If you’re in the market for a new website, or you’re looking to redesign your current site, you’re probably wondering how to choose your web design agency. After all, the company you choose will be responsible for designing and developing your site, which gives the first impression a customer will have about your brand and business. It’s a big decision!
So how do you pick which company to go with? Below we’re sharing 4 tips on to help you choose your web design agency and 5 questions to ask potential new web design partners.
4 Tips to Help You Choose Your Web Design Agency
1. Make a List of Your Website Needs & Website Goals
Before you begin searching for web design agencies, you need to have an idea of what you want your website to do and the features it MUST have to help you achieve your goals. After all, your website is a business and marketing tool – not just a pretty design.
Examples of things you might want your website to do:
- Generate leads for your business;
- Sync with your CRM, like Salesforce, HubSpot, or any other major CRM software;
- Integrate with your marketing automation tool, like Pardot, Marketo, or HubSpot;
- Link with your email marketing platform, like Constant Contact, MailChimp, or Emma;
- Collect payments or donations, including subscription-based (recurring) payments/donations;
- Allow users to fill out forms directly on your site and submit to your team;
Examples of features your website might need to help you achieve the above:
- User-friendly navigation, search-engine optimized content, and conversion-optimized pages;
- Ecommerce functionality;
- Online forms that are secure (and HIPPA compliant if you’re in the healthcare industry);
- An SSL certificate and HTTPs protocol;
Your website is an extension of your business and should help you achieve your goals no matter what they are. Having a list of your goals, needs, and nice-to-haves will help you and the web design companies you interview ensure your site is actually customized for you.
Other information to consider before reaching out to any agency is your budget and timeline.
While you might not know how much it will cost to design your site, having a range (like between $10K and $15K) will help you get web design quotes that are realistic and within your price range. Timeline is also helpful because if you need your website live in 2 weeks, you’ll need an agency who has availability now versus having to wait 3 weeks to get started.
2. Search and Review Nationwide & Local Web Design Agency Partners
Now that you have your list ready, start searching for potential web design agency partners. Search for agencies in your local area and nationwide, especially if you want a partner that is experienced in a certain industry like dental or legal.
Apps like Zoom and Google Meet have made it easier to collaborate and communicate with people across the state or across the country. Even if you end up choosing a web design agency near you, it’s worth seeing what is out there so you can assess experience, portfolios, services offered, and agency culture.
3. Review Experience, Agency Culture, and Portfolios
There are three really important things to look for in a great web design partner: experience, agency culture, and portfolio. These three items can give you insight into how your project will be managed, if it will meet your goals and standards, and if they’ll be a good overall fit as your web design agency.
When it comes to experience, you’re looking for 2 things:
- How long have they been an agency? Are they established or a startup?
- Do they have experience developing websites for your industry, websites that get results, websites that you like, and/or websites that have the features you need for yours?
Your agency partner should have processes in place to make the design and development process simple and easy, support for your website after it’s live, ongoing marketing services to help grow your business, and a team of knowledgeable experts to help ensure your website meets your goals and needs.
A web design agency’s portfolio is the next best way to assess skills and capabilities. Just make sure you’re looking for more than good-looking websites. A pretty website that isn’t easy to use will never outperform a decent website that is simple to navigate.
Portfolios will give insight into creativity, industry experience, complex coding abilities, and more. Here are a few things to look for when reviewing portfolios:
- Do they develop mobile-friendly websites?
- Do they follow the latest web design trends?
- Are all the website similar – same structure, navigation, imagery, etc.?
- Have any of their websites won awards?
If you like the work that an agency does, but they don’t have your industry in their portfolio, ask them what they would do for your company. While you want to work with someone who has your industry experience, you ultimately need to love the work they do.
Average Size of their Customer
It’s a good idea to get a sense of the average size of customer an agency works with. If you are the smallest customer they generally work with. They might not have much experience working at that scale and you can feel underserved, unimportant, or ignored.
If you are the largest customer they have worked with. Then they might not be used to working at the scale you need. At certain scales. A different knowledge set is necessary. It is not as simple as doing the same tasks you would do for a medium size company just at 2 or 4 times the level.
An agency’s culture will tell you a lot about their personality and working style. Ideally, you want to find an agency that matches your own company’s personality so that you can easily collaborate and work together throughout the web design process.
You can scope out agency culture by:
- Checking them out on social – Do you see a lot of smiling faces in their Instagram feeds?
- Reviewing team pages – Do they showcase their team’s talent and expertise?
- Community involvement – Are they involved in their local community?
When you meet with your potential web design partners, you’ll also get a feel for their culture as well. Do they make you feel welcome? Do they listen to your ideas? Are they excited about your project?
Agency culture is an important factor when choosing your web design agency. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together so make sure your web design partner really fits your company and personality.
Does the agency have an in-house marketing team
Will you need ongoing marketing from an agency? Does the agency have a in-house marketing team or do they hire another company for online lead generation?
Does the agency integrate tools like a CRM to enhance marketing efforts? Getting visitors to the website is only half the battle. Getting those visitors to become a customer is the other half.
Even if you will not utilize ongoing marketing. Working with an agency that has a marketing department brings a certain level of knowledge into the company that a pure web design agency might not have or keep up to date with.
4. Read Testimonials & Online Reviews
In addition to their portfolio, read testimonials and online reviews of the web design agencies you’re considering for your new website. The reviews are a good way to see how happy clients are with their websites, the level of customer service they received while working together, and if they mention certain team members by name
10 Must-Ask Questions to Help You Choose Your Web Design Agency
With all the research above, you have a list of potential web design companies to interview. Schedule time to meet (whether in-person or by phone/video call) and ask them the following questions to get a better feel for their experience and services:
If you’re not familiar with a content management system (CMS), you’re not alone. And actually, the companies you’re interviewing should be impressed if you use that exact terminology.
A CMS is a website platform that makes it easy for non-technical people to easily update their website on their own. So instead of a website where you need to know HTML or CSS to edit (called a static website), you can quickly login to the backend of your site and update text, images, videos, etc. all on your own. This gives you more power and control over your own website.
The answer you want here is yes, they do use content management systems to build websites. The most popular are WordPress (the most popular CMS on the market), Squarespace, Wix, and Joomla.
It’s important to understand an agencies experience, limitations, and your business needs. Integrating third party tools like Hubspot can allow you to track your existing and potential clients. When you integrate a CRM like Hubspot with your website. You can better see additional information on your client. Have they recently been looking at case studies? It might be a great time to reach out to them.
The use of third party tools can greatly enhance your marketing efforts and allow you to work more efficiently and make smarter decisions.
You want to work with an agency who has experience developing sites for your industry. This can be extremely crucial for the healthcare, dental, ecommerce, and legal industries because of the strict guidelines around content, security, HIPPA compliancy, and ADA compliance.
Even if you see industry experience on their website, ask for examples of work they’ve done for your industry. Have them walk you through the design and development process they used.
Knowing who you would be working with is important to the success of your project. Even if they’re not local to your area, you should still be able to meet them via a phone call or video chat. If you sense that the sales rep or agency isn’t too keen on you meeting their team, then you might consider moving them to the bottom of your list.
It’s important to understand the relationship you will have with your agency. Will they work to understand your goals and advise you on the best way to achieve them? Some agencies might focus on design or maybe hitting a low cost.
Taking the time upfront to understand goals, research the best solutions, and discuss them are important to achieving great results. Which is more important? Having the best-looking website, an inexpensive website, or the one that converts visitors into customers.
Updating your own website might seem intimidating at first, but with some training and guidance you’ll soon be able to add new pages and blog posts in no time. If you feel intimidated, ask your soon-to-be web design partner if they offer basic website training after your site is live.
Basic website training should include how to login to your website, how to add a new user, how to edit content, how to create a form, and anything else you’ll need to do regularly on your website.
You should also ask, “what do I do if I’m unable to update my site on my own?’
Your web design partner should provide ongoing support and troubleshooting should you need the help of a developer or a more complex update. While some support may be included in an ongoing maintenance plan, updates requiring a developer are likely to be priced at an hourly rate. Just make sure you understand what types of updates would require a developer and what wouldn’t.
Not all agencies have a support department or handle ongoing website management. It is important you understand who you can turn to if something goes wrong and what kind of response time you can expect.
Technology is constantly changing, security vulnerabilities come to light, and laws around privacy policies change. Your website will eventually need an update. While updates generally improve things by patching up security vulnerabilities or making code improvements. They can sometimes break existing functionality without a coding update. You should have a plan for how this will be handled.
If the agency offers hosting and ongoing support. You should find out how things are backed-up and what it takes to restore your website if something goes wrong and you need to restore from a backup.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the digital marketing practice of optimizing websites (including site structure, content, images, videos, meta tags, etc.) for optimum search engine ranking and user experience. When building a website from scratch, it’s important for agencies to keep SEO in mind so the search engines will be able to understand your site and rank it in the search results.
You want to choose a web design company that offers SEO services. It’s even better if they have a separate marketing department who stays up-to-date on the latest algorithm changes, SEO trends, and marketing tactics.
I know that might seem like a strange question. But it warrants asking. Some agencies simply rent you a website for an ongoing fee. Once you leave them the website and sometimes some of the content on the website belongs to them and you can’t take it with you.
This usually comes with a lower initial and ongoing cost versus having an agency build you out a website that you own and can host anywhere you choose.
So make sure you understand who owns the website and if content like blog posts are made by an agency. Who own the content within the post.
If the agency you work with will host your website. You should know what the process of moving it to another host would look like if you changed your mind and wanted to host with another company.
Find out if the agency hosting your website will move things for you. Or if they will grant you database and FTP access but you’ll have to move it yourself or find someone to move it for you. Typically the experience should go smoothly but make sure you fully understand the process.
Choose Your Web Design Agency Carefully
Choosing your web design agency isn’t a quick decision. Take your time (or as much as your timeline allows) to vet web design firms for your company and project. Your website is the first impression a potential customer will have your brand and business – it’s worth the research to find a web partner that will help you achieve your online goals.