How to Evaluate a Web Design Company
Part 1 in key concepts in selecting the right digital marketing strategy
By Meredith Dunn
Meredith is a BECK Digital enthusiast with a weak spot for business planning, full cycle digital marketing and killer content.
9 Tips for Selecting the Right Web Design Company
This post is part 1 of the series 5 Questions to Ask Your Digital Agency.
A successful development project begins with selecting a qualified and fitting digital development agency. A website overhaul is a substantial undertaking for any company, and you want a digital agency that can enhance the value, reach and effectiveness of your web presence. Here are nine tips to guide you when choosing the right web development partner for your website so the experience is rewarding for all involved.
1. How well do they understand your business?
An agency with demonstrated experience with other clients in your industry is essential. To provide you with the best product, they need to understand industry-specific trends, challenges, customers and competitors – as well as innovative ways to keep your site competitive. For example, strategies for a retail chain will be far different than those implemented for a hospital. Make sure your agency is not only familiar, but knowledgeable about your industry and willing to learn the intricacies of your business.
To that point, when examining an agency, consider how they approach client work. Each client is different, and each solution should be customized accordingly. Do their client websites all look the same? Do they consider a client’s audience and online behaviors, or build sites just for show? Do they include graphic design fads “because it’s trendy,” or to genuinely reflect and improve a client’s brand? An experienced web agency should meet you on your level, and provide design and development solutions that specifically cater to your brand, needs, audience and goals.
2. Evaluate their services
If you need more than a website, finding an agency that offers a full range of services – including design – should be top of your list. Look for an agency who is not only capable, but experienced in providing web design, development, strategy and digital marketing services. Not only is it more convenient to bundle all work under one roof, but your agency can better execute and augment your online strategy and digital presence with more agency involvement in the entire project. Additionally, employing only one agency can make project communication, progress and implementation a whole lot easier.
3. Go beyond the frontend design
While a website should reflect your brand and engage your audience, it should be more than a pretty face. Many agencies build sleek websites, but do they help clients reach their SEO goals? Do they follow best practices for the user experience? Are they using the right web technology to optimize your site and help you increase conversions? Website design, coding, content and structure should be developed with the user in mind, optimized for search engines (SEO) and properly built for performance. Furthermore, an experienced and strategic agency will develop digital solutions to support your business goals that go beyond design fads.
4. Does the agency develop responsive designs?
With 60% of internet access occurring on mobile devices nowadays, responsive design (device friendliness) is necessary for any website development project. The agency you select should have demonstrated experience designing and developing responsive websites. We suggest test driving sites (built by the agency) on your own devices so you can see for yourself. If the page elements aren’t resizing for various screen sizes or optimized for use across various device interfaces, you may want to change course.
5. Evaluate their impact
An agency’s portfolio of previous web work should give you a clear picture of development capabilities, focus, and client outcomes. As a client, you want to see relevant design samples, and more importantly, the tangible results of an investment. Can the firm provide case studies or data to verify progress? Not all clients allow agencies to share this information, but there should be some description of project objectives and takeaways that provide an understanding of overall impact.
6. Talk to their clients
Feedback is rarely more honest and transparent than when it comes from a client who has seen the inner workings of a development agency. Inquire with multiple clients and investigate the quality of an agency’s projects, project management, client responsiveness, availability, deadlines and more. Partnering with an agency is a big decision; prepare yourself by talking to those who have gone through the process themselves.
7. How is their cultural fit?
Just as an agency should understand your specific industry, how well their corporate culture, pace and personality matches your own should be considered before establishing a partnership. As clients, it’s vital to understand what values, visions and behaviors guide the agency, as that drives communication and relationships. Satisfied agency employees generally mean more motivation to get the work done. As digital marketing strategist Bas van den Beld suggests, “the internal brand culture will show you how the business will work with you. If they care about their own culture, they’ll care about the clients’ as well.”
8. Know who is doing the work
A development agency is only as good as its bench. And a good agency bench should be diverse and qualified in a variety of disciplines. When evaluating developers, think about experience and aptitude over specific skill sets. Developers should ideally be well-versed in web best practices, front-end, back-end, data structures, algorithms, different architectures, and databases; however, experience employing these skills is even more essential. A good development agency will have a broad base of knowledge in the field, along with a few specialized skill sets. Beyond web designers and developers, they should also have information architects, quality assurance engineers, SEO specialists, digital marketers, content developers, and projects managers, just to name a few.
9. Hire slow, fire fast.
Take the time to research and inquire before entering a development partnership. Website development and accompanying digital marketing efforts require extraordinary amounts of time, money and company resources. And if the partnership isn’t living up to your expectations, cut and run before you’re in over your head.
If you are interested in learning more about how BECK can help your organization reach its digital marketing and website design needs, let's chat!
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