No Sub-contracting – Most businesses lose quality control when they out source. Make sure the chosen company performs all work in house otherwise you will face a middleman markup. Lets face it although we realize capitalism is what keeps us in business we stand by fair labor practices and encourage local employees. In addition, rather than dealing with one company you end up having to deal with several that leads to more of your valuable time being wasted.

A Team or a Lone Ranger – Lets face it, as the old saying goes, “two heads are better than one” still holds true. Building a business or niche website presence takes many levels of expertise, and we have yet to see any single person achieve the success a team offers.

Home Based or Commercial – This is not a slam to any home based business as in thousands of circumstances they can do a good job, however not in the web industry. We know this first hand as Webacom was a home-based business for a very short time. It wasn’t until we moved to a professional studio that we were taken seriously. Our whole goal is to help business increase their value and how many multi-million dollar home based businesses do you know of? In addition working in an atmosphere with a team generates far more creativity for your project.

Portfolio – Proof of Competence – As with most professional web design companies a fairly large portfolio is important. Any successful web company creates at least eight plus websites in any give month. That means an average of 96 a year. If they only have 10-20 websites in their portfolio how experienced are they?

Part Time or Full Time – Wholly Dedicated – Would you want your year-end done by someone that was not 100% dedicated to a full time career in accounting? Successful businesses take their work seriously and dedicate their careers to full time. If you chose a part time web master and needed emergency work, are you willing to wait until they have time off their real jobs? Most won’t – and shouldn’t – wait, your website is serious business and it’s not a part time effort.

Experience – Perhaps the most difficult subject is experience. Our own employees have changed drastically over the last five years due to changes in web technology. We now have far more staff with database experience versus in the past with mostly HTML knowledge. Here are the main categories of experience needed to create a successful website.

Graphic Designers – Experienced with all current trends including vector graphics and current design programs.

Website Developers – These are the people that take the designs from the graphics department and slice and format the custom website for content.

Database Programmers – If you need to sort and quickly retrieve large volumes of information, whether those are photos and images or SKU numbers and information for your product line, you’ll want to have that information stored in a database. A database built by the right person will be scale able and allow you to maintain your inventory levels in real time.

Content Writers – Most business owners feel they can create their own text, however we have rarely seen any that have been successful. Formally trained post-secondary writers will increase your profits substantially. 85% of all websites fail to make a profit and that’s because of bad content.

Search Engine Optimization – Just as important as good content, your website profitability is seriously affected by your search engine marketing plan. Search Engines change their algorithms all the time and it requires a full time expert that understands all the new trends from social networking, video and photo marketing, link building strategies and more. It’s critical to have solid SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for your site if you want it to be found.

3D Animators and Flash Animation – Yet another extremely difficult expertise. While the Flash introductions to web pages are disappearing rapidly, we now see Flash as a much more integrated part of people’s websites sitting side by side with other elements. Most commonly, streaming video as seen on YouTube is displayed as a Flash file, many online games and interactive experiences are still done in flash as well.
A relatively new trend is 3D modeling for use on the web. Google Earth utilizes 3D modeling applications to add additional layers of depth by allowing users to create 3D buildings. There are also virtual 3D environments such as Second Life that enable you to interact with other users on a more ‘human’ level. Wal-Mart, Sears and Ikea are just a few examples of companies that have invested in these new forms of online marketing.

Domains – Who owns your domain? Have you checked to see if the designer registered it in your own name? If not, you better check as we have seen new customers that have had to use lawyers to gain the right to their own domain. That’s not all, in the last month two businesses almost lost their licenses as there were changes in their industry that required an update to the website. In both cases the web master could not be contacted.

Hosting – Website hosting is critical to your success. If your website is down and you need it for a presentation or a trade show can you imagine the embarrassment and losses? Understanding servers is one of the most complex tasks and whoever is managing it better be an expert as it can effect your communication with your clients through E-mail and whole array of other risks from hackers to identity thieves. Is your data safe?

IT Department, Friend of a Friend, Your Children – We all love our children, family, friends and of course the IT person we hired to manage our computers. First web design IS NOT the same field as IT. It’s often confused with computers. Although we display our websites on computers the working behind them is vastly different from working with computers. Please, all respect to IT departments but if you read the proceeding you will know your education was computers, not web development and marketing.

We also see it time and time again, one of your children or friends just graduated and one small portion of the course covered perhaps a single web design. Next thing you know Dad or Mom wants them managing their website, after all these are our brilliant children right? Wrong, as with any discipline it takes years to get good at it. Would you really go to a dentist to get a root canal with only partial training? The same hold true with custom web design and marketing.

The list provided only covers the basics and we sincerely hope it educates you on how to make perhaps one of the most important decisions for your business.