Top 5 Web Design Agencies in the World
Find the best web design agency for your company. The world’s top website design firms and web designers from the US (San Francisco, NYC, LA) and Europe.
Last Updated: September 9, 2020
In 2020, a well-designed website is a must-have for any serious business or brand. Since your site is the face of your company, you need to hire the best creative agency to build it. With thousands of web design companies and creative agencies, identifying reputable web designers is a challenge on its own. We’ve put this list together to help you with your research.
You should expect impeccable results and service when you hire any web design company featured here. They will collaborate with you to create an excellent website that will elevate your brand and deliver an engaging experience to convert your site visitors to loyal customers.
You won’t find any design firms here who claim they can do anything you want at $5–10 an hour. A website design company that only employs top talent and can be found in big tech hubs in the United States like San Francisco and NYC. It means these web designers won’t be cheap, but if you’re looking for a world-class web agency, this selection is right for you.
Top Web Design Agencies — September 2020 Ratings:
Web Design Agency and UX firm — clay.global
Clay is a San Francisco-based web design agency focused on branding and development. They team up with the marketing departments of Fortune 100 companies and startups to design and build award-winning websites. You should watch their showreel and read an interview with their founders for Dribbble.
Location: San Francisco, CA
Key clients: Slack, Facebook, Google, Credit Karma, Coinbase, Cisco
Team Size: 32 employees
Web Design and Brand Experience Agency — hugeinc.com
Huge is a web design and advertising agency that works with the world’s most prominent brands to design and develop marketing websites, web platforms, and mobile apps. Their user-centric approach to design websites combining data, technology, and creativity helps Huge craft digital experiences that people love. With 13 offices around the world, they engage with brands on a global scale doing everything from websites to end-to-end campaigns.
Location: Brooklyn, Oakland, London, Los Angeles, Toronto, and more
Key clients: Google, AMC Theaters, Gucci, Hulu, Nike, LG
Team Size: 1200+ employees
3. Hello Monday
Digital Experience & Web Agency — hellomonday.com
Hello Monday is an award-winning web design firm that creates immersive digital experiences, brand identities, and campaigns for a wide range of startups and leading brands. With 3 offices across the US and Denmark, they serve a global clientele. Hello Monday is one of the most awarded creative agencies in the industry. They have claimed over 100 FWA awards, 12 Webby’s, and 6 Cannes Lions.
Location: New York, Copenhagen, Aarhus
Key clients: YouTube, ESPN, National Geographic, Google, MoMA
Team Size: 106 employees
Creative Digital Experience & Web Agency — activetheory.net
Active Theory is a digital design and web development agency that creates meticulously crafted websites, apps, installations, VR & AR experiences mainly for the entertainment and movie production industry. They are a go-to website design company if you’re looking to build an innovative or highly interactive web design experience that can live in 3D or VR.
Location: Los Angeles, Amsterdam
Key clients: Rick and Morty, Magic Leap, Blue Shield, Google, Coachella
Team Size: 19 employees
Creative Agency & Web Design Firm — heydays.no
Heydays is a boutique creative and web agency from Norway. They help launch and maintain new products and companies through brand strategy, digital product design, web design, and development. Heydays mainly work with early-stage companies to build a foundation for their brand.
Key clients: Oslo City Bikes, Kolonial, Huddly, Flokk, Pebble
Team Size: 14 employees
Why is good web design so important for your business in 2020?
The majority of people go to a brand’s website to get to know the company or find out about the products and services it offers. Today’s consumers have high expectations when it comes to a company website. It’s got to be user-friendly, extremely informative, visually appealing, fun, and memorable. People expect your website to work equally perfectly across mobile, tablet, and desktop in all major browsers. In the era of Internet direct-to-consumer startups, a company’s website has become the main and only sales channel as well as the primary brand expression touchpoint. Web design now has a lot more to do with ergonomics rather than graphic design and copy.
A good website makes a positive and lasting first impression of your company. It’s also a money-making machine that provides unbeatable user satisfaction creating loyal customers. That’s why you need to work with the best web design or digital marketing agency to develop your site.
Why do businesses and web design need each other?
It should go without saying but in today’s world no business, regardless of industry or size, can survive without an online presence. There’s no way around it. With more and more people connected to the internet not only at home on their computers but at all times on smartphones and other devices, everyone is on the internet at all times. More and more people default to the internet with questions about services or products they’re looking for. Whether they need a plumber, hamburger, or book, the internet is where everyone goes first to find it.
What this means is that your business’s first interaction with potential customers is more than likely to occur on the internet. A simple google search for the product or service your business is providing might bring up a link to your business’s website. Or, on social media, websites of businesses are often shared by those who had a good experience with your business. Regardless, your website ends up becoming how potential customers first get to know exactly what your business is about. Furthermore, many businesses in today’s market even with storefronts also have an online component. A restaurant is still a restaurant but they may sell special products online like homemade sauces or clothing with the restaurant’s logo on it. A bookstore is still in a physical location, but many bookstores now offer the option of buying books directly from their site. Whether the website functions as a medium for transactions and orders or is merely informational, the website’s importance cannot be understated.
Given the importance of websites to business, when websites are built, it is critical to make them effective. An effective website means that it leaves a lasting positive impression in the mind of the user about your business. If a user has an overall positive experience, they are much more likely to become a customer. But how do you ensure a positive experience for visitors — professional web design. A professional web design agency can turn your online presence into a valuable asset for your business. Good website design is not only about how your brand looks and color patterns, but also the usability and overall experience of your site the user has. Good website design is therefore crucial to the success of new and established businesses alike. As long as the internet is a major medium of communication and information sharing, the need for excellent web design for businesses will continue. Web design is no longer a luxury but an integral part of investing in a business — this makes web design and businesses mutually dependent on each other to make it in our modern, internet-driven economy.
What makes a web designer good?
First, let’s get something straight — web design is not one particular practice, but an umbrella term that includes many different types of design. This is important because each aspect of web design necessitates that the designers working on it have a particular set of skills and design experiences. So when thinking about what makes a web designer good, there are three key elements — specialization, experience, and style.
Specialization refers to the particular type of design a web designer does. This is important because when a web designer is a specialist it means that they have developed their craft with focus and do that particular aspect well. A good web designer will always have an aspect of web design they do well. For example, a UX designer is going to have a skill set that a more general UI designer may not have. When the scope of what a designer claims they can do is too broad and general, it can sometimes indicate that they do many things pretty well but nothing excellent. Or as the old saying goes, “a jack of all trades, but master of none”. It’s better to work with designers or design teams who are capable of providing expertise in specialized areas of design.
Experience is an important indicator of a good web designer. The number of clients and completed projects a designer has worked on shows the designer in question knows what they are doing. Reviewing the work a designer has done and the volume they have completed should be a telltale sign that they have the skill and follow through on what they say they will do. Because communication is so important between web designers and clients, always ask for the contacts of a web designer’s previous clients. Reach out to them and ask how the work process was — this may not have to do directly with how the design looks but is hugely important. Only quality designers will have happy former clients and a robust portfolio.
Style is a more subjective element but says a lot about a designer. All designers have their unique styles. A user interface designer for example may take inspiration from a particular school of thought with design. If a designer has a style that is inspired by minimalism, for example, someone may really like or dislike this style. It’s important to consider what style you like or don’t like and why when assessing the quality of a web designer.
How to choose the best web design company
Finding a website design firm that can be a good fit for your project is a time-consuming task full of risks and unknowns. Before selecting a web agency or web designer, you’ll spend hours researching online since web design is the most overcrowded design niche. Once you’ve identified a shortlist of potential web design companies, you should do the following:
- Get to know the company via its website and social media. Go to their website and see if you like its aesthetics and usability. How do they talk about themselves? Is the message clear or convoluted? Who are their clients, and what work did they do for them? When was their website last updated? And a lot of intangible things like that. Remember, their website is a reflection of who they are and the results they deliver. So you shouldn’t expect high-quality work from a web design or digital agency with a buggy site that’s difficult to navigate and was never updated. Be sure to check out their social media accounts too. If they have a decent number of Twitter followers and post frequently, this means they’re active and have a good reputation among their peers. You should peruse their Instagram feed for a sneak peek of their life. It’s all about people and emotional connection, after all.
- Review their web design portfolio. The number one thing you should dive into after a general review of the agency’s website is dive deeper into their website design portfolio. If you’re considering hiring them for a web design job, see what they’ve done for others. In many cases, a website design company would post a detailed case study about the project, but you should look beyond that. Go to the live website and see what it looks like. Is it user-friendly and mobile-optimized, does it perform well, etc.? You’re paying not for beautiful images but the working site.
- Define your budget. You should set aside a budget and find a web agency that can deliver the best possible web design for the money. If you’re limited in how much you can spend, aim for smaller boutique firms that provide excellent quality work at a reasonable cost. Don’t be a cheapskate. Most web designers are bad salespeople, and they will agree to your terms, which could then result in an overall lack of interest in your project. You should pay well, and they will treat you as their best client.
- Hire a local web design firm or a freelance website designer. Before you turn to offshore firms to reduce your costs, make sure to chat with your local web design companies. Most of the time, local web agencies in the United States will be a better cultural fit even if you pay a premium for their services. Plus, you’ll be able to regularly meet with them in person to review web design eliminating all issues that may arise from remote collaboration.
- Check their reviews online and ask for client references. Regardless of how professional your website design company looks on the outside and how impressive their work is, you should always do your due diligence. First, check their reviews online in places like Google Maps or professional review sites like Clutch. Before you decide to hire them, make sure to speak with 2–3 of their recent clients about their experience with that particular agency. You can ask the agency representative if they can give you those references. That’s considered a usual practice in the web design industry.
FAQ: Finding a web design company
Common questions asked by people looking to hire a web design agency.
Q: How much does a website cost in 2020?
A: There’s a lot of articles on this topic already, but the numbers vary and depend a lot, mainly on two factors — the project’s complexity/size and agency location/reputation. Let’s dive deeper to provide a few real-life examples:
- Offshore web design companies (India, Eastern Europe, or Latin America) charge $10–70/hour depending on how skillful and reputable a digital marketing firm is. An average hourly rate is around $40/hour if you want good quality and consistent communication. A total budget for a simple 3 to 5-page website would be in the $15–20k range if you work with a web development company in any of those locations. If your web project is more complex, has more pages, or requires specialized technical skills, you’ll need $45–60k.
- The US and Western Europe-based web designers and agencies charge $150–300/hour with the United States (San Francisco, LA, and NYC) firms being close to the upper limit of this range. With these rates applied, even a simple website would cost a whopping $100–150k. And that number can easily exceed $1M if we’re talking about complete web design and development of a corporate website for an established company.
Q: How much do San Francisco Bay Area-based agencies charge for web design?
A: There are many articles online about the cost of a website design estimating around $5k for a site built by a freelancer and $25–40k when you hire a web design company. While this might be true for offshore locations like India or Eastern Europe, the US and especially the San Francisco Bay area-based agencies will charge a lot more.
The cost of living in the United States, and especially in San Francisco, is one of the highest in the world. Plus, all local web design firms compete with the world’s top companies for the same talent, who can make up to $300–400k per year depending on their experience.
When a San Francisco startup gets slapped with a $300–500k price tag for web development of a corporate website after reading online that it should cost around $40k, there’s some severe expectation mismatch. However, it still makes a lot of sense to work with a San Francisco based web agency, because they understand the industry and local nuances like no one else can.
Q: How long will it take to create my website?
A: A quick answer, as usual, it depends. Let’s take a standard website for a SaaS web startup as an example. Usually, it has a few pages like the homepage, product page, about page, careers, contacts, and a couple more simple pages.
A web design company will start with 2 weeks of discovery and research to understand your goals and requirements, analyze the competition, and gather design references. Then, your designers will work on wireframes to establish core layouts and web design concepts to determine the look and feel of a future website. That’s another 4–6 weeks.
Once the concept has been established, they will proceed with designing all graphics, animations, photos/videos as well as creating responsive designs for each page. For our hypothetical site, this website design production process might take about 8 weeks. Web development can often run in parallel with web design production and take 6–10 weeks, depending on the technical requirements.
To summarize, a “simple” custom website with 5–7 pages could take 16–18 weeks from start to finish.
Be aware of the charlatans who promise the impossible (We’ll do it in 2 weeks for $10k). Most likely, they’re just using a cheap template they’ve already sold to hundreds of unsuspecting clients, especially if they’re based in the United States.
Q: What is the web design process?
A: You can quickly tell how competent a web design company is just by looking at their process. The best agencies work as one team with the client’s digital marketing department and are very transparent about everything they do. Here are some typical steps of the web design process you should expect from an agency:
- Discovery. Any established web agency will start with a series of workshops with the client to transfer knowledge, understand their goals, define the target audience, audit your current website, and gather all needed project requirements. Often, their user researcher will interview your customers to uncover their needs and motivations. Web designers should also participate in that process to get the right perspective. Even though some clients are skeptical about investing in discovery, it’s the most important phase of the whole web design process.
- Research. This phase usually involves an analysis of competitor websites and general industry web design trends. A web design firm will create a comprehensive report covering best practices and their recommendations, along with some design inspiration mood boards.
- Wireframing and UX Design. A good web designer in 2020 is, first and foremost, a talented UX designer. Modern sites are more about usability than graphic design. That said, you should expect your web design company to create a site map and customer journey map to define how the user will navigate. Then, they will create wireframes for each page to determine key layouts and content organization. Some forward-thinking agencies will test the web designs on potential users to get their initial feedback early on before going too far in the web design process.
- Visual Design Concept. While the previous phase is all about user experience and interactions, the visual design concept is purely aesthetics. Here, a digital marketing agency will explore a few graphic and web design directions for the look and feel of your website based on their research and your brand identity. You can also run it by your customers to see what resonates with them the most.
- Design Production. Once the wireframes and visual design concepts are finalized, your web designer will move forward with design production. They will create final responsive design mockups, illustrations, animations, and any other assets needed to start web development.
- Content Creation and Copywriting. Good content is as essential for your website’s success as a good web design. To get the best results from your collaboration with an agency, you’ll need to have at least a high-level idea of what you want your website to convey. Then, you’ll work with the agency’s copywriters to polish your message and produce the final copy. You should do it before you begin designing a web page.
- Web Development. First of all, web developers will convert all designs into HTML/CSS/JS code. Sometimes, you may want to add new content or manage existing pages without the developer’s help, so you’ll need to implement a CMS. We won’t go into detail on the web development process since our article is about web design, but we recommend hiring a company from the United States versus an offshore one. In all cases, your web design company will stay around continuously reviewing the work-in-progress results from your developers to ensure what they implement is consistent with the designs they created. It’s also very important to ensure that your website is optimized for people with disabilities by following the web accessibility standards.
Before releasing your website, make sure it’s well-tested and free of bugs. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your site is if it’s not working correctly or has poor performance. Even if you hired a professional designer to create your web presence, you should double-check the result for the most apparent web design mistakes anyone can make.
Usability testing is another surefire way to optimize your site before launching it to the public. And you don’t even need to hire an expensive agency to do that. Share it with your friends and family to get their feedback and also recruit a small group (5 to 10 people is enough) of unbiased users.
Be ready to capture their feedback and incorporate changes shortly after. Don’t get too obsessed with user testing as research shows you only need to test with five users to get the results you need. It’s better to repeat the test process several times with a small group instead of recruiting an army of respondents.
Q: Where are the best web design companies located?
A: Many times, the best web design agency is the one that’s close to you. Working with local web design firms eliminates many inconveniences of remote work, and you don’t need to worry about cultural differences and language barrier issues. However, there are a few cities in the United States and Europe with a high concentration of web designers and the world’s top web design companies:
- San Francisco. Most web design firms here cater to tech companies ranging from startups to industry leaders. San Francisco-based agencies are the experts when it comes to building a website for a startup or app. They know how to masterfully merge the brand and user experience to create a world-class website.
- New York City. Many fashion brands and financial services businesses call the Big Apple their home. It’s no surprise that NYC has a lot of traditional digital marketing agencies who also design websites and run campaigns for those clients. Freelance web designers at a lower price point are readily available and can usually be found in Brooklyn.
- Los Angeles. Everything in digital marketing here revolves around the movie production and music industries. Most LA-based web design companies specialize in interactive web experiences with a significant emphasis on 3D, video, and special effects. They mainly design a web presence for movies or music artists.
- London. Many traditional businesses reside in the UK capital, including finance, fashion, and consulting firms. London is world-famous for its brand identity agencies, but these firms design high-quality websites too.
Q: Where can I find more web design companies online?
A: Since web design is the most fertile area of digital design, you will find many communities and awards that recognize mobile app and web designers. You should check out Behance and Dribbble, where you can find anyone from freelance designers to top web agencies.
Leading web design firms usually submit their work to different web design awards to get recognized by their industry peers. The most respected awards for web designers are Awwwards, Webby Awards, The FWA, CSSDA, among others.
Top Ten Mistakes of Web Design (and how to avoid them)
It’s true — the internet is full of terribly designed web sites. But more often than not, poor web design is the result of simple mistakes that are easy to avoid. Although hiring a well-regarded web design agency is the only way to fully guarantee a website gets made well, it’s not always possible. And even if you do hire one, it’s still good to know a few things about web design yourself throughout the process. For that reason, we’ve put together a list of ten huge mistakes you or a web design team you hire should always avoid.
- Unclear Voice, Brand, and Vision
Branding and design are intimately connected. Therefore, the story, vision, and voice of a brand are brought to life via design. When a website cannot make sure a visitor grasps what your company is about, then a critical function of web design has been lost.
- Confusing Website Navigation
When someone lands on a website, they should quickly and easily be able to get to where they want to go. This is facilitated by the logistical organization of a website’s components. One such example is a clear and strategically located CTA (call to action).
- Disconnected Information
If the information doesn’t connect logically and sensibly on a website, oftentimes poor link organization is the culprit. If a link on the main page says “products”, but takes users to an informational page that isn’t about products, then the overall usability suffers.
- Hidden Information
Important information should always be easy to find. For example, the location of the contact information or a web store should be clear and self-explanatory. Web design should never obscure what the site is trying to get across to visitors.
- Too Many Advertisements
Overloading pages with advertising will overwhelm visitors. Studies show that people don’t respond well to too much advertising. A good web designer uses the art of strategic distribution so that advertisements aren’t over-concentrated or distracting.
- Information Overload
Curating information for visitors ensures that everything they see has a purpose. Too much extra, unnecessary information on a page will push visitors away. Selective and intentional placement is key. Minimalism is a useful design concept in this regard.
- Clashing Colors
A basic understanding of color palettes and color schemes is crucial to good design. Colors should accentuate the voice of a brand through design. When colors clash, it undermines a brand’s intended feel.
- Disproportionate Visuals
If a web page needs visuals of different sizes, the designer needs to develop a scheme of proportions. Without this, everything looks awkward and out of place. It might take a little bit of practice, but it helps make sure the user is focusing on the visual itself, not its size.
- Overlooked Details
A rule to always live by is that every detail matters. A misspelled word or missing period makes a site look less professional and untrustworthy. No detail is too small or insignificant when it comes to web design.
- No Optimization
All websites must be optimized. Without it, a site loses access to a large pool of potential customers. One aspect is screen optimization — making sure the site works on tablets, phones, and desktop computers. The other piece is SEO optimization — ensuring the website is designed with search engine results in mind.
At this point, it should be obvious what makes for bad web design. But this knowledge alone doesn’t make the design process any less difficult. Maybe you’ve even realized that designing a website is too big of an undertaking to handle alone. This is understandable — web design isn’t a walk in the park. If you’ve decided to take the plunge and hire a web design firm instead, you’ve also chosen to invest quite a bit of money in something you expect to be done in a timely and professional manner. But how do you make sure you get what you’re paying for? How do you find the right firm?
How to Hire the Right Web Design Firm
Hiring a web design firm is about more than flipping a coin — it takes preparation and diligence. Being informed and discerning is also important because hiring any old web design company could land you with a long and frustrating process, terrible results, and overpriced services. So it’s essential to keep a few things in mind.
Think long and hard about exactly what type of website you want. Review the web presence of brands and companies you like. Write down any design details that stick out. Even better, research the firm responsible for building the sites you like. Altogether, this will help structure a realistic vision for your own site that you can bring to an initial web design consultation.
Let’s be honest — the time is money and money is time. Before you sit down with a potential web design company, you need to have your numbers straight. It’s important to know exactly how much money you’re willing to spend, and what type of timeline you expect. If these crucial dimensions are not clearly communicated in the very beginning, the likelihood of frustration and miscommunication becomes infinitely higher.
Once you’ve decided on an agency, always check their portfolio of previous projects. A legitimate web design company should not only have a list of projects they’ve completed but should be more than willing to share them. It’s important you see the type of work they’ve done before you move forward and start signing contracts or providing money upfront.
Of course, the design is important, but so too is reliability and ease of doing work. For this reason, getting in contact with an agency’s former clients can help shed light on how they are to work with. You can learn from those with experience if the agency met their deadlines, communicated properly, and everything in between.
Once you sit down and meet the design team, it’s important to really understand who they are. Try your best to gain an understanding of who the team is, how they approach work, and what their communication style is. By doing this, it will be easier to ascertain what the personal relationship will be like with the team during the design process.
At the end of the day, you want the web design agency you work with to be on the same page as you. This not only pertains to hours projected in a contract, meeting deadlines and monetary expectations. It is also about the vision of the project. A good design team and project manager should truly understand what it is you want to communicate to your target audience and show that they can turn this vision into an impeccable design. Once you’ve made your basic pitch, listen to what the design team you meet with immediately thinks to get a feel for how they understand your vision.
With the right web design agency, you can turn your website into an invaluable asset for your business and an effective means for communicating the essence and vision of your brand.
How will my website attract customers after it is built from scratch?
Websites aren’t magic, but sometimes they do work magically. For instance, a well-built website can help a business expand its customer base all on its own.
But how exactly does this happen?
When having a website developed and designed from scratch, it is always better to have the job done by a trusted and reputable web design agency. These firms not only have experience professionally designing websites, but they know how to design them from start to finish and make them work efficiently. Utilizing contemporary approaches to web design, web design firms focus on building a user experience that ensures that more visitors to your site will “convert” into customers.
But conversion rates won't simply rise because you have a website — the website needs to be built in such a way that these visitors will be compelled to become customers. For example, the website’s usability, the ease of use of the web site's interface, should be intuitive. If a visitor is able to comfortably navigate a website without confusion, they will instantly have positive feelings about the company, product, or service. Data supports this dynamic.
Conversions are key for a business’s web presence because every visitor conversion means a new customer, and customers are the greatest advertiser there is — they tell friends, family, and strangers online about products, services, and businesses they like.
It is true, conversions won’t continue on their own indefinitely. Some actions do need to be taken to ensure your site is seen by those in your target audience. This means getting the URL circulating on other parts of the internet. Social media is the easiest and cheapest, way to do this. Starting a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter are excellent ways to get your business and its website out into the world. These are more effective mechanisms for attracting customers than traditional advertisements because many people these days use social media for hours and hours a day. If a few visitors a day visit an excellent website, your customer base will naturally increase.
The best web design companies add value to your business
A genuinely world-class web design company gives you more than a well-designed website that amazes your customers, sells your products, and positions you as a leader in your field. They become an extension of your digital marketing team, assisting you with every aspect of running your business online. From maintaining and updating the website to helping with SEO and conversion optimization, a digital marketing or web agency will have your back every step of the way.
From a relationship standpoint, any reputable design and web development agency will sign an SLA (service level agreement) that will hold them accountable for any bugs and glitches. You will pay a flat monthly retainer for such support plus any overages if you’d like to design new pages or add new features.
Thanks for reading!
Questions, suggestions, ideas? Email me — email@example.com
Looking for a UI/UX design agency? Check out my list of Top 5 UX agencies: