There are many web designers available, making it difficult to choose the right solution for your new site. Many of the options available may appear similar at first glance. They all lead to beautiful websites, right?
For small and medium-sized businesses, however, investing in a website can be a daunting task. It can often mean spending a large chunk of your annual budget to get a massive marketing asset that will be used every day for the next few decades.
It is important to dig deeper in order to find a web agency that will truly care about your business. Although you can trust professionals to do their jobs well, it is important to ensure that you have a clear understanding of your vision and that they are able to deliver it at a cost that suits you.
There are a few questions that you can ask to help you sort through the many agencies and choose one that will work for your business. This blog will walk you through the steps of the search for a web design agency and tell you what to look out for.
Before you start digging through Google search results for the best web design agencies, think about what you actually need and want in a website. These questions will help you narrow your search.
When you are looking for a web design agency, the first thing you should consider is the type of website that you can afford.
We are going, to be honest upfront with you: A DIY website will probably be the best choice if you don’t have enough money for the project. Companies that ask us for less than $5K to design a website for them are told the same thing. This is simply the starting price for custom, hand-coded, and strategic web design.
There are thousands of articles that advise businesses like yours not to use DIY website builders. Most of them mention generic points such as “it won’t be as user-friendly” or “you can’t customize it perfectly.”
They aren’t wrong. A DIY website is not the best option for a web design company looking to increase its online presence and convert more customers.
But, the budget doesn’t have to be tight. You can build a decent-looking website with drag-and-drop builders like Squarespace and Wix. The templates are generally well-coded. DIY is better than buying everything in a pinch.
We caution you not to try to create a DIY WordPress website. This is only possible if you are an experienced developer. In our blog post ” Craft Vs. WordPress: A Definitive Guide (Why Craft), we outline our position on the subject.
A website built by an agency is the best option if you have the funds. A fully-custom CMS such as Craft is used by agencies to create their websites. It’s custom-built for your business and has been hand-coded for security and performance. The agency’s combined years of experience in content strategy, brand positioning, and writing are vastly superior to the written copy.
2. What are the commonalities of your industry?
Look at the websites of other businesses in your area, both local and national. What do the majority of these websites have in common? Is there a set of standards your audience expects to see on your site, considering your industry? Take into account features such as:
- Hospitality and medical professionals can use appointment-booking functionality
- Locate a store for businesses with multiple locations
- Login to social media for SaaS companies
- Social media sharing buttons available for blogs, publications, and media sites
- Look at the websites of your local competitors if your business relies on local customers, such as construction contractors or wellness clinics. You may share the same customers as these companies, so you might have similar website visitors. What is your competition doing well? What do they have that you don’t?
Knowing what is standard in your market and your industry will help you have a better conversation with agencies later on in your search. When it comes time to discuss the features of your website, you will be able to distinguish between agencies that are just trying to add more billing hours to your project and those that know how to grow your business.
3. What is your design aesthetic
Next, consider your aesthetic and design preferences. Are you more comfortable browsing websites with a lighter or darker color scheme? Are you more drawn to serif fonts or non-serif types?
These preferences might not be compatible with best practices. You might avoid dark colors if you are a pediatrician. The more you think about what you need and want in a website, you will be more aware when you see it in the agency’s portfolio.
Images and logos are essential for websites to be engaging and convey a company’s identity. You will need images if you are building your first website. If you want to redesign your existing site, you might need to update your brand’s aesthetic.
This one isn’t essential, but it can make a difference. On projects that required a new logo, we have been known to work with a few branding agencies. We even helped Foot & Ankle Center to find a photographer for their website redesign.
Once you have an idea of your needs and wants on a website it is time to begin looking for the right agency. Keep your answers from the previous section in the mind and make a list to find agencies that meet the following criteria.
5. Do their portfolios match your aesthetic preferences?
How do they work?
Web design agencies tend to design and build their own websites, so their website should be considered the first item in their portfolio. What do you think? Is it intuitive to use and does it work well? Does the page design flow naturally? Do the page designs have a natural flow?
Next, look through their portfolio to see the work samples. You want to find an agency that has worked on similar projects as you are with your website. It is important to feel connected with their work emotionally. When you look at their past projects, your little voice should shout, “Ooh! That one! ”
You won’t be as excited about the websites that an agency has created for you if you don’t like them. How can potential customers be excited about your company if they aren’t inspired by your website? In our previous blog post, we discussed what customers would like to see on your website.
An excellent web design agency must offer more than beautiful visuals. Their designs must be supported by solid data to prove their strategies are sound. Websites should load faster than other websites and rank higher than others. If an agency can’t provide such results, it is a good indicator that you should continue looking.
Also, you should look for a team that brings creativity and problem solving to your website. You should look for unique functionality in their past projects as this will show that they are able to tailor each client’s needs.
Do you want to see exactly how our sites are performing? Take a look at some of the work we have done.
7. What did their clients think about them in the past?
A website agency that produces beautiful, well-designed websites does not necessarily guarantee they will be enjoyable to work with. To find the best web design agency, you should first look at their reviews online to see what past clients think about their work.
Many agencies will have testimonials. These are a great place to start. Take note of the positive aspects that these reviews emphasize, such as communication, timeliness, and friendliness. Then, consider whether they align with your desired qualities.
Don’t stop there.
Agencies choose glowing reviews because they contain glowing praise. You need to understand the working relationship between both parties in order to make an informed decision. It is also important to get unfiltered opinions.
You can check out their reviews on Facebook and Google. Keep an eye out for real comments — feedback from actual clients and not just friends and family. How many reviews and what is their average star rating? A rating is given more weight if there are more reviews. What was the most recent negative review? And what were the reasons for it being removed? Are there any other negative reviews that mention the same issues or are they different? These issues are important to you?
Clutch is another good resource for web designers who offer a white-glove service. Clutch, unlike other review sites, conducts interviews with clients to compile a “Best Of” list for all major markets. The trajectory is honored to be named as one of the “Top Atlanta Web Design Agencies”, and “Top Georgia Web Designers” over the past few years.
Following the steps from the previous section, you should now be able to identify potential agencies that may be a good match for you. This section will help you narrow your search and help you choose the best agency.
While you might be able to find some information on the websites of agencies, most of it will require that you contact them to discuss your website requirements.
8. Are they putting user experience first?
Your website should have many aspects: it should be visually appealing, informative, compelling, and functional. Although this may seem like an easy topic, the user experience should be the core of your web design agency.
Agency professionals allow usability to drive all they do. They’ll be able to explain why they put a button where it did. They use smart colors, spacing, fonts, and other techniques to choose colors. They are focused on providing the best user experience.
This is far more than just creating a website that looks good. It can have long-lasting implications for your company. These examples are from InVision.
- Time.com’s bounce rates were reduced by 15% when infinite scrolling was added
- After incorporating community feedback into their design, ESPN.com saw a 35% increase in revenue.
- Bing saw an increase of $80 million by choosing a particular shade of blue.
- Retailers lose $2.6 billion each year due to slow page loading speeds.
- 94% of website first impressions are design-related.
Mobile-friendliness (or responsiveness) is perhaps the most important aspect of your website’s usability. More than half of website visitors now come from smartphones, a number that is increasing every year. It’s estimated that 45% will be done on mobile devices by 2020, as opposed to 20% in 2016. Your site must be mobile-friendly to provide a great user experience for your visitors.
A good user experience will make customers happier and lead to better metrics such as lower bounce rates and longer read times. Ask potential web designers how they will ensure your website is as user-friendly and easy to use as possible. If they are willing to explain their approach to you — and seem eager to do so — then you can bet that they will think about your users as passionately when creating your new website.
Moz, an SEO software firm and possibly the most authoritative in the SEO industry, has almost 400 blog articles dedicated to content. The SEO industry has a common phrase: “Content is King.” This statement becomes more relevant with every Google update.
It used to be easy to create website content by simply adding keywords to a page and then giving the copy edit. It’s more complicated now. It’s much more complicated now. The best content marketing is strategic. You can even predict user intent and determine the structure of your site.
Most companies don’t know the right way to approach content. You shouldn’t either.
It takes skill, practice, and lots of trial and error to craft compelling copy. It’s not easy to manage all that, let alone the daily tasks of growing and running your business.
When you are evaluating your agency options, make sure to choose one that shows a thoughtful, strategic approach and demonstrates that they understand the importance of content for your website’s success. Look through their team members. Do they have a copywriter who can help you create literary gold? Or will you have to do it all yourself?
10. Which changes are they recommending?
An experienced web design agency will work closely alongside you to design a website that fully reflects your vision and meets all of your functionality requirements, beginning from Day 1. Before you hire an agency to design your website, find out what changes they recommend.
A good agency understands that design is not always a choice. You should trust that the designer you choose to work with can back up their decisions and have a plan for success. You should be able to back up their decisions, and if they don’t, it’s a sign they might not be right for you.
In our latest article ” The Beginner’s Guide to Web Design Best practices,” we explain some of the most common design decisions that we make.
11. Are they able to work with templates or from scratch?
The web design industry is divided between those who use templates and those who create each project from scratch. We’ve seen both and we know that you can still create a good website using either one. However, we prefer to design from scratch each time and code by hand. This is a position we discussed in our article ” Craft Vs. WordPress: Why We Choose Craft”.
Imagine you have just spent $7,000 to $12,000 on a large piece of custom digital property. It looks great and you are thrilled to show it off. But then you realize it is very similar to 15 other websites built by the same agency.
If we had to guess, you would probably feel a little bit guilty. You probably wouldn’t be thrilled.
Each website we create is completely new. This allows us to adapt our designs to meet your needs and give you a unique look. We think there is nothing better than a website that’s completely yours (not to mention the superior functionality).
12. Are they able to test the launch?
Because it identifies potential problems and improves user experience, testing is perhaps the most crucial part of building a website. No one wants to pay extra for a website that doesn’t work on all browsers or breaks when someone clicks away.
It’s like creating a website without testing it before it goes live. You can’t tell if it’s good quality if it’s not. You have to wonder if the agency isn’t testing for quality.
Web design agencies that are good at testing your website on all major browsers (Chrome Firefox, Safari, Safari, and Edge/Internet Explorer) will test it multiple times. They also test the mobile and desktop versions of the site from Apple, Windows, and Google devices. We recommend that you move on to the next agency if an agency you are considering does not meet these criteria.
Although you may not realize it, some web design agencies retain the ownership rights to the websites they create. This can make it difficult for you to make any changes down the line and even allows them to reuse your design and content for clients.
You should look for agencies that give you complete ownership and copyright to any marketing assets they create, such as websites, logos, apps, etc. It is common for them to include your website (or any other material) in their portfolio and to distribute it to their email lists and social media channels. However, copying your website for another competitor should be prohibited.
14. What is included in the price
Before you sign an agreement with a web design agency, this is something you need to be clear about. Websites can be expensive projects. It’s important that you are clear about what you’re signing up for. Ask detailed, specific questions such as:
- Is the price quoted inclusive of special features such as scheduling capabilities or an app?
- What will they charge for additional work that was not part of the original scope of the project?
- How many rounds will they allow for revisions?
- What amount will you have to pay upfront and what payment milestones will be set throughout the build?
- Is there an additional charge for copywriting website content?
- Do they offer ongoing technical and SEO support?
- These questions can be answered by any agency at their discretion, but it is important that you are satisfied with the answers.
Remember that you can have a conversation with the experts working on your website throughout this entire process. You will find the right agency for you if they are open to answering your questions and being honest with you throughout the process.
Trust your gut instincts. Don’t underestimate the importance of “clicking” with a design team. Also, don’t seek a relationship that will make you feel uneasy about your investment.
Trajectory believes that your website should be beautiful but also functional. We can help if your website is not functional or beautiful. Let us know all about your project and ask any questions about our process.