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How To Choose a Web Design Firm

By March 16, 2017August 13th, 2017Web Development

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.

A web design firm can go by many names–marketing agency, digital marketing agency, or web design agency to name a few. Because websites are now central to marketing for most businesses, marketing agencies often staff web developers and designers and offer website creation one of their services.

Beyond claiming to have web development experience and capabilities, what else should you look for in a website development partner? Here are a few tips that can help you when vetting a company to help build your website.

  • First, ask yourself this question–what do you want your website to accomplish? If you are looking for a website to be a source of revenue with e-commerce capabilities, it is essential that you engage a team that has successfully delivered e-commerce sites at the scale you want for your business. If you want your website to be more of a lead generation and awareness generation platform, make sure you pick a firm with experience building websites for businesses like yours and can point to “before and after” metrics that reflect growth in traffic, leads, and sales.
  • Look for results. Once you know what you want from your website, ask an agency for its track record getting the kinds of results you are looking for. They should be able to point to measurable gains for clients. A website might look good on the outside, but that doesn’t mean that it performs well. Look for case studies of successful work with businesses like yours.
  • Don’t mistake development for design. Graphic artists design websites, developers build them. This is an important distinction that is often blurred. The design should reflect your brand and the visual experience you are trying to deliver, and the developer should help deliver the user experience you want. User experience is increasingly important as search engines reward sites that help users get what they are looking for as efficiently as possible.
  • Content matters. In addition to looking for creative design, remember that your website has to have great content in order to rank in search engines and attract your target audience. A good web design or marketing agency should have some great copywriters that you are confident can represent your business in your industry.
  • Get behind the pages. What’s just as important as a great looking, well-written website? One that works as designed on all browsers and devices, one that is secure from malware and attacks, and one that is fast. Ask your firm what they recommend for hosting, for example. Cheap hosting services often share space with multiple sites and can be subject to performance issues when demand is high.
  • Know what you want. There are three types of business websites–custom, semi-custom, and sites that use themes. Themes are templates that provide the basic structure and layout of pages. There are thousands of themes available, and it is possible that if you use a theme without customization, there will be other companies using the same look. Of course, the more you customize your site, the more the site will cost due to the added design and development resources needed.
  • Check SEO creds. SEO has changed a lot in the past few years as search engines continue to refine how they rank sites and what criteria are most important. SEO is a moving target, but if your design firm recommends things like SEO press releases and complex navigation, it suggests that they haven’t kept up to date on how search works now.
  • Check references. Websites are a lot like houses. Building or remodeling a house is fraught with risks of delays, cost overruns, and miscommunication. If a homeowner recommends a contractor, it’s likely they had a great experience. The same is true for web design agencies.

Websites are critical to most businesses, which is why it is important you pick the right team for your project. Emphasis is on team–a solo web developer is unlikely to have all the skills and experience you need for a serious business website.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.