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Businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of a quality website in reaching their customers and achieving their marketing, sales and business goals. Partnering with the right web design firm makes a huge impact in the success of your online strategy and in getting your desired return on investment.

We have developed a blueprint for how we have created Katalyst Creative Group to best meet the needs of small and medium sized businesses. We hope this helps you as you consider which firm to help you with your online strategy.

1. Does the firm have the right focus?

The web is a complex arena and is continually evolving. It requires in-depth knowledge and skill to navigate successfully. This requires the web design firm to be focused on the web as a primary service offering, not as an add-on or sideline service. Otherwise, the firm is unlikely to be able to keep up with the changing nature of the web.

The firm also needs to be focused on you, on helping you achieve your business and marketing goals and reaching your customers. It is important to understand your business and marketing goals and know how your website fits within this overall plan.

Some questions for you to consider include:

  • What are the first questions the firm asks you? Are they asking about you and your business, or are they going straight to ‘what feature do you want?’
  • Are they taking the time to understand your business and marketing goals?
  • Are they asking you questions and discussing with your how you will measure your success, who is your target audience, what are your competitive differentiators, what is the primary messaging for your website?

2. Does the firm have the right background and experience?

Being able to understand your business and your goals requires having the right background. A business website is first and foremost a marketing tool for your business. Having someone with a business and marketing background, with a broad understanding of the Internet is important for a successful web presence.

A firm with a strong business background will be conscious that you need a return on your investment. As appropriate, they should walk you through different options of achieving your goals, giving you an understanding of the costs and pros and cons of each approach, so that you can make an informed business decision.

Some questions for you to consider include:

  • Does the firm have a background in business and marketing?
  • How long have they been in the Internet industry?
  • Do they have a deep understanding of the Internet?
  • Do they have technical savvy as well as business and marketing savvy?

3. Does the firm have the right creative skills?

Your website is a direct reflection on your organization and it needs to reflect your inside reality. If you have a cheap, poorly designed website, what will your prospects think about your company? That first impression may be the only thing they know about you. It is important that your website not only look professional, but also communicate your message in a clear, concise and compelling manner.

So, it is important that your web design firm have the creative skills to create websites that:

Some questions for you to consider include:

  • Does the firm’s portfolio reflect high quality, professional sites?
  • Can they take your marketing communications goals and translate them into a design that is attractive to your customers and prospects?

4. Does the firm have the right technical skills?

A poorly coded website is like seeing a shiny Mercedes Benz, but looking under the hood and seeing the oil leak on the driveway, having it backfire when you start it up, and always pulling to the left when you are driving it… It may look great, but just doesn’t work right.

A high quality web firm will understand and use best practices such as:

  1. Web Standards, which help to ensure the site works well over a variety of web browsers
  2. Accessibility, which helps to ensure that the visually impaired (as well as search engines) can use your site
  3. Search Engine Optimization, which help to ensure that no impediments to the search engines are unintentionally coded into the site.

These things aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye, but they are critical to making sure that your website performs optimally.

The firm will also have the expertise to help you grow beyond your current website. You may need to expand into mobile, offer advanced functionality or custom database interactivity. If your firm can only create basic online brochure websites, they won’t be able to grow with you as your business grows. Having that long-term relationship with your web design firm will help you better implement your strategy.

Some questions for you to consider include:

  • Does the firm develop using current web design standards?
  • Do they develop with accessibility in mind?
  • Do they know how to turn your website into a business tool with dynamic features and functionality?
  • Do they do database development and offer content management systems?
  • Do they understand search engine optimization and use best practices for search engine friendly sites, even when SEO is not a part of the project?

5. Does the firm have the right online marketing skills?

Let’s face it. You can have the greatest looking website in the world, but if no one can find it then it doesn’t do you any good. Understanding search engines and online marketing strategy is essential. Your web design firm needs to understand:

  • How the search engines work
  • How search engines index your website
  • How social media interacts with your online strategy
  • Other cost-effective strategies for promoting your website

Some questions for you to consider include:

  • Does the firm offer Search Engine Optimization services?
  • Can the firm intelligently speak to you about other options for promoting and growing your website?

Conclusion

Choosing the right web design firm to help you in creating your online presence is a critical decision. We hope that we’ve given you some things to consider as we looked at our own blueprint for the firm we are driving to be.