The Not So Obvious Things That Ought to Affect Your Buying Decision.

No studio or agency wins every bid they go after. Even the best studio loses out based on cost, relationships, un-perfect meetings, bad chemistry, and occasionally clients just have bad taste. It still hurts- if you’re in this business and you don’t believe with your whole heart that you do a better job than your competitors, quit. Quit now, and don’t look back. If you’re like us though, you work extremely hard at being a great company, and it’s hard not to get angry about it. The single, and only reason you can feel ok about it, if you really wanted it, is if you lose it based on cost.

There is always someone willing to do something cheaper, and competing based on price is a race to the bottom. We’ve always opted to compete on quality. Our hourly rate is competitive, and we’re fast at what we do, but we have a level of quality that we aren’t willing to go below. Not every studio is like that, and not every client can tell the difference. Sometimes it requires education to tell the difference between paying more for quality, and being taken advantage of. It’s important to admit that paying less for something of inferior quality is being taken advantage of just like the opposite. It’s contradictory of your ultimate goal.

We lost a bid for a website last week that we shouldn’t have lost. We were the perfect fit for it, and we’re not going to lie to you, it stings a bit. We lost it, according to the client, based on cost- which helps somewhat, but not much. If the client doesn’t have the money, that’s one thing, but probably not the case here. The client may have had their limitations, but money probably wasn’t one of them. Which makes it hurt more, because the blame is on us for not educating them on why our services are more expensive. People who aren’t connoisseurs of wine buy cheap wine, people who aren’t connoisseurs of design buy cheap design.

One of the main purposes of this blog is to educate people about the things that they ought to be thinking about when choosing a studio to work with. Not to coerce them into picking us, but to paint the picture accurately so they can choose for themselves. Since virtually every business needs a website, and almost nobody is a website developer, that means most people have a learning curve when picking a web-dev studio. We’ve covered a lot of the factors in choosing a developer before, but in this case we want to talk about some of the not-so-obvious things that some agencies skimp on to help you compare apples to apples.

Great websites require a whole collection of things to come together perfectly. A lot of the ingredients aren’t immediately apparent.

  • They’re technology related, and not obvious to the tech novice.
  • They become apparent when you’ve owned the site for a couple months.
  • They appear when you need to add new features/content.
  • They appear when you need to redesign the site several years from now.
  • They surface when you need to figure out hosting.
  • They appear when you need someone else to work on your website.
  • They get noticed once your customers see your site.
  • They appear in the sales reports…

Here are some often skimped on, or skipped over factors.

  • CSS If your developer is building your site out of HTML tables, you’re buying day-old milk on clearance. That’s not where the industry is heading.
  • Obsolescence Make sure your developer is using modern languages, modern databases, modern structure, and modern standards. Websites today ought to be built with the future in mind unless you want to rebuild again next year.
  • CMS Your website lives, and dies based on how easy it is to update. If you can’t quickly, and easily swap necessary bits of content on your site- you wasted your money. Ask detailed questions like, “will the website resize my photos for me?”, “How easy is it to add new text?”
  • Copy Despite common misconceptions, people actually read websites. If your text is not on point, your website is not on point. Do yourself a favor, and read some websites by the company you’re choosing.
  • Code Many CMS systems and websites are strung together like spaghetti. It makes it very difficult to do maintenance on, or relocate the website. You end up spending way more in the long run. Cost of ownership is a major factor in websites.
  • Search Many companies sell based on the myth of “SEO.” If you listen to actual industry experts, they will tell you that it’s snake oil. Google and other engines have a vested interest in providing accurate search results, and there are virtually no ways to game their system worth thinking about. Don’t buy based on fear. Well-built sites with lots of content naturally climb the ranks in engines. The internet is a big place, and it takes time…
  • Architecture The structure of your site is vital. Good companies will go to crazy lengths to design the blueprint for your site. A house with a bad blueprint, is hard to live in- and just might fall down… Websites are the same.
  • Ease Spend some real time with a site. It’s critical that it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. Try buying something. Try finding a phone number. It’s crazy how many people just look at the homepage of a site to base their opinion on it. Actually get your hands dirty, and explore before you buy. How many times does the simplicity of the remote affect your buying decision on the TV? People want simple easy to use things- it just makes life better.
  • Story telling Great sites have atmosphere, and story. When you see a cool site that makes you feel something, it’s not by coincidence or accident. Atmosphere doesn’t just happen, it’s carefully, and laboriously created by a designer. Bad design tells a bad story. Good design tells no story at all. Great design tells the right story.
  • Design, design, design Please buy based on design. Please understand the caliber of design your customers are looking for. Please step up to the microphone, and announce your brand with authority via your website. We’ve seen time, and time again that it makes an incredible difference in your sales when your design is unique, creative, and sexy.

This article is about the small things, but don’t forget the obvious stuff.

  • Find nice people you believe will be there for more than just the launch.
  • Look for a philosophy that encompasses technology, design, and call-to-action.
  • Look at completion record. Find someone who can actually get to the finish line in a timely basis. Ask them how long it will take.
  • Assess who a company has worked with? The caliber of companies that have trusted a studio in the past probably speaks more than any other factor you can look at.
  • Find a company who has strong enough opinions to keep a project on track.

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