A Guide to Help Get You Started in Finding the Right Web Design Agency
When choosing a web design agency, it’s always important to keep in mind your needs and goals; doing so can help you find the agency that can best help you reach those targets.
In most instances, particularly with small and mid-size businesses, you’ll likely get more from working with a nearby web designer over a team in another state or overseas. Our web design agency, for instance, is based in Austin TX and though we do work with companies nationally and internationally, there’s a greater ability to get to know & understand a company and the people behind it, particularly in regards to a smaller or locally based company, when you’re closer by, if not in the same city than in the same state. This type of rapport especially helps in growing younger businesses and brands.
Whether or not you work with a local web design agency, at some point in the initial stages, you’ll want to either schedule an in-person meeting or a video call with the agency in order to get a better feel of who they are, how they work, their experience, expertise and professionalism.
Though there are multiple questions you’ll want to ask any agency, when shopping around for web design firms to work with, these 4 questions below will give you some guidance on important elements to consider in choosing a potential web designer for your business, and allow you to get a better overall feel of the agency you’re considering working with.
1. Ask to see some recent websites the agency has developed.
Although you likely want a unique design for your website, you’ll be able to get an overall idea of the competency of a web designer or web design team by viewing the previous websites they’ve designed. Keep in mind that not all web design agencies will list every website they’ve designed on their own website. In some cases, they may have signed non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), or there may be other reasons for not doing so, so if you’re interested in an agency as a potential partner, you’ll want to ask them to send you some websites they’ve designed that you can look at.
Some business owners think that a web design agency should have developed numerous websites in their industry and that makes them a better choice. The truth is it should never rule out an agency. If the agency you’re considering has a good knowledge of your industry and what the audience wants, that can certainly be helpful, but if an agency hasn’t worked directly in your industry, but is willing & able to research your industry, in many cases, they may come to the table with fresh ideas.
In some instances, too many clients in the same industry can lead to conflicts of interest, particularly if the agency also handles their marketing, so overall it’s generally better to consider the contributions the agency makes when you speak with them and what their thoughts and ideas are for your website and strategy.
2. Ask who will be working on your website.
Find out if the company outsources the website overseas or to another company, or if the web design work will be done in-house by their own design team (the latter is preferable as you will have much better quality control). In some cases, you may work with a project manager and not with the web designer directly. Knowing these things going into it will give you a better idea of how the overall communication and process will enfold.
If you work with a local web design agency, you’ll have a bit more insight into how their process works and will be able to have in-person meetings, which will give you a greater level of confidence in the ability of the company to deliver results, while also guaranteeing that your project is not being outsourced to low-level companies.
3. Ask (if applicable) what content management systems and/or e-commerce platforms the company uses.
Depending on your needs, you may want to be able to update your website on your own and/or sell your products or services via your website. If you need a content management system or an e-commerce platform, check that the company has experience utilizing the software and/or platform you need. If you are looking to have an e-commerce store and want your store built on Shopify, for example, the company you work with should have experience with the Shopify platform.
Though most are familiar with e-commerce, not all business owners or officers always understand what a content management system, or CMS, is. A content management system (CMS) is a platform that makes it easier for non-technical people to navigate, edit and make desired changes to their website on their own. Instead of learning code, such as HTML or CSS, the CMS overcomes this major challenge.
In many cases, a static HTML site will work better for your business, if you don’t have these special needs, but if you plan on making your own updates, a CMS is definitely the way to go. Probably the most popular CMS is WordPress. WordPress is an open-source CMS that powers about 30% of the web. You can read more about the pros and cons of using WordPress vs Static HTML here.
4. Ask if you’ll be trained on the usage of your website and if the company offers any type of initial support or maintenance.
Particularly in regards to a CMS or E-Commerce platform, it’s important that you’ll be able to update your website on your own after the website has been handed over to you. Ask whether the company offers any type of training, and if so, if it’s included in the price. Most good agencies will include training on your CMS or E-Commerce platform.
If you need ongoing support, inquire if the agency handles ongoing support and maintenance. Not every web design agency does. Some prefer to work on only the initial design and development of your website, and then offer no type of maintenance or support going further.
If the web design firm you’re hiring does offer support, be clear with each other how that would work — whether the support is provided on an on-call basis, or if they have maintenance plans. Unless you require consistent ongoing support, maintenance plans will typically have you spending more than a per instance fee with the agency.
These questions and guidelines should give you a good starting point in helping to choose the right web design agency for your project.
Big Gorilla Design is an Austin web design agency that specializes in web design, branding & marketing for small and mid-size businesses.