How to Effectively Evaluate Website Proposals

Comparing Website Proposals

Your business is ready for a new website so you’ve taken the first step and lined up interviews with potential web designers. Excellent! Once you’re done with the interviews, you’ll have a stack of proposals to review… so how do you decide who to work with?

The first step is to make sure each freelance designer has the same information to work with when developing your website proposal.

Comparing Apples to Apples

When interviewing your prospective web designers, be sure to provide them with the following info right off the top:

  • The purpose of your site.
    • Why are you creating or revamping your website now?
    • What is driving your decision to launch the site?
    • What do you expect the site to do for your business?
  • The features you need now, and your plans for the future.
    • Do you want to be able to update the website content on your own?
    • Is a mobile-responsive layout a “must have”?
    • Do you need a blog or news section?
    • Will you require an opt-in form to grow an email list?
    • Will you be managing an events calendar or members’ area?
    • Are you planning to add online sales down the road?
  • The type of content you plan to include on the site.
    • Do you have a preliminary content outline?
    • Will you include static text, blog posts, photos, video, social media, dynamic forms, opt-in buttons, etc.?
    • What content will you develop yourself and what needs to be created as part of the website proposal?
  • How your website fits into your other marketing initiatives.
    • Have you already established a brand that needs to be carried over into all your online materials?
    • How do you plan to promote your website, both online and offline?
    • In what ways can the website support your marketing efforts (ie, speaking, referrals, tradeshows, article marketing, pay-per-click campaigns, etc.)?

By providing the same project specifications to each freelance web designer up-front, you can expect more consistency between proposals and make your decision-making process faster and easier.

3 Keys to Evaluating Website Proposals

Assuming you have given each web designer the same info as discussed above, you’ll have three major areas to review and compare: Professional Fees, Quality of Work, and Working Relationship.

In addition to comparing the bottom line fees, be sure to also take into consideration the less quantifiable items that can make or break the project, including design style, working relationship, and communication styles. This will help you identify the intangibles in the proposal beyond pricing that can make for a great project experience.

1. Professional Fees

Like most business owners, chances are one of the first things you’ll review is the overall cost for the web design and development. It’s not unusual for fees to vary widely but that’s okay. This is where the following two areas (discussed below) come into play. At this stage, when looking at the cost breakdown you’ll want to note the following:

  • What is the full scope of the work covered in the website proposal?
    • Number of pages
    • Number of revisions allowed
    • Features included, such as responsive design, opt-in forms, email autoresponders, shopping cart, payment gateway, rotating image sliders, etc.
    • Browsers and platforms supported
    • Client training and support
  • Is there a detailed schedule, including deadlines, required review period, revisions, etc.?
  • Does the proposal address your needs at a variety of price points, including the option to add additional features to your site after launch?
  • Does it include a plan for unanticipated changes, including how changes will be communicated, approved, and billed, along with the rate at which these changes will be charged?
  • Will you be able to update content yourself, or will you be dependent upon the web designer to make all updates? If the latter, what will be the ongoing fees after the site is live? If you will be updating the content yourself, will you receive training on how to do this and is this cost included?
  • Does the cost include site hosting? If not, what is this additional fee?
  • Who is responsible for obtaining your domain registration? If it’s the web designer, make sure that you will be the actual owner of the domain and not the freelancer.

2. Quality of Work

Just as important as the professional fees is clearly the quality of work. Every web designer has their own unique design style so when reviewing website proposals, take a look at samples of their past work.

  • Are all of their designs similar or do they vary? Do you like the style choices they make? Variation between sites shows flexibility in adapting their style to match the client’s brand, vision and goals.
  • Have they completed projects similar to yours? Are they familiar with your industry or niche? Do they have experience working on projects of a similar size and scope as yours?
  • Do they pay attention to detail? Is there a consistent use of fonts (both size and style), colour, and headings between pages? Do the navigation and layout elements stay constant throughout the site? In the end, this consistency (or lack thereof) will reflect on your business, not their design abilities.

3. Communication & Working Relationship

While this will also be reflected in their proposal, your impression of their working style and compatibility will largely be formed through your interactions during the interview, on the phone, and via email communication. Points to look for include:

  • Openness to collaboration
    • Are they open to working with your ideas and suggestions?
    • Are they proactive in asking lots of questions so they can contribute to and build on your ideas?
    • Alternatively, do they act simply as an order taker to deliver whatever you request without delving deeper into your needs?
    • Do they take the time to get a thorough understanding of you and your business?
  • Professionalism
    • How well-prepared and organized were they in your interview?
    • How quickly did they respond to your e-mails and/or phone calls?
    • Did they deliver their website proposal in the promised timeframe?
  • Communication compatibility
    • Do you feel like you can have an open and honest dialogue when giving feedback?
    • Are you comfortable voicing your concerns without fear of giving offense?
    • Do you habitually communicate via the same medium?
    • Are your working hours fairly in sync so you’ll be able to reach the web designer when needed?
  • Likability
    • Do you actually like this individual? You’re going to spend a certain amount of time working together – whether it’s just for this project or whether it’s a longer term relationship – so you don’t want to end up dreading their calls.
    • Do you enjoy your conversations?
    • Do you feel a connection like you’re on the same page?

Bonus Consideration: Marketing Expertise

While not necessarily a “must have” for hiring a web designer, finding a designer with a background in online marketing is definitely a bonus. That “big picture thinking” helps a designer understand how your website ties into your larger overall marketing plan so they can plan an effective website strategy. A freelance web designer who understands marketing concepts is almost like getting a second consultant for the price of one, upping the overall value you get for the same price.

Are you ready to explore your own website project? Contact me today for a free strategy session and website proposal!


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  2. This is great. As a client, it is overwhelming to see a lot of proposals.

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