Website redesigns are a reality for many organizations these days. With the dawning of social networking and with the coming evolution of mobile, we all need to rethink our web presence. It's vital to get your new website right, of course, but to do that you'll need to find the right vendor to build it for you.
Here are 7 things to look for as you begin your search. Self-serving as this may seem, it truly is - based on years of experience and many conversations with associations and website vendors - a good list of things to think about as you make this important decision that will no doubt affect your organization for years to come.
1. Are associations what they do? Many times commercial web design firms will simply throw up a page on their website that says they work with non-profits. It's a huge market, so makes sense for them to be there if they can be. Get references from associations they've worked with in the past. Ask to see that work. You're a unique organization and you need people on your side who understand what that means.
2. Are they integrators? Your website isn't just a website anymore. You'll need it to connect seamlessly to your AMS system and most likely other systems as well. Don't get caught up on design alone. Development of integration points will be a very vital piece to your next redesign. If you're not looking at it that way then you're building for 1999, not 2009.
3. Do they offer a CMS? Some web design firms can provide the design and information architecture of a project, but they don't provide the tools on which to build your website. Make sure a content management system is part of their offering. On the flip side, don't simply choose a CMS vendor who does design begrudgingly. They are focused on the software (and they should be) so design in some cases is just a necessary evil for them.
4. Do you see testimonials? Check their website. Have they posted testimonials from their existing association clients? If not, you have to ask yourself, "Why?"
5. Are they detailed-oriented? It's easy to tell this by simply checking out their website. Are there typos? Does the layout look sloppy? While many web design firms claim "cobbler's children," what better testament to a future client than to show them how much you care about your own website. If a web firm doesn't care about their own website, how much do they really care about yours?
6. What is their approach? Does the web design company have a stated process for how they do redesigns? Can they provide that to you in writing? You're not only buying software and services from these folks, you're buying HOW they do what they do. If it's not sound, they could have the best software and be the nicest people around, but your project will fail.
7. What are their service levels? Do they openly state how quickly they'll respond to your issues? Are they hesitant to guarantee response times to your concerns? If so, it's a red flag that they may not be prioritizing your satisfaction after your site has launched.
These surely aren't all the things you'll need to consider, but hopefully they'll help you get started on your search.