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11 Nov
Posted by Jane

Finding your perfect match: a guide to choosing a company to design your new website

In my past life, I was a client of Clever Starfish and many other agencies and spent a great deal of my time sifting through website and digital quotes for employers and clients. I was given the task of shortlisting and/or ‘decoding’ what website companies were offering and why the cost of a website seemed to vary so much.

As I am now a quoter and not a recipient, I thought it might be helpful to share my personal approach (and opinion) to making the right choice for you and your company.

So where do you start?

Good question! From the hundreds of websites I have been involved in (as a client, supplier, collaborator, representative of the client) the most successful websites were produced by a website company with passion in what they do and show a true interest in your business challenges and goals with the talent to back it up. To find these companies you should Google, ask friends, ask colleagues and find sites that you like. I suggest that you get at least two quotes.

The checklist below is designed to help you once you have a shortlist of companies you think might be a good match.

The checklist is suitable for individuals, boards, committees and groups who need to make a choice on supplier with little or no knowledge of web projects.

If the final decision is in the hands of a group who don’t get to meet the supplier they should be able to use the checklist against the shortlisted quotes. All the decision makers need to know is what your company needs and what sort of supplier would suit you to provide this service. Easy, right? Well it is easi-er, with this checklist!

Part 1: Basic skills checklist

I promise you that the right company will demonstrate that they have considered your unique business challenges and should include some of these proposed solutions in the document. They should be a yes for at least 5 of the 6 questions below to make it to the next checklist.

  1. Have they included a suggested site map and does it look suitable for you?
    If yes, this shows that they have taken the time to consider the structure of your website.
  2. Have they identified your business problems and suggested appropriate solutions?
    For example, they have may suggest functions, features and sections. If yes, this shows they are focused on solving your business problems and not just making you a ‘pretty web brochure’.
  3. Are they a personality match for you?
    This should be reflected in the way they have communicated the quote and how they dealt with the quote process.
  4. Is their business approach a match to you?
    This should be reflected in the way they interact with you and their methodology or process. For example, if you like to work face-to-face and deadlines are your thing, did they come and meet anyone in the team and did they communicate well and meet all the deadlines? The approach to the quote process is often demonstrative of how they will continue to work with you.
  5. Have they demonstrated that they can design great websites?
    You can often view these on their website portfolio or can be found by Googling the company name.
  6. Have they been awarded for their websites?
    If yes, this may show that they are practicing good design and development that is endorsed by peers and experts. If not, sometimes its worth asking if they enter their sites in awards. Some companies do not choose to enter their sites.
    *For reference, the Australian Web Awards is the most prestigious award in Australia.

Part 2: Budget and priority checklist

Web design companies vary in focus and expertise. The best companies have a balanced approach to content, design, development, project management, testing and training.  Quotes usually reflect the balance of their skill set. A new website needs to have a holistic and balanced approach. A rejuvenation of a website might need a little bit of a different balance, depending on the issues that are being overcome.

  1. What is the balance of design, development, project management, testing and training? Are they too focused on one area at the expense of another?
    This can help you to compare the approach each company will take to your project and make sure it with the weighting of what you see as your problem areas. If you don’t know your problem areas, look for a balanced quote.
  2. What is their ongoing hourly rate?
    Sometimes the rate for the website build is low but the ongoing “maintenance” rates are very high and part of a 12-month contract. This may work for you, but in my personal experience it doesn’t.
  3. Have they included enough time to design a unique solution for your needs?
    A low percentage of the overall budget is reflective of design being a low priority.  This often means they intend to reuse a template for your site, which can be restrictive. To work this out, compare the actual hours (budget divided by hourly rate) being put to design for each web design company.
  4. Have they quoted for a responsive website that adapts the layout, content and interactions to the needs of tablets and mobile phones?
    This increases the cost of a website by 20-40% so check that this is included in their fixed quote if this is a priority for you. Also, confirm that they have completed responsive site design projects before as this is a specialised skill set. Get them to explain what a responsive entails for them and what they have included. There are so many ways of designing and building responsive websites so be prepared.
  5. How do ‘apples’ compare with ‘apples’?
    There is always a huge variation in costs for websites and the solutions put forward can vary.  This is normal. When looking at the overall cost, try and compare a few features or skill sets to get a sense of how they quote. Cheaper quotes may have missed out features and more expensive ones are sometimes not tailored to your needs and are a broad stroke solution.  If in doubt, most web companies will be happy to take 30 mins to present their quote to you and explain their approach.
  6. Is their quote a fixed quote?
    There are many companies that offer packages, estimates and other approaches which are often rounded to $8,000 or $10,000 or $12,000. These aren’t always fixed. Be wary of anything with the word estimate UNLESS you feel they are the perfect match in every other way. You don’t want to find yourselves making a decision on price when they aren’t a match in any other ways for your website and regretting it later.
  7. What happens after the website is launched?
    It’s important to understand what ongoing services are offered (for example: further design, content, backups, maintenance, additional development, strategy, content support and site performance reporting) and what the ongoing costs could be.

You will notice that the question “does this quote fit my budget” isn’t in the checklist. This is because quotes are often flexible. If they match the rest of the checklist, you should be able to approach them to discuss their costs.

Part 3: Customer Service checklist

Web design companies don’t all have a single person that is responsible for your project. If you want someone to help you through the process, make sure there is a person and budget allocated to this. Many web companies don’t offer this as a service because it raises the cost. If you want a person looking out for you from the inside, choose a company that cost this out as a service.

  1. Check that they have included a budget (or enough budget) for a dedicated project manager
    This is not a sales person, designer or developer. This is an account manager, project manager (or producer) with training in this area. Many agencies do not see project management as a priority, but having a project without a manager will lead to delays and possible miscommunication.
  2. What do their clients say about them?
    It’s really important to get a list of references and make some phone calls because good relationships make the project a positive and fun experience for everyone involved. If the person was recommended, approach the referee and ask if they are customer-focused and not just after a “sales success”. Social media is a good place to see if a company has advocates if you are too shy or time-poor to call references.
  3. What was the experience like during the quote process?
    Did/would they come and meet the team to quote and who do you deal with? Is it a sales person or account manager or designer/developer direct? Many agencies send out a sales person and then move the project to a junior once the quote is approved. Be sure of how their process works.

So that’s it! Good luck and may you find your perfect match :)

10 Oct
Posted by Jane

Clever Starfish receives WA Web Award for Just In Time Gourmet and makes finals for the Australian Web Awards

On Wednesday night, some of the gang here strolled down from our new office in Money Street (moving in party coming soon!) to enjoy the Australian Web Awards State event. It’s a great opportunity to say hello to our peers, competitors and friends – something which is a bit of a rarity, making this night a not-to-miss event. It never fails to reaffirm the ever-increasing standard of award-winning websites in WA!

We had 6 sites up for awards including Fly By Night and My Emporium featured below, all of which we are very proud – something that we celebrated before heading to the awards.

site_product_large_flybynightresponsive

My Emporium

It was just icing on the #LaunchCake to win an e-commerce award for Just in Time Gourmet!

Just In Time Gourmet Website

You can read all about it in our launch blog for the site, when you have a moment.

The spread of recipients was broader this year (which was great!) and included Hancock Creative, Bam Creative, Juicebox Creative, Longtail, The WA Museum, Humaan, Clarity Communications, Tom Oliver and Jesse Yuen.

Although winning an award on the night is great recognition for the work we are putting out, we still find the biggest reward is feedback from the client that the site has made the impact we planned together, which in this case included the following;

For the Just In Time Gourmet customers

  • increased efficiency for searching and finding products and hampers
  • fuss-free and error-free ordering of loose products and pre-made hampers
  • the ability to add more than one recipient address to an order
  • the ability for a customer to build their own hamper
  • all of the above to be simple, easy and intuitive on a phone, tablet or computer

For the Just In Time Gourmet team

  • easy management of orders and streamlined payment processes
  • easy syncing of products and orders with MYOB
  • flexible and fuss-free management of products, categories and product features
  • enjoyment not pain, when doing anything with the site
  • build in SEO-friendly layout with flexible and easily-editable content

To hear their thoughts on the website and experience with us, check out their blog,  “Congratulations Clever Starfish”.

7 Oct
Posted by Jane

Clever Starfish Team Nominated for five Australian Web Awards, take home three shiny trophies!

The Australian Web Awards, held at Luna Park in Melbourne and run by the Australian Web Industry Association, has brought great winnings to Clever Starfish this year!

We can now proudly add three more awards and five finalist certificates to our ‘cabinet’ next to the award won in 2009 for Sophie Kyron’s site, if we include the two taken home by Adam Trickett, one of our fabulous programmers.

Australian Web Awards 2012

The very first award on the agenda was for the “Personal” category – and this was taken out by Adam for his personal site. We are so impressed!

The second award was won for our own website in the Commercial category. It competed against websites from Freerange Future, Humaan, Digital Domination and BMC Solutions. You can find out a little more about this site on our project page.

Our third award was presented for Due Jolly in the Best HTML and CSS category – competing against websites created by Zeroseven, Sumo Group, Equilibrium and Get Started. We are particularly proud to have won this category because it validates (excuse the pun) the hard work we do to make sites built on a solid foundation.

Our fourth award/nomination was “Finalist” in the “Best Overall Mobile” for Adam Trickett – who was competing with websites from MatesRates Design, Sumo Group, Renrez Web Consultancy and Design City. The award was won by Design City for their own site. Great work guys!

Our final award/nomination was “Finalist” in the “Most Outstanding” category. The winner was the fabulous team at BAM Creative for the hard work they did on the FOODcents website. Nice work, Miles!

We would like to thank the Australian Web Industry Association for running events like this, where we are given the privilege of competing with companies across the nation and look forward to next year when we hope there will be more representation from all states across Australia. For the full results, check out the Australian Web Awards results page.

Photos and video will be coming! Stay tuned…

26 Apr
Posted by Jane

Media140 kicks off in perth

It’s a little like Christmas when Media140 comes around. We get to be social starfish and find out more about the latest statistics, predictions and technology advances from people in the industry. It is also exciting to see a few of our clients choosing to attend this year.

We will be updating you with some of the most interesting resources presented via our Twitter but will do our best to keep you up to date on the blog too.

 

2 Apr
Posted by Jane

CSS award in Milkable’s first week

Our new website for Milkable has made it onto the CSS Design Awards before we even had the chance to blog that it is live! For those who didn’t read it on our Twitter, we are proud to have been able to work with the talented Yakub Erogul and bring his site to life, complete with a flying cow! Check it out on your computer, mobile device or phone and let us know what you think…

9 Mar
Posted by Jane

Design responsively, people!

We promised our fabulous client/friend/social guru/roving blogger for the week, Joe Millward, who is over at SXSW that we would make him a video demonstrating responsive design. Here you go, man… We hope it helps to prevent losing your voice by the end of the conference.

If you are all about HD, go here.

 

29 Jul
Posted by Kay

The Australian Web Industry Association

We’re lucky that in Perth that we have a very strong local web development scene. In fact, Western Australia is the birthplace of the Australian Web Industry Association (AWIA), a professional organisation to support and raise the profile of people who make web sites.

AWIA grew out of monthly web developer get-togethers at a local pub, started by Miles Burke in 2002. While Dave and I weren’t at the very first of these so-called “Port80” casual networking events, we were at nearly every subsequent event for the next few years. It was at these events, over a few beers and shared plates of wedges, that the idea of formalising all the great ideas being discussed was born. The result? AWIA.

The benefits of belonging to a professional organisation are many. Our membership demonstrates our belief in best practise and professional development. It also allows the sharing of technical and business information that will benefit everyone. We’re friends with many of our competitors – but we tend to view them as colleagues rather than competitors.

I was part of the AWIA committee from 2005 until 2009 including participating in the organising WA Web Awards (later the Australian Web Awards) and the Edge of the Web conferences in 2008 and 2009. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too!

Although I’m no longer active on the organising side of things, Dave and I are still involved with AWIA, and the Port80 networking meetings on the first Wednesday of every month are still a must-attend event. We try to always make time to catch up with colleagues and share our “from the trenches” stories over a beer or two and some free pizza.

Australian Web Industry Association