When you start building your online business and search for a web design company that will implement all your needs for the web site you must understand that it is a very serious step because you are entrusting your business along with its reputation and future.
That's why it's very important to make the right choice.
There are several factors that must define your choice, and one of them is portfolio of previous web design works the company has done. It can tell you more than all words and promises, just be attentive and try to analyze. I will tell you what you must pay attention to:
1) Presence of portfolio
Yes, it seems to be obvious that web design company must have own web site with portfolio of previous works. But don't be astonished too much when you see one without it. There can be various reasons for this but I wouldn't recommend you to tempt fate. Portfolio is like a "face" and it's pride of web design company, it must be full, substantial, and routinely updated...and IT MUST BE!
2) Total number of works
This can tell you much however there is no standard number that will guarantee you are going to deal with web design guru. Yes, 50 successfully finished projects is better than 5, but their quality is also important. Compare the number with period of time during which the company operates in the market and calculate average number of projects per year, month, or week. Remember that average web site design takes 2-4 weeks to be finished.
What this information can give you? Firstly, you can see that the company has got enough expertise. Then this shows that it has stable flow of works, adjusted schedule of development process, and enough staff to perform it, so if you commit your web site design to the company you can be sure that the work won't be for them like a bolt from the blue or well-paid but not feasible overloading.
3) Type of works
Look attentively at each work in the portfolio. How many projects are similar to the one you need by type of site, technology used, industry, and look and feel?
At least 2-3? Good!
More than 5? Excellent!!
None? There can be a reason for this - owner didn't want to make it published, or web site is no more live - so if all other works show professionalism and expertise, you should ask the
company if they have ever done the task you need.
If you need any particular technology to be used for your web site implementation it's more than necessary to see examples how the web design company worked with it. However sometimes it happens if the technology is not common used and very popular that the web design company hasn't had chance to work with it for commercial purpose but it might be used for internal projects development, so you will loose nothing if ask the company to show you some examples if they exist.
If you need a web site for exact business, for example dating site or real estate site, it's also better to view such previous works in the portfolio because there are can be specific features and it's better to make sure that the web design company is experienced with them. Also some web design companies make demo packages that also can show you the abilities and experience.
4) Quality of works
Learn carefully each live site (or the ones which are similar to the site you need). How long does it take to load the site home page?
A few seconds? Great, the web designer knows how to optimize images.
A few minutes? It's normal if this is a Flash site because usually the whole site is loaded at one time, not only the home page; or it's a Flash intro which goes ahead entering the site
and also can load longer because of movie and sound.
But if a simple HTML web site loads more than 2-3 minutes and you can't see all images or they are shown partially, you must be watchful. Check another HTML sites from the portfolio - if they are also loading for ages, it's better to search for another web design company because this one is not professional.
All of the aforesaid is correct only if bandwidth of your Internet connection is normal and usually you don't have problems with loading web sites.
Test the site for user-friendly navigation, pay attention to colors combination, and estimate general impression from the site - all this must reflect professional work. But sometimes a web design company is forced to design a site strictly according to the customer's wishes, so if the customer lacks for good taste the site also looks tasteless. There can one or two such sites in the portfolio, but not all!
5) Happy owners
Web design business is a highly competitive area and as in any business there are honest and dishonest players. Sometimes it happens that you see the same site in portfolio of two different web design companies and it's difficult to find the truth to which of them the work really belongs. Some quirky companies place cheap templates in their portfolio with fake owners' contact info.
That's why it's very important to know real references of real owners of the web sites the web design company has made. Ideally this info must be accessible on the web design company site under Portfolio, Testimonials, or Clients sections. Try to contact ALL of the persons listed there and compare their opinions. You may get to know some interesting facts.
6) Own site of web design company
And finally compare the own site of the web design company to web sites presented in its portfolio. Are they similar by quality, technology used, and overall feeling? If the works from the portfolio look much poorer than the own site this can mean that the own site was ordered from another web design company, more professional. Yes, it happens sometimes in web design business that start-up amateur company commits its web site design to "older" professionals. In such case you better to continue searching for another web design company.
So these 6 rules can help you to make the right choice. Don't be afraid to spend longer time for search and analysis, finally you will only benefit by getting perfect web site that will give new prospects to your business and make it more successful.