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12 Tips for picking the right Web design agency

You know you need a new website, but how do you choose the right agency? We give you 12 things to think about that'll help you find the right team to deliver a great new website.

1. Do you like what they do?

Make sure you like the company’s website. If they can’t do it for themselves how are they going to help you? Also they should have a decent portfolio of at least ten examples of websites they’ve done to show you and should be able to easily send you additional examples of sites that are similar to your industry. If you are having a hard time finding something you like, it’s time to move on.

2. What is their discovery process?

Do they have an organised discovery process for designing and developing your new website? Did they ask you a lot of questions like ‘Who are your competitors?’, ‘Do you need help in articulating your message?’ ‘Who are your ideal clients?’ And the most important question; ‘What are your goals?’.

Expect some on the spot advice. They should be experienced enough to understand your position and open enough to help – after all it’s a service based industry and any sense of holding back means you’ll get this later down the line.

3. How do they measure success?

Is the focus just on the look and feel of the site or will it be measured by reduced bounce rates and increased traffic and sales conversions? A pretty website is great but better than that is one that works! If they don’t mention the word conversion in the conversation – move on.

4. What is their core competency?

You should be hiring a firm that is considered to be an expert in professional website design and development as well as inbound digital marketing and search engine optimisation. And in this day and age, include copywriting and content curation in there as well. You may be asked about content strategy – don’t worry if you don’t have one – it’s a good thing they ask and the right agency will be able to help you with this. This doesn’t mean however that you necessarily need to spend thousands on creating content. A good agency will try to understand what you as an organisation can create, and use this knowledge to produce a content and website strategy that truly fits your needs AND budget.

5. Do they follow industry best practises?

Make sure that you’re not buying a proprietary Content Management System, or indeed any platform that has been developed in-house as this will tether them to you for life. You want a commonly used Content Management System such as Wordpress, Modx or Drupal. Something that is backed by hundreds of thousands of other users to ensure that your site will grow with you moving forward, and if you wish to part ways with them, you can move on. There is no reason why you cannot ask them about such a situation, and they should have a good and immediate answer.

6. Are they thinking 'Mobile'?

You shouldn’t even have to ask if your site is going to be responsive or mobile friendly anymore – it should be part of the solution as soon as you start talking to them. There is no future where visits to sites from mobile devices won’t increase – so you will need a site that responsively or fluidly adapts to smartphones, tablets, phablets or even a large screen television. If that isn’t included right at the start then you should find another agency.

7. How do they manage projects?

Does the firm you want to engage actually provide some structure and project management skills? At least they should be talking about providing you with a proper timeline and be demonstrably geared towards managing your expectations and providing measurable results. Find out how many team members you will be dealing with, if there’s one main contact and what happens when they go on holiday? Also, gauge if they will be proactive in contacting you and reminding you about things. If it’s all a bit woolly, move on.

8. How big are they?

Decide what your ideal firm/partner would look like in terms of size. Do you want a a large corporate type of company with hundreds of employees and a half dozen locations or are you okay with freelancers who will have other priorities - daytime jobs and other ‘bookings’ for example. Or would you prefer a mid-size firm that is big enough to handle anything you will need but small enough to actually care about you and your business?

9. How many references do they have to give you?

Everyone will have three references. We say ask for more. References are great, but look for the softer element in them that covers customer service. If their references are a good mix of ‘business results’ and ‘your team are angels’ you’ll have both bases covered nicely and will ensure you’ll be working with an agency that truly values both results and relationships. Such testimonials are a good way of working out if the clients are happy with the amount they are spending as well as the results.

10. Do they understand what you're selling?

Your website will likely be one of your main sales resources - and it will often need to do all of your talking for you. Well before you get the chance to speak with an ideal client or prospect, they likely will be visiting your site. You need to trust that the partner you choose will help you to communicate the right message at the right time and deliver a site that fits who you are as a brand and who you want to be in the future.

11. What are the ongoing costs?

There are ongoing costs with any website, but they don’t have to be huge costs. The agency should be interested in future relationships and actually passionate about developing improved results with you over time so they can continually improve your website and your digital strategy. Whether it’s just monitoring and some simple guidance on placing content up, or a full maintenance contract, make sure they have a structure on place for this, and are keen on staying around to share in your success. The alternative means they’re in it for a fast pound!

12. Will they go the extra mile?

Are they going to just do what they said they were going to do or are they going to under promise and over deliver? Given the choice, you want the latter of the two. A good way to get a sense of this is to ask them for their terms. This is the black and white of the situation and if there’s anything in there too grabby over copyright (i.e. the source files to the website are not legally yours) then you should move on. Also, agencies that lead on customer service and expelling the dark art of website design should be savvy enough to place a personal note in the email about the terms and conditions or like us, have an Open Policy.

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