Let’s face it. Hiring an agency to build you a website is kind of a big deal.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m about to buy something, the first thing I do is take a look at their website. If it’s badly designed, hardly works, or even just gives me a bad impression, it’s not helping my decision to buy. If I’m not able to find the details I need, I’ll go elsewhere. Not good if you’re the business owner.
Having a good website is critical.
When you get it right, it can be the deciding factor. That convinces a prospective customer they need your products. That last step that pushes them off the fence and get’s their wallet open.
That’s where a good web design agency can make a big impact.
I’ve learnt a lot in the last two years running Studio Digita, and after working with a wide range of customers across industries I’ve realised there’s a few things to watch out for.
Whoever you decide to work with, use these tips to ensure you’re choosing the right agency.
Designs should be timeless not trendy
First thing is to get a feel for the kind of work the agency produces. Take a look at their portfolio, and ensure they’re not producing gimmicky designs that will look dated in a year or two.
The goal with design is to build user-friendly websites that will continue to look great and function well, using timeless design techniques. That way, you’re not alienating any discerning customers, and you’re also not having to completely rebuild your website every twelve months, just to stay “current.” Trends come and go far too quickly.
Take a proper look through their portfolio
The next step is to dig into the details. Forget screenshots. You need to be looking through live versions of their work so you can truly understand how they’ve developed the user experience.
If they cannot provide these examples, it’s a red flag in my book. A screenshot that looks great is one thing, but websites that “work” are another thing entirely. By seeing the live versions, you can really get a feel for the quality of work they’ll be producing for you.
The path-to-purchase should “work”
When you’re designing a website for a business you can’t forget the content. The trick is to find an agency that can take your brand and transforming it into a piece that not only looks good, but provides the customer with an easy path to purchase.
If a customer cannot find the information they need easily, they will simply leave.
As you’re going through their portfolio, ask yourself if the designs they’ve created make it simple, easy and logical to make a purchase. Is all the information presented geared towards a conversion? If not, you’ve got to wonder why…
You want someone who listens to you
This is a delicate balance, because you are hiring an agency for their expertise, and in many cases they will have creative and innovative ideas for your project. Good agencies will have prepared for any initial sessions you have, taking on board comments raised and putting together proposals that actually fit what you’re looking for.
The trick is to find an agency who asks about your goals, and isn’t dismissive about any ideas you have for the website. The sweet-spot comes when they’re able to give you guidance on the techniques, strategies and designs to use to hit your goals. What you want is not a beautiful website. You want a website that drives conversions.
Understand what it’s all going to cost
While it’s a bit of an elephant in the room situation, the cost can be the deal-maker or breaker. Of course, you get what you pay for is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but there’s a simple way to help you decide if it’s all worth it.
Figure out first what you want to achieve. Perhaps certain sales figures, or growth in your customer base. Then, ask the agency for concrete examples where they’ve helped a client achieve similar goals. Armed with this information, you can decide if the investment is going to be worth it.
You want an agency who is current
Forgetting design for a second here, but the biggest change in recent years is responsive design. Your agency needs to demonstrate they can produce superior work across all platforms, because smartphone and tablet use is only going to continue to increase.
If there’s no responsive elements and their designs are not seamlessly working across all devices, this is a rather large cause for concern. Just what other trends have they missed?
Always read the fine print
This last point I hate having to raise, but it is a significant cause for concern. Once the project is complete, you need to make it very clear who owns the intellectual property rights. You want a contract that states, by default, the agency will relinquish all ownership rights of the creative works to the client, as part of the agreement.
Good quality agencies know that the work they produce is the best way to showcase their skills, and that’s what drives customers to keep coming back. Not by holding onto ownership rights.
Getting your website built can be a scary experience. It’s usually a large investment (relatively speaking), as a five or six figure site for a large business could be just as daunting as dropping a couple of thousand as a small-business owner. Be careful before you start moving ahead with an agency, so you get it right. And end up with a high-converting website that’ll serve your customers well for years to come.