10 tips to help you pick a good web design agency, so you can avoid the cowboys
This blog article will run throughout a list of 10 points you should consider when picking a web design agency for your new website.
Let’s address the big elephant in the room straight away, we’re a web design agency and we’re going to explain what to look for in picking the best web design agency, so it would be very easy for us to tailor this list so it makes us look amazing and wonderful, therefore, we’re not going to mention ourselves at all in this article.
Also, in the interest of fairness, we’re going to look at this completely impartially and as a result, there may be some points that our competitors do better than us at.
Here’s how to avoid the cowboys…
1. Good portfolio
It’s an obvious one, but the most important thing is picking a web design agency with a strong portfolio that you like the look of.
Straightaway, this will show you the quality of their work and it’ll give you an idea of what to expect from them on your project.
Some agencies will show you pretty images and graphics of the websites they’ve made without any links to the websites, so be sure to visit the websites that they’ve made and scrutinise them.
2. Relevant testimonials
It’s very easy to put testimonials on a website, in fact, a lot of people ignore testimonials on websites because they think they’re made up.
Luckily, in web design, it’s very easy to see if a testimonial is genuine as you can match up the website and the testimonial.
Therefore, check that the testimonials are relevant and match the websites in their portfolio.
3. Number of years trading
There isn’t a direct correlation between a good web design agency and the number of years they’ve been trading as sometimes the new guys are hungrier and have fresh ideas, but picking an agency that’s been around a while can give you the confidence that they’re likely to stick around and they’ll have lots of experience, ideas and skills which they can draw on for your project.
Anyone can say that they’ve been ‘trading X amount of years’, so a good way of telling if they’ve been around a long time is checking their social media accounts and view their very first posts. Also, if they’re a limited company, you can also check their listing with Companies House.
4. Clients like you
There may be some amazing agencies out there that are perfect for other companies, but they may not be a great fit for you.
To ensure you pick the right agency for your project, check their clients and pick an agency that’s worked with other clients which are similar (in size) to you.
However, ideally, you want to pick an agency that’s not only worked with a few clients which are like you, but which also has a few clients that are different in size (bigger and smaller). Picking an agency which caters to a variety of different sized clients means they have experience across a wide range of different projects.
If you’re a sole trader, you’ll want to avoid picking a design agency that’s exclusively worked with big international brands, even if the budget is agreeable, instead, pick the agency that’s helped and continues to support businesses like yours.
5. Go local
Lots of web design agencies will say they’re based locally, but actually, they can be based far away.
A clever tactic used by web designers is to create lots of dedicated pages for different locations and that then looks like they’re based in that location when they pop up in the search result on the search engines, but sometimes they’re not local and they could be hundreds of miles away. Therefore, check their location by checking their contact details such as a postal address, local telephone numbers and where their clients are based.
6. Payment terms
When deciding what design agency to use, ask them about their payment terms.
We’ve heard horror stories about web design agencies taking the full amount upfront before any work has been started and then disappearing, so you’ll want to avoid this.
Most agencies will ask for a deposit, normally around 25% to 50%.
Before paying a deposit, ensure that you are happy that the agency has carried out a good amount of work to justify the deposit amount that they’re asking for. This can be things like the mock-up design(s), and the agreed structure and technical approach.
Once the website build is finished, you can expect to pay the outstanding balance.
When making a payment, ensure that you’re paying the company/person that you’re expecting to, if it looks different, there may be a genuine reason, but question it.
The good web design agencies will outline any on-going costs right from the start without you having to ask, but ask if they haven’t mentioned any on-going costs. You want to avoid any future hidden surprises.
Some design agencies won’t take an initial deposit or remaining payment once the website build is completed, instead, they’ll put you on a monthly subscription which lasts indefinitely. This can be a good way to spread out the cost in the short-term, but these websites become very expensive and can sometimes cost many thousands of pounds more over the lifetime of a website. If you do want to go down this route, then ask what your rights are if you stop paying in the future and if you own your website and can transfer it another website host.
7. Speak to their clients
If you want to be very thorough, ask to speak to their clients before you decide to pick a certain agency.
Some agencies will openly suggest this themselves on their own websites and they’ll probably refer you to a few of their favourite clients. Instead, have a look at their portfolio and ask them if you can speak to the clients that you like the look of.
If you do speak to their clients, ask them what the on-going support is like. It’s very easy for a web designer to be nice before they’ve been fully paid, but you want an agency that’s going to have your best interests at heart after they’ve been paid.
8. Use a specialist
If you’re in an industry that requires special online technology, for example, an Estate Agents, it may be worth considering using a web design agency that is a specialises in that industry or using 3rd party software provider that offers the functionality that you’re looking for.
Speak to a web designer and ask them what the options are, the good ones will let you know what they can do for you, but they’ll also mention the use of specialist web design companies and 3rd party software providers.
9. Use recommendations
If you’re friendly with your competitors or you have friends who run businesses that do well online, ask them who they use.
Using recommendations is often a really good way to find someone who can be trusted.
However, even if they are recommended, ensure you’re still following points 4 and 8.
10. Meet them
We’ve saved the most important to last.
It’s not always possible to meet your web designer as the best person may come highly recommended and they’re far away, but if they’re local, ask to meet up with them for an initial meeting to discuss your project.
If they’re local, that’s great as it allows you to be able to easily see them at any point.
You’re going to be working with these people closely during the website design and build stage, plus you’ll be working with them on an on-going basis once your website is live, so you want to make sure you like them and that they’re going to be easy to work with.