In my previous blog post about what to look for in a web designer, I gave you some high-level information you should know in order to choose a web design agency. In this next blog post, we are going to dig a little bit deeper into the topic so you have more information to help you make your decision.
First, I would suggest a maximum of three companies to interview. You should be able to find a company that stands out from the three and then make your decision from there.
Google is a great place to look if ranking on the search engines is one of your goals. If you want a website that ranks, it would probably be a good idea to investigate some agencies who are ranking themselves. Ask if they outsource their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or do it in-house. I would not suggest choosing an agency that outsources the SEO of their website process because there are too many variables that go into SEO to make a website rank.
Another good idea is to ask your network for a referral to a good web design agency. You want to be fairly specific when you ask for a referral, so instead of asking for a “website designer” you will want to ask a “web design company” or “web design agency”. The reason for this is because it is impossible for one person to be able to perform the strategy, SEO, copywriting, design, and development that is needed to make your website a success. You are going to need a team of experts, not just one freelancer working out of their home to accomplish your goals.
Once you have a short list of candidates you can start the interview process. Start with filling out the form on their website. When you fill out their form make sure to ask for a phone call as your response. How long they take to respond is a very good sign of the customer service you can expect to receive. A phone call as the response is very important because you want to see if the company can effectively communicate with you.
I would not suggest sending out a Request for Proposal to the companies because that is not how a good relationship is started. If the phone conversation goes well, then set up an in-person meeting. Try to meet at their office if possible because this will give you some valuable insight. It does not have to be the coolest office in the world but it should be clean and organized and have a good vibe. If the vibe of the team does not feel right, that is a good sign the team does not work well together. It is also important that you mesh well with the company because this will become a long-term relationship and not just a one-off project.
Ask the agency what questions they have about your project. The main questions they ask should be about the business goals you have and not just the project goals. A “responsive website that is easy to use and update” is not a business goal, that is a project goal. Increasing your revenue from your existing customers is a business goal. So is attracting candidates so you can expand your workforce.
Make sure you talk about the budget range to ensure you are in the same ballpark. If you don’t talk about this, you may end up wasting your time working with an agency to develop a plan or proposal only to find you need double of what you have budgeted. Another reason to talk about the budget is that you want the agency to bring everything they have in their arsenal to your project. If they think you have a lower budget they may hold back and only offer some of their capabilities, rather than all of their ideas.
A timeline is important as well because three main things need to happen. First, you need to have time to quote the project. Next, the agency needs to get it into their project schedule. Finally, they need to build the project. If the “agency can start the project at any time” they are probably not in high demand. This could be a sign of their financial stability or a sign that their projects do not achieve the business goals because, in this business, people talk about their agency when they deliver results.
These tips will not only help you choose the right agency, but they will also prevent you from choosing the wrong one.