How to make sure you get what you need and pay for from your web design company.
1. Just like when you hire any sort of contractor, check references—not only seeing the referenced sites on the Internet, but calling the companies and asking for feedback. Reliable web companies are happy to give references. You can have success with off-shore or virtual companies, but it is sure hard to have face-to-face meetings when it might be needed. There is little recourse in the virtual world.
2. Be very clear on your specifications, provide samples if possible. Have the web company give you a timeline of when the site should be able to go live. Test your site on the developer’s testing site before going live. Have trusted employees or friends review your site before it goes live. Sometimes you can get to close to a layout–that old problem of not seeing the forest for the trees…
3. I can’t stress this one enough, we see it all the time… Own your domain name (URL or .com). Do not let the web company register your domain name (URL) in their name. If they own the URL, they have complete say over what happens to the web name, so, say you were unhappy with the company’s performance and you wanted to move to another developer, if you do not own your URL you cannot move your site. There is nothing worse than being held hostage to a web company because they own your domain name. Be sure there is a wording in the contract that you own the material i.e., copy, art, etc.; and that you have the right to use it however you want.
Talk to more than one expert and find out as much as you can from a variety of sources. Professionals may give excellent advice, but they do not know everything. So, take your time—do your research and you will know which decisions to trust. Finally, don’t learn the hard way, leverage the experience of others. People are happy to help and to share lessons learned.