The web design market is so saturated nowadays that you might find yourself stumbling upon agencies unintentionally. But then you start actually looking for an agency to design a website for your business, and you don’t really know where to turn.
Listing agency after agency, you’re left desperately trying to decipher their offers – which are all essentially marketing exhibits that mean absolutely nothing to you. That’s when the downside of such a heavily saturated market comes to full light.
The truth is, getting a website up and running requires a very wide range of hard skills, but that’s only the foundation – a given, if you will. What separates a good agency from a rubbish one is their approach to the process and the ability to orchestrate the design strategy professionally. And for all that to be just right, here are the most important traits you should look out for in a reliable web design agency.
Sure, all those areas of expertise listed on an agency’s website might sound like techy mumbo-jumbo to you as a client. To avoid confusion and get to the bottom line, it’s important that you’re aware of all the roles that will need to be filled.
Here’s a quick overview of the different areas that designing a website envelope:
- Frontend Development (CSS/JS/xHTML)
- Backend Development (PHP/MySQL)
- UX and UI expertise
- Graphic design
- CMS (Content Management System) Implementation (WordPress/Drupal)
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Responsive Design
- Web hosting/DevOps
- Web Design versus Web Development
These are only the most basic technical requirements; a successful website will also require a content strategy and copywriting skills, for example. But it’s very likely that you’ll be able to fill roles such as these internally or look for experts outside the agency. You might have existing talent within your team for the graphic design portion, for example, so you’ll want to eliminate some roles you don’t expect the web design agency to fill and collaborate with them effectively.
Which brings us to the next part.
Communication can be a tricky thing. Or rather, it can be an absolute nightmare for both parties, where the majority of time is wasted trying to convince the other side that your idea is brilliant and theirs is unacceptable.
Lay off the “employee and client” perspective for a bit. Remember: you’re both experts within your respective industries. You know your business best so you know how you want to present it, and they know web design and what sells on the web. Put the two together, and you’ll have a collaboration that gives life to your concepts and even adds a little more.
But how do you get to this?
Well, you can use online platforms to search a directory of top web design companies. Reliable platforms such as Designrush will include only the companies which have earned their reputation, so the majority of the work is done for you. You can pick out a couple that you fancy based on their profiles, and once you get in touch with them and do some interviews you’ll get an idea of the communication flow.
A web design agency without a marketing department will get you a pretty website and that’s pretty much it. Your business is not going anywhere with that – you want the website to be the digital face of your business and your top sales representative.
The numerous elements of a website are all orchestrated with conversion as the ultimate goal, and a good web design agency abides by this rule relentlessly. Look for an agency that employs a team of developers, designers, and marketers which will work together, using scopes of relevant data, to create a website that converts.
Portfolio of Live Websites
Live websites, that is. Don’t be a fool and think screenshots will do when looking at their previous work. Visit the websites they’ve designed to experience them in action and see how they work.
Don’t expect to be utterly awed – optimal UX (user experience) design, after all, means that the user doesn’t even notice the elements of the design but is subtly guided by them. Thus, the path to conversion is cleared. That’s what you want for your website.
When an agency presents you with a dedicated step-by-step process of how they’ll design your website, you know you’re working with professionals. Believe it or not, not all agencies work that way and you’ll run into people that think winging it is a sign of confidence (um, no). Adaptability to different situations and unexpected problems is one thing, and it’s absolutely necessary, but the lack of a process shows the lack of experience and an unmethodical approach that can end up wasting a lot of time.
You might be delighted to find an agency with abundant experience in designing websites for your industry specifically.
Don’t be. Those guys have surely run out of ideas. You’ll get a run-of-the-mill website that looks pretty much like all the other websites they designed within your industry, because, hey, they found what works.
Experience with different industries and audiences means they’ve been constantly challenged, and this will bring diversity and a fresh approach to the design of your website.
There are other aspects you’ll want to pay attention to, such as their approach to ongoing changes within the industry and how they keep up with trends. Considering you’re an employer already, you’ll be able to recognize their professional perspective during the interview – just keep in mind that you need someone with a good understanding of trends but also a critical approach to them.
Lastly, you want to ensure that your chosen web design agency offers add-on services on a retainer basis (don’t worry, most of them do nowadays). That way, you can rest easy knowing that your website is in professional hands and will continue to be taken care of in the future.