Knowing which web design agency to use is like choosing which type of dog to get. There’s no universal “best dog.” Everyone has their own set of criteria—such as size, price, and personality traits. Interestingly enough, the same is true for interactive agencies—there is no single “best” agency. So how do you choose?
The major web design areas to consider are:
- What you need your website to do
- Whether a web design agency has the qualifications to meet your needs
- What it will be like working with them
- What processes they use, from planning to launch (and possibly beyond)
- What kind of results you can expect
Evaluating different agencies using the set of questions below will be a good window into whether or not an agency is a good fit.
#1 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
What will it cost for you to design my website?
That’s a question without an answer—at least an answer that will satisfy you. I can say, though, that there’s a website for every price range and timeframe. It depends in large part on the level of customization you’ll need and sophistication of the site.
You and an agency will need to choose between two main options, which will affect the price range.
WordPress is currently the world’s most popular Web Platform
The first is having your agency work off of a WordPress (or other CMS) template. The second is to have your site built from scratch. WordPress is highly customizable and flexible, but it does have its limitations. Depending on the site requirements, this approach can cost between $5,000 and $40,000.
The possibilities available with a fully custom-built are nearly as limitless as your imagination. Of course, the more sophisticated the site, the higher the cost (and the longer it will take to build) A ballpark price to set up a site would be $20,000+ (not including creative freelances and ongoing maintenance), with the most expensive likely to be a highly sophisticated eCommerce site.
Pricing may also vary depending on the size of the agency, their reputation, and their location. Do not base your decision using price as your primary consideration!
#2 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
What platform do you use to build the site?
As we’ve mentioned, your designer can use a WordPress theme, each of which has its own appearance, functionality options, and customization capabilities. Your designer should also know about the multitude of plugin options available to boost functionality and performance analytics. Knowing your website criteria first will help determine which themes are appropriate for your website.
Find out the agency’s experience with different platforms and look at the work they’ve done with ready-made WordPress templates as well as fully custom-built sites on the WordPress Platform.
#3 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
What is the Design Process?
Like the question about what a website costs, the design process can vary widely depending on the site and the agency’s “personality.” The first thing to figure out is what you need your website to do. A
re you an architect highlighting your portfolio? A medium-sized business with some eCommerce capabilities? A hospital that needs to accommodate the need of patients, partners, medical staff, administration, labs, insurance companies, and other parties?
The process for building different types of sites may vary, so go into your search for a designer knowing all the ways in which your site will be used by different audiences. During the process you and your designer may come up with additional ideas (or scrap some others). Ask how each design agency will handle key elements, the foremost being structure and appearance.
Discuss their process for developing the website’s structure—also called a sitemap or wire-framing—to help you clearly envision and plan your site. Also find out about the agency’s expertise in helping their clients determine the layout of the site’s content, such as:
- The type of pages you want and which content will live on each page
- How to divide your content into larger categories and navigation options
- How the pages will relate to each other
- What types of forms will be needed
- How they plan for scalability for business growth
Your website is the online representation of your brand, so look for indications about how well the agency understands marketing and website branding. If using WordPress, this type of knowledge may help them identify the best template options. If an agency is building starting from scratch, evaluate websites they’ve created to see if you like the way they look, how they function, and the overall user experience.
#4 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
Who takes the lead?
Developing a website is an exciting—and complex—project that requires close collaboration with your agency. Find out their practices in working with clients to set goals, create a plan and schedule, and assign responsibilities. There may be some back-and-forth as you figure out the best way to approach different aspects of the project. Get a feel for how organized they are, and how flexible to change.
For technical elements and the back-end of the site, your agency will be the captain of the ship. Find out all you can about their developer’s expertise in testing, SEO, security issues, load speed, image sizes, and the basics of graphic design.
Regarding aesthetics, you may have strong opinions and experience in web design. Or, you may have no eye for design and want to rely almost exclusively on the designer to come up with the basics. You can find sites you like (or don’t like) and show them to the agency to set them on the right path. Or the agency may do a search and propose several themes and designs that will represent your unique brand. Of course, there will be decisions to make along the way.
#5 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
How long will it take?
There is no mathematical equation for providing the exact amount of time it will take to build your website. If the designer is working off of a WordPress template, a fairly simple site with only 10-15 pages could take as little as a few weeks. A more complex, content-heavy site could take one or several months. A complex ecommerce site could take several months, six months, or even longer. It also depends in part on your company’s decision-making process and how smoothly the project goes.
If you have a specific launch date in mind, share this with the designer upfront. If they can’t do everything you want within your timeframe you have several options:
- Take a phased approach that adds inessential, but desirable, elements over time.
- Winnow down your wish list and see what they can accomplish in your timeframe.
- See if you can bump out your timeframe if it was set somewhat arbitrarily.
- See if other agencies are capable of building it faster (without sacrificing quality).
#6 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
Do you include SEO?
A reputable agency will build the site with optimization in mind. Besides the initial launch, it’s a good idea to get a maintenance plan for $150+ per month so they can ensure that things keep running smoothly and also provide you with ongoing support.
Some of the elements you could expect them to weigh in on are title tags, description tags, enough content, and relevant keywords. They can also check Google Analytics, the Google Search Console, or install other analytics tools on your website.
#7 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
What kind of QA process can I expect before the launch?
Before launch, it’s vital to have a final, comprehensive quality check on the front-end and back-end of the site. Find out how an agency will support these activities:
- Content Accuracy: Do they have the commitment and staff to thoroughly proof-reading content as part of the process? This often falls more to the client, so be prepared.
- Functionality Testing: Ask the agency what processes they have in place to ensure that these items work as intended:
- Images and videos
- Internal and external links
- Load speed
- Lead generation forms, email list sign-ups, comments, and social sharing
- Responsiveness to all devices (desktop, laptop, tablets, and mobile) and browsers
- Analytics to evaluate site performance
#8 Question to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Agency
Do you have experience in my industry, and what is your success rate?
This can be a tricky question because there are advantages and disadvantages to having industry experience. On the one hand, the agency will already understand the context of your business and your competitors. On the other hand, having a set of fresh eyes can lead to exciting, original results that differentiate you in positive ways. As for results, you can ask for analytical evidence and performance metrics for the sites they’ve created. You can also ask for references to see how their clients feel about the site the agency built for them.
Ask the right questions to choose the web design partner that will be the best fit.
There are big agencies and small boutique agencies. Some are agencies that are industry-specialized and others that serve a broad range of B2B and B2C clients. Some are highly process-oriented, others take a more organic approach. In the end, it’s up to you and what you want—the desired functionality, stylistic preferences, collaboration style, and personal rapport. By asking the questions above, you’re on your way to selecting a high-quality, collaborative agency that will successfully complete all aspects of your mission-critical website project.