Selecting a web design agency for your next web project can be a daunting task. By breaking it down into several steps you can make the process much more manageable. In this article, we’re going to go through some steps that you can follow to find a great web design agency as well as some tips regarding what to consider along the way.
The key to remember is that you are selecting a business partner that will understand your company, your business, and your goals — working with you to craft a website that expresses your brand.
Step 1: Define the goals and budget for your project
What are you looking to accomplish with this project? Define clear goals and an understanding of what issues you are looking to solve. Then establish what part you need the agency to play in helping you create the right solution in addition to what resources you already have to contribute towards the solution. A web project usually breaks down into the following areas:
- Company Branding and Positioning
- Content Strategy and Copywriting
- User Experience
- Graphic Design
- Website Development
- Hosting / Development Operations
Once you have determined your goals and how you would like to partner with an agency, define a budget of what you’d like to spend on this project. Shape your budget’s range based on what you realistically have available. Keep in mind that the highest quality and most complex websites will likely not be the cheapest. Consider the companies that will give you the best value for your website and provide the best Return on Investment (ROI).
Step 2: Execute your Search
- Use nationwide and local searches — Look at agencies based in your local area. Then expand your search. If you know the type of solution that you’re looking for, you can find some excellent options by checking into an agency that specializes in that topic. You can also look on portfolio websites such as Dribbble and Behance in addition to websites that rank top industry agencies that can help you with your specific project.
- Poll your network — The most effective way to build a shortlist of potential agency partners is to ask within your personal and professional networks. Be sure to get recommendations from people who worked directly with the agency. This will allow you to gather information about their experience — what they liked and didn’t like — rather than receive a recommendation from a person who might know an individual who works at the agency (but does not necessarily have a good idea of what working with the company is like). When talking with your contact, make sure you get information about the details of their project, what working with the company was like, and whether they would work with them again.
- Contact agencies that built sites that you like — If you have the time, perform some searches to find sites that you admire or are similar in style to what you are looking for. Ask for an introduction to their head of digital marketing or their head of technology and ask who they hired. It may take extra effort and likely not every company will be willing to share this information, but it can be a good alternative way to finding some great agencies. If they do give you the contact information, you can then contact the agencies that created the site to see if they can help you with your project.
Step 3: Check out their portfolio and websites they’ve built.
A company’s portfolio provides a valuable look at what the agency is capable of, including its design chops, coding ability, and insights into how it captures the essence of a brand. It also allows you to gauge industry experience and the breadth of its ingenuity. In the end: Do you like the work that they do?
Some things to look at when reviewing portfolios:
- Do the sites perform well on both mobile and desktop? You should try to find an agency that puts equal weight on the mobile experience since, in many markets, mobile users are the majority of website visitors.
- Do the websites create a cohesive brand experience? Does the site easily express the client’s brand, who they are, and what they are about?
- Is the client’s website easy to use? Are you able to find information quickly and easily? An agency that consistently creates a distinctive user experience that is also a breeze to use is definitely one you should consider. Additionally, look at the company’s own website. Is it easy to navigate and find the information you need?
- Do they have experience in the industry? When it comes to experience, you should look for how long they have they been an agency and whether they keep up with modern trends. An agency that has been around for a number of years — having withstood the test of time via adapting to changes in the industry and technologies — and that is still thriving is a good find. They have the depth of experience to know how to find solutions to business problems and know what to do when something goes wrong.
Step 4: Look at reviews and check references
Look at Client Testimonials & Reviews on websites such as Google, Facebook, and Clutch to get a sense for how the company performs and the kind of experience you can expect. Ask the agency for references whom you can speak with regarding their experience hiring the company.
Here are some recommended questions to ask the referred client:
- What was the project you hired the agency for and what services did they provide?
- Was the project delivered on-time and on-budget? If not, what did they do to mitigate and what could they have done differently to improve?
- What did you enjoy most about the agency?
- In what areas could the agency most improve?
- Would you hire them again for your next project? Why or why not?
In the end, you should try to get a sense for if the previous client would heartily recommend the agency and whether you think the experience of working with this agency will be a good fit for you.
Step 5: Speak to them
Contact the agency and organize an opportunity to speak with them. Treat this like an interview. The initial conversation will be as much of a chance to learn about the agency as the agency will learn about your business and your needs.
Important Key Factors Look For:
- They listen. Do they work to understand your business, what you expect, what your goals are, and what challenges you are trying to overcome? Absorbing the essence of your brand, understanding the problems that you face, and listening to your ideas are key elements that go into creating a great website.
- They have a vision for your project. Do they articulate their vision for the solution that will meet your company’s needs well? Is that solution focused on delivering results for your company? The agency you choose should be able to take the information they’ve gathered and bring new and exciting ideas to you. Have they spent the time to craft the best plan for your business? Additionally, look at the details of that vision, especially at what Content Management System (CMS) they recommend and how it suits your needs. Will the implementation be responsive and does the design process take mobile into account?
- They have a plan. Does the agency present a well-defined process to create your website? Do they have a designated project manager to keep everything on track? There are many steps that go into delivering a website. You want an agency that is organized and is focused on keeping your project moving towards the finish line.
- They make you feel comfortable. Are you at ease when you interact with them? You’ll be working with the agency closely over the course of this project, so it’s important that the agency’s culture and personality match yours.
- They have experience in many industries. A company that focuses on a particular niche may be more formulaic in its approach. On the other hand, an agency that has experience in a diverse set of industries is more likely to have the skillset to identify the things that make your company stand above the rest, distilling those aspects into a unique website.
- They communicate. A good web design agency will be responsive, excel at explaining their ideas and answer your questions thoughtfully, professionally, and efficiently. They’ll provide easy-to-understand explanations and break down any unfamiliar terms to ensure that you’re up to speed along the way. You don’t want to pick a web design agency that talks around you or doesn’t take the time to make sure you understand each piece of the project. Look for an agency that is willing to train you on how to use your new website and answer any questions you may have.
After performing each of these steps, you’ll have a lot of information to process. However, you will also have a good sense of what each agency is about, their capabilities, and a sense of the type of work that they do and what working with the agency would be like.
Choosing a web partner is not a decision that should be rushed. Take your time to gather the information that you need to make a decision and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your website is often the first introduction a customer will have to your brand and business so it will be worth the time to find an agency that is right for you.
Edited by Rebecca Testrake
Studio Manager & Magical Instigator at Cantilever