detective interrogating a Columbus website design firm

You judge. We judge. Everyone does. Research shows your prospects are judging your website, and your company’s credibility, within the first few seconds.

If your website is your main marketing tool, you know it has to represent your personality, and level of knowledge you possess. It’s your prospects' first impression of your organization, and you know they’re looking at your competitors’ websites, as well. So you have to decide: will your website will just blend into the mass of other sites they’re seeing, or will it stand out and show you’re more evolved than your competition?

To make sure you find the right Columbus website design firm to make that happen, ask the questions below before making a decision.

Download a print version of this list here.

Is their design style, your style?

Are they using a template that makes your site look like so many others, or are they developing a custom design that shows your organization is unique? If the designer’s site looks like it’s based on a template, with mediocre stock images, that’s what you’ll be getting for your site.

What’s their marketing perspective?

Dogs are good marketers: they make you seem like you’re the center of their universe. Marketing is like that: it’s not about you, but what you do for your customers to make their lives better, easier, and making them look good. Read the design firm’s website: if its all about them, and not what they do for you, they’re not marketing-focused.

Can they write the content?

The words on your website have the power to make your website a success. Content needs some planning because not only will good content work to convert visitors into clients, but on-page optimization helps with SEO.

Are they keeping up on Google’s algorithms?

Google’s algorithms change often, so if a design firm can’t share what Google’s algorithms are currently, that should be a concern. Google knows everything, and they rank your site based on your visitor’s perception of the value your website. See Google’s algorithm updates here. They should know why Googl’ing yourself doesn’t show you the results other people see.

Are they researching keywords using Google’s Keyword Tool?

Do they research what phrases people Google to find your products & services and know how to use them in your website? Using the wrong keyword phrases is like doing no SEO. See how Google uses your Page Titles & Meta Descriptions in the first 40 seconds of this video.

Do they know more about SEO than just the tip of the iceberg?

Ask what they do for your website when it comes to SEO. Some might just talk about Page Titles, but if they don't give you a list of at least 10 things they do, you should be concerned about their working SEO knowledge. Read about the SEO we do on every custom website here. Online web-building templates have too many limitations for us to do all these things.

As with all things in life (from haircuts to websites), you get what you pay for.

Inexpensive websites usually mean the designers are cutting corners along the way. If your website is the your business’ main marketing tool, make sure it’s working as hard for you as it should. It’s a good idea to make sure your web designer’s experience building websites, closely matches the experience you have in your industry. Cheap usually doesn’t mean good.

Can they customize online web-building templates?

(If you go that route?)

If you want a web design firm to use an on-line web-building tool like SquareSpace, ask if they can inject custom code into the DNA of the template’s code to customize a template. If not, you’re stuck with the limitations of those online templates, with no option to truly make it what you want it to be.

Do they provide other services to help you reach customers?

In marketing, as with kinetic energy, one thing affects another, so your website is the first step of creating a presence among your audience. In addition to building a website and offering SEO, can they help you with your e-newsletters and social media? Great social media and e-newsletters are critical. Why? Because if your prospects’ first experience with your e-newsletter or social media isn’t really good, they won't want to see your second e-newsletter or social media posts.

Do they do Google ‘Speed Boost testing’?

Why? Because load time is a ranking signal for Google. Ask a web design firm if they run Google’s Speed Boost test on your finished website to assure it gets passing grades in both mobile, and desktop, formats. If not, it affects both the amount you pay for Google AdWords as well as your users’ experience.

What happens after launch?

Ask what they do after launch. How long after will they fix things for free? (Should be 30 days.) Ask how often, and how much, they charge for security updates and maintenance. Ask if they walk you through how to use your new website’s CMS (Content Management System). Some web design firms may just have you figure out the CMS yourself.