Finding a good web contractor is based on the same rules as any successful procurement exercise:

  • Wherever possible, specify outputs or outcomes. For example, say you want a content management system that allows easy update of the site. Allow the contractor to convince you of their solution – don't tell them what system you want them to use.
  • Be clear on your costs, and look out for optional extras.
  • Give the contractor the chance to suggest innovative responses.
  • Give the contractor as much information as possible for them to begin to understand your project's culture, ambition, vision and outputs.
  • Sell the project and make contactors want to bid for the work – you want the best companies to apply and the best companies are often very busy. Convince them that you're serious and well organised.

What to look for in a web contractor

There are a number of things to look out for:

  • Can they meet your basic requirements for the price they've quoted in their bid?
  • What extras do they think you need to launch a successful site?
  • What's their track record like? You could ask for references and examples of previous work.
  • Can they demonstrate how their approach to web design works through previous examples?
  • Are their project management arrangements strong?
  • Is their proposed project manager experienced and convincing?
  • Do they understand you and your organisation – or is this just another 'cut and paste' bid based on previous pitches?
  • Can you work with them? It can take many months of working together to design and build a website. If you don't like what you see from the beginning, it will be hard to develop a good working relationship.

Most web contractors want a long-term relationship with their clients, and will seek to give you a good deal and service. You should look for evidence of repeat business – one of the clearest indicators that you are dealing with a decent firm.

A good design takes time and understanding. Site usability is actually more important than the graphic design. No company, however experienced, will be able to understand enough about you or your target audiences from a bid document to produce an effective design. You could end up judging on their use of colour and logos – and these are subjective assessments. It's more important to be convinced of their overall approach to web design based on previous work.