nigerian website design company doesn’t have to be so risky.
1. Evaluate their own website
Lets say you’re overweight and finally made the big decision to get fit. To speed things up, you decide to hire a personal trainer and after making a few calls, start seeing prospective personal trainers. Would you hire one who looked like he could use a personal trainer himself?
It’s the same way with hiring web designers. One of the first things you take a careful look at is their own website. Its one of the foremost indicators of what you can expect to get when you hire them. Is their website clean or clustered? Well laid out or looks like it survived a tornado?
2. How well do they communicate?
This should start from your review of their website. You should not only be looking to their web design prowess but also their ability to communicate clearly. How well did they communicate through their website? In your interactions with them, however few, how well have they expressed themselves over the phone or by email? How well do they understand your requirements? More than that, will the lines of communication be open if you were to hire them?
A good website design company will have no problems letting you know what their capabilities and limitations are. They’d be genuinely interested in getting to know you, your company and your business goals. They’ll also give honest expert advice to help you as you plan your project.
3. Carefully sift through their portfolio…
Next on the list is their portfolio. The ideal Nigerian website design company website, like most others from around the world, should have a page or section dedicated to showing off their work. Take your time, go through them and carefully compare them with work by other web design service providers. You can also go a step further and contact the companies whose websites are displayed in their portfolio to verify it was actually done by that web design company and how the experience working with them has been. Most companies would not hesitate to give glowing recommendations for a website design company who performed very well.
4. … And their Client list
Really experienced website design companies often put up a client list (sometimes just their logos). Inexperienced web designers or start up companies usually do not have an impressive enough client list to show off so are less likely to have this displayed publicly.
This of course does not mean you cannot hire start up web designers. Some of them really do have what it takes to deliver quality jobs but just need opportunities to prove themselves. We’ve all been there. However, considering their “weak” bargaining position, they should be ready to do any one or more of the following; provide referrals, do a mock/demo site or charge significantly less than the more established website design companies.
Normally, the more experienced and established companies and designers who’ve built up a sizeable clientele and reputation would charge a lot higher. With them, you know you’re less likely to run into any awkward situations usually associated with newbies. So if you’re looking to have your website done on a shoe-string budget, you might just give startups a try. And if you’re serious about getting the job done right at first attempt, you might want to stick with the grown ups.
Ever wondered what the difference was in what the “two-for-five-naira” web designers and their apparently “expensive” counterparts’ offerings were? This is one of the main points of difference. Factor #5 is another.
5. Design Quality, Style & Attention to Detail
Pay close attention to the quality of their work, their style and attention to detail, beginning with their own website all the way to as many of their clients’ websites you can visit. All good web designers have their style and there should be common elements in all their work. Do you like what you see? You should also ask them if they’re flexible in case your project will require a marked departure from what seems to be their norm. This is often the key distinguishing mark of the very best website design companies. They take the pains to craft websites that could pass for decent works of art and are passionate about what they do.
You should also ask them about search engine (primarily Google) optimization and listing. You want to be sure they can produce a website that is search engine friendly because a beautiful website is of no use to your business if it doesn’t generate any new targeted business leads. We here at Level Seven Ltd believe that a website is a marketing tool meant to generate new business and enhance brand loyalty.
6. Who owns the company and how long have they been in business?
You also need to find out if you’re dealing with a sole-proprietor (usually with a registered business name) or a company. The latter is of course, usually better funded, more stable and at least in theory, more reliable and you’re assured of continuity. This should be considered in addition to other mentioned factors such as referrals, reputation, clientele etc.
I’ve met people or companies who ran into trouble when their web designer suddenly met with some misfortune that prevented them from continuing work, went bankrupt, changed his line of business or moved out of the country, unwittingly leaving his clients out to dry. We’re talking huge data losses, lost business, months and years of work gone down the drain. In some cases, clients had to wait for months before re-registering their domain and literally starting from scratch.
So if you’re looking to maintain your website/domain for the long haul (and you should), you might want to seriously consider choosing a more established company with a good track record and business ethics. Have you added Level Seven Ltd. to your list?
Closely linked to the ownership and structure factor highlighted above is the company’s age. How long have they been in business? Like ownership and structure, this also indicates how reliable and stable they are as a business or company. It is a widely known fact that most businesses wither away in the first three years of their existence. This is quite pronounced in the IT industry, as a result of the harsh economic climate in Nigeria and particularly for sub-sectors like website design and development which are regarded far less than they’re really worth. See my article “Undervaluing the Website Design Profession in Nigeria” for more on this.
7. How much do they charge?
The average Nigerian by default would ignore all of the tips suggested in this article and simply choose based on pricing – the lowest of course. And then one or two steps down the road when things turn south, they wonder what they did wrong.
When hiring service providers, regardless of the field or industry, the cheapest you can find are usually the very ones you should be avoiding. Like the old saying goes, “if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Except you’ve got the time and resources to gamble with, making decisions such as these based on cost alone is seldom the way to go. If you look closely, web designers whose fees seem high are often much more experienced, much more confident, produce better quality work, have more clients and a solid track record. All of these are things you should not ignore!
For the record, this isn’t a science so this may not prove true in all cases. Although it does make sense from the economic viewpoint that superior goods cost more than inferior goods. One relevant, primary trait of those who go for superior goods is that they prefer to spend more to get good, reliable quality.
So with regards pricing you do need to look inwards. Would you hire a designer who’d bill you next to nothing and deliver low quality work? Wouldn’t you rather hire a designer who’d bill you higher but produce premium quality work and good return on investment?
The price range for a simple corporate website in developed countries like the US, depending on location, is placed between $2500 – $5000. That’s about N400,000 – N800,000. Even with the best website design companies in Nigeria, Lagos in particular, you can get even better quality work for a whole lot less than that.
The cost of even specialized Labour like website design is a lot lower here. Still, we instinctively make critical decisions such as who builds our website based on fees alone. I cannot count how many times I’ve run into people and companies who got burned and were forced to learn the hard way.