Your website represents your company and your brand to an audience that draws visitors from around the world. You need a site that conveys your brand advantages accurately and compellingly and provides a full view of your company’s products or services. When you choose a agency to visualize, program and write content for your site, examine these eight criteria to assure that you receive the service you want and the results you deserve.
How will you communicate with and direct the work of your web design agency? By e-mail? By phone? In person? Through web conferences? If you prefer one of these methods over the others, look for a web design agency that will interact with you on your terms. If you want a collaborator you can meet face to face, look for a local firm or one that offers online conferencing.
Once you determine the “how” of your working relationship, evaluate how well you interact with the firms you’re considering. Do you feel a sense of rapport, interest, and attentiveness? Are you concerned that you’ll be just another client? Develop a good understanding of how your project will progress and whether you’ll enjoy the process.
Time and Money
Urgency adds cost. So does advanced mastery. Expect to pay more for a quick turnaround, especially if your site needs unique features or special programming. Before you engage a design agency’s services, however, verify the basis of their pricing and how soon your site will be ready. Don’t be surprised if the firm offers you a general cost estimate or a price range. Ask about charges for edits and additional features, and verify that you’ll receive a firm price quotation before work begins.
Uniqueness and Skill
Review the agency’s portfolio. Do you see signs that the firm creates a series of cookie-cutter sites, all based on the same visual theme? Do the same or similar stock photographs pop up repeatedly? Or does each section stand out on its own merits as an individually created expression of an equally individual client brand? Web design agencies that recycle the same look, feel, and functionality for every site they build fail to capture the unique essence of each client.
In addition to verifying the uniqueness of the sites portfolio, look at the aesthetics of the sites they create. Do you see work you’d be proud to display as an expression of your brand? Does the use of color match individual clients’ identity and image? Do pages read smoothly, with good progression among page elements? Web design agencies that understand and use design principles efficiently can create attractive sites that demonstrate good flow, a critical factor in determining how long visitors stay on the page.
Well-Designed Navigation Features
Check the navigation features of the web design agency’s work. Look for bright, functional combinations of menu items and other elements that direct the visitor to specific site features and content. Do the agency’s sites focus on overly bright designs that leave the visitor confused as to how to find information or move from page to page? Placing aesthetics over functionality can yield pretty sites that compromise the delivery of information and the retention of site visitors.
Verify that the web can handle the types of web programming you require. Do you need a payment gateway? An advanced user interface to accept customer input? Do you deal with personally identifiable information that you must protect? Ask to see examples of the web design past work that demonstrate their strengths in the specific programming areas your site must incorporate.
Some web design agencies specialize in serving clients in specific market segments or business niches. For example, they may focus on dental practices, marketing firms, attorneys, online retailers, or some other particular type of client business. That kind of specialization can offer significant advantages if your company matches their focus, because their experience can give them insights into your needs. Verify that the web design agency doesn’t work with your competitors, however, to avoid stepping into a conflict of interest.
If you’re planning to ask the web agency to write content for your site, read carefully as you review their portfolio. Does a member of their staff create text for their clients? Do they subcontract the work? Will a professional writer who’s a native speaker of your language and dialect handle the task? Verify that any site content will look authentic and licensed.
Web design requires a combination of specific types of skill and experience. Keep these eight criteria in mind as you look for the right web design for you. Plan to audition a range of firms before you find the one that can make your online vision a reality.