Web and Ecommerce 7.3. Website Design and Development: Outsource Companies

Website Design and Development: Outsource Companies

One thing this world is not short of are Website design and development companies. It’s harder to find a McDonalds than it is to find some company that will do your Web site for you. Your problem isn’t finding outsource companies; your problem is finding one outsource company in this embarrassment of riches.

Here are the contenders:

Hosting companies: most companies that offer hosting services will also gladly design and develop your site as well.

Web services: The world is full of various types of Web services, such as domain name services, networking services, and so forth. Surprise! They’ll design and develop your Web site, too.

Design and advertising firms: These are firms that specialize in creative work for businesses. They produce ads, brochures, annual reports, catalogs, and, almost universally, they do Web sites, too. They tend to be pricier than other solutions and, in many cases, they are not technically adept. But they do know the copywriting and design part better than anybody.

Web design or “interactive” firms: These are firms or companies solely devoted to designing and developing Web sites. Some are run by techie types and some are run by designers. You can guess the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Offshore firms: If you tried to cross the street in Mumbai during rush hour, chances are that at least one of the cars that hit you will be driven by a person running an offshore Web development firm. In India, Eastern Europe, and Russia, there are thousands upon millions of programmers and tech types running Web development firms. There aren’t many designers among them, but they do work for pennies on the dollar. If your hosting service offers Web design and development services, there’s a pretty good chance they’re off-shoring the work.

Outsource firms are appealing because they can promise a “one-stop” shop―you get project management, concepts, copywriting, design, and all the coding and programming frills and furbelows in one place. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re good―or even competent―in all aspects of Web design. Marketing, advertising, and design firms are typically superb at the marketing, writing, navigation, and design aspects of a site, but they often fall flat on the technical issues. Web design or interactive firms are typically great at providing you with excellent programming, coding, and technology, but they can’t design or write their way out of a paper bag. Hosting services, Web services, and offshore firms are often good at nothing except the most mundane, bare bones, and pedestrian sites―“exceptional” is often not in their working vocabulary.

So choosing an outsource firm really means deciding what’s important to you. If marketing strategy is important, you need a firm that specializes in it. If user experience or design is important, you have to gravitate to the design and advertising folks. If you want the latest and greatest technology, well, your answer is simple. But unless you have some pretty big bucks, you’re not going to find an outsource firm that is exceptional in all areas of Web development.

Many of the same rules that apply to hiring contractors apply also to hiring an outsource firm:

  • Evaluate everything that the firm brings to the table. You should find out who will be working on your site besides the account manager or project manager. How many people will be doing each task? What backgrounds and experience does each person bring to the endeavor? This is the only way to discover the “weak links” in the firm’s skills. If a firm is weak in an area that is important to you, then you should perhaps keep shopping.
  • You may consider hiring the same firm to help you develop the specifications for the site. But no matter what, no-one starts any design, copywriting, or coding until all the specs have been written out. Look closely at this entire chapter: there are many things, such as Web analytics and content management systems, that should be determined before you spend one penny on development.
  • The outsource partner should provide a portfolio, client list, and client references. They should, if they’re worth the time of day, also provide you with case studies (work samples that detail client goals or problems and how the firm met or exceeded those goals). Don’t just look at the portfolio and client list and say, “Looks nice!” Examine the portfolio as closely and as critically as possible to find the firm’s strengths and weaknesses. When a development firm gives you a portfolio, client list, and references, they’re giving you their best work and most satisfied clients. The crummy stuff and unhappy clients never make it into your field of vision. Evaluate the portfolio and references while keeping in mind that this is the best that they can do.
  • Yep, they need to speak your language fluently―both your native language and, if you’re not a technical person, your non-technical language, too.
  • A vendor should provide a scope of work, an estimate, a production schedule, and a schedule of regular deliverables, not milestones. You need to make sure that you have an exit strategy if the work is done inadequately or falls dangerously behind schedule. That exit strategy should include work done to date so the firm cannot hold you hostage with unfinished work.

7.3.1. WebDesigners-Directory

http://www.webdesigners-directory.com

WebDesigners-Directory is the most thorough region-by-region directory of low-priced Web design and development firms and freelancers. If you’re looking for the lowest priced design firms in your area, you should turn here first. Of course, because the directory primarily lists small and one-person firms, the resources listed here are limited in what they can do. A freelancer may be good at coding, but not design.

7.3.2. Heritage Web Solutions

http://www.heritagewebdesign.com

Heritage Web Solutions, with a staff of 130, specializes in designing and hosting relatively low-cost Web sites for small- and medium-sized businesses. Custom-designed Web sites begin as low as $200. Input into your site can be very minimal; typically, the developers ask for as few items as business cards, marketing materials, product descriptions, catalogs, product pictures, and/or letterhead.

Fully functioning e-commerce sites cost $795 for a basic package of one to twenty products, a storefront, and secure checkout. For $995, you can have a small business package of up to one hundred products, a storefront, and secure checkout.

Hosting prices come in three packages:

  • Bronze: 5 GB of space, 500 email accounts, 5 labor hours of free updates to your site per month, and unlimited data transfer for $40 per month.
  • Silver: 10 GB of space, 1,000 email accounts, 10 labor hours of free updates to your site per month, and unlimited data transfer for $50 per month.
  • Gold: 20 GB of space, 2,000 email accounts, 20 labor hours of free updates to your site per month, and unlimited data transfer for $60 per month.

7.3.3. IMC Sites

http://www.imcsites.com

Based in Florida, IMC Sites specializes in high quality custom-designed Web sites for small businesses. Their lowest cost package, at $300, involves three pages, email, and custom design. For $700, they’ll design a five page site, and for $1,000, they will build a fully functioning, custom-designed, automated e-commerce site. IMC Sites also offers hosting at $150 per year (10 Gb storage, 25 Gb data transfer per month, 500 email addresses, and one domain name).

7.3.4. 123Triad

http://www.designevo.com

123Triad is a twenty-person firm in Raleigh, North Carolina, that has been designing Web sites for small- to large-sized businesses for ten years. They specialize in design, coding, databases, e-commerce, and Flash, so you can expect expertise in a variety of areas. They offer package deals a well as custom pricing:

  • Budget: up to 3 pages, 2 hours of phone support, and more for $480. Additional pages $125.
  • Starter: 5 customized pages, Flash header, 2 free 30-minute updates, 4-7 day completion for $599. Additional pages are $80 each.
  • Lite: 10 customized pages, additional site map page, 2 free 30-minute updates, 8-10 business day completion for $999. Additional pages are $60 each.
  • Small business: 20 customized pages, additional site map page, privacy policy and terms & conditions pages, 4 free 30-minute updates, 10-14 business day turnaround for $1,299. Additional pages cost $50 each.
  • E-commerce/online store: Template designs and development, unlimited products (they only set up 20), 5 supporting pages, additional site map page, privacy policy and terms & conditions pages, payment gateway integration (see 7.10), 4 free 30-minute updates, 10-14 business day turnaround time for $1,580.
  • Corporate/deluxe: 50 customized pages, Flash header, additional site map page, privacy policy and terms & conditions pages, 10 free 30-minute updates per month, and completion in 15-20 business days for $3,000.

123Triad will also perform search engine optimization on any site it develops for an additional $240 (does not include keyword research―see section 7.8).

Web hosting costs $15 per month or $20 per month with a database.

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