How to select a web agency: 7 steps

How to select a web agency: 7 steps

Friday, 1 September 2017

Finding the best agency to handle your website design can feel downright overwhelming.

There are just so many options out there. How are you supposed to know whom to hire? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff?

This is a serious investment which can have an enormous impact on your business, so it isn’t a decision to be made lightly.

You’ll likely stick with your website design for at least several years. Your design becomes the “face” of your presence online. Websites are often the first point of contact with potential customers. Visitors make snap decisions about your credibility based largely on design elements.

With those considerations in mind, here are seven key factors to help you choose the perfect web design agency for the job:

1. An Understanding of Conversion-Oriented Design

Of course you’d love to have your website look beautiful and modern. But those aren’t the only objectives you have in mind.

For the vast majority of clients seeking professional web design, there are other intended purposes: nurturing relationships with visitors and convincing them to become paying customers.

A beautiful design must also be a functional one – a design which is easy to navigate and inspires action.

Beautiful aesthetics and conversion elements aren’t mutually exclusive. But many designers get swept away in the artistic elements, ultimately losing sight of the importance of conversions.

A great agency will have detailed conversations with you to discern your website’s intended purpose. They will recommend strategies and design elements accordingly, connecting them to tangible benefits that go beyond visual appeal.

2. A Proven Track Record

A proven track record will help ease your mind and give you valuable insight into an agency’s true capabilities. It’s one thing to read what an agency has to say, but another to see the results put into action.

Look for a prominently-featured portfolio on the agency’s website. Agencies should be open and transparent about previous projects, displaying their successes proudly instead of only offering them when asked.

Screenshots from client websites are one thing, but they might not be updated and current. The best choices will focus on live, fully-functioning websites which are still using the agency’s designs.

3. Longevity

Web agencies seem to come and go in the blink of an eye.

There are plenty of good reasons for that: time is compressed when you work in this industry. Technologies are evolving rapidly, design trends are in flux, and the standards for what makes a website effective are always being raised to meet user demand.

As volatile as the global economy has been the past few decades, design agencies have experienced even greater than average effects. Events like the dot-com boom and the following collapse left agencies scrambling to adapt or close up shop.

Most agencies that have been around for five years or more have shown they can weather these drastic changes and keep pace with the times. These qualities are exactly what to look for in a design firm.

If an agency has been around for many years – we are going on 15 here at Internet Dreams Studio – it’s likely they will continue to be around to help you work through your design, future changes, and provide ongoing support.

4. The Right Mixture of Expertise to Offer Balanced Solutions

Many agencies position themselves as “all in one” solutions to their clients’ needs online.

Yet offering this holistic solution is easier said than done. Usually, it doesn’t take long for weaknesses to appear in these arrangements. You might end up with a designer with only a smattering of marketing skills, for instance. Some elements of the package are much more effective than others.

A truly balanced team – one with the right mix of employees and expertise to help you navigate the complicated world of design, development, marketing, and more – is a rare find.

Once found, however, this team can save you a tremendous amount of time and trouble. You avoid having to search far and wide hiring out different aspects of your project piecemeal. You don’t have to worry about coordinating and managing different service providers when they are under the same roof and used to working together.

Ask agencies about their ability to provide holistic solutions. Beyond that, look for specific case studies and portfolio pieces where the agency successfully executed in multiple areas to achieve the client’s vision.

5. Custom Strategies Tailored to Suit Your Budget

A lot of web design clients are unclear about their budgets when initially consulting agencies. They just state their requirements and expect the agency to quote a price, which often comes back way out of line compared to what the client can afford.

This approach is like searching for a home without a clear budget in mind. Ask a realtor for a three-bedroom home, and you could see a wide range of different prices, locations, and other features.

Get clear about your budget first before reaching out. Quality agencies will respect your budget requirements and make recommendations about how to make the most of it.

Watch out for agencies throwing together seemingly random services. If they can’t explain how those offerings will work together to help you meet your goals, it might just be an attempt to max out your budget.

Experienced agencies which use a holistic approach will be able to recommend a tailored solution to achieve the results you want. Your website and business goals don’t follow a predefined template. Neither should an agency when recommending a strategy.

6. A Focus on Handling Work In-House

Are you talking to a true design agency or a glorified middleman?

Many agencies outsource most (if not all) of their client projects to contractors around the world, pocket the profits, and send you the end result. It’s profitable for those agencies, but it isn’t an ideal solution for you.

With outsourcing, you don’t know whom you are truly hiring. You haven’t seen their work. You haven’t even met them. Teams of people who have never worked together are forced to collaborate, which can lead to communication breakdowns because everyone isn’t clear on the project objectives.

Make sure the agency you choose has the staffing needed to handle projects in-house. If they do outsource any work, ask them up front about it and gauge the transparency of their responses.

You want to be able to communicate directly with the people involved, ask questions, and hold them accountable – not some outsourced team you’ve never met.

7. A Commitment to Responsive Design

As the Internet expands and evolves, so are the different ways users interact with it.

A huge percentage of users access the web from devices like smart phones and tablets. This isn’t going away anytime soon. Non-computer Internet usage will only increase as devices proliferate.

Quality websites will adapt because users shouldn’t be punished for browsing a website on one of these newer devices. Often you only get one chance to connect with a visitor. If they land on your website via a device and it isn’t optimised to display properly, most will leave in a matter of seconds.

Great agencies understand the value of responsive design, and they have experience implementing it for their clients. Take a look at their portfolio pieces to make sure this is reflected in their track record. Better yet, visit one of those websites with multiple devices to see how it looks and functions yourself.

Making the Most of Your Investment

A new website design is a significant investment in your business.

Watching out for the key elements above before hiring anyone will help ensure that investment pays off for months and years to come.

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