Whether selling products to new customers or providing support and information to existing customers, a website is essential. If you lack the expertise and time to build your own professional website, it’s worth choosing the right web agency to create one for you.
The challenge is picking the web agency that’s best suited to your business and customers. A quick online search can reveal hundreds of web agencies, all offering similar-sounding services and all with wildly varying prices from as little as a few hundred pounds to six figure sums.
It’s best to avoid the cheapest web agencies unless you need the most basic of websites. A well-designed, professionally coded website that can be extended in the future is a worthwhile investment. As well as balancing price and functionality, you’ll need to decipher a range of disciplines from web designers, web studios, web agencies and programmers.
How to choose a web design agency
Step 1: Know your objectives
Decide what you want your website to achieve. List its principle aims and goals, along with the features it should have. For example, if setting up an online store, you’ll need an ecommerce site with the ability to securely take payments and link to inventory and order fulfillment systems. For other businesses, you may need email integration, the ability for visitors to fill in forms, sign up for newsletters, create accounts or chat to your staff.
Use this list to establish your website priorities, avoiding unnecessary and costly extras.
Typical website goals include:
- Making online sales and handling credit card transactions
- Generating sales leads and capturing customer details
- Improving product and brand awareness
- Engaging with customers, such as providing after-sales support
- Communicating company news and recruiting new staff
Step 2: Decide a budget and timeline
Knowing how much to spend on a website is a major factor in choosing a web agency. Be clear on your budget from the outset when obtaining web agency quotes. This will allow you to compare different agencies, ensuring you get the most from your money.
When setting a budget, factor in the value the website will bring to your business. If a new, online ecommerce store was forecast to bring an additional £50,000 in annual sales to your business, for example, it’s sensible to invest a percentage of the expected additional revenue into the new site. Allow and extra ten per cent for contingency costs.
Set a timeline when choosing a web agency. Be clear when you’d like the website to launch. Allow time for testing the site before it goes live, and check that the price quoted includes bug fixing once the site has launched.
Some agencies offer a service agreement for a monthly fee, including updates to any security software and on-going bug fixing and maintenance. Be clear on what you can expect for a monthly fee and set clear exit terms if this doesn’t materialise.
Step 3: Get recommendations
A good place to start when finding a web agency is to ask for recommendations from other small businesses or business associates, such as your bank manager or accountant. Examine competitor websites or websites that are similar to the type of website you want. Many websites include a link to the web agency that created the website.
Step 4: Search online
Searching for ‘web agencies’ online will return an overwhelming number of results to choose from. Instead, try online directories such as Clutch which rank different agencies. Once you’ve a shortlist of web agencies, you can start vetting them.
Step 5: Look at the web agency’s website
Visit the websites of your shortlisted web agencies. Good web agencies will have professional, up-to-date websites. Steer clear of web agencies with old, out-of-date websites that have poor navigation or that load slowly. If an agency can’t create a brilliant website for themselves, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do better for their clients.
Step 6: Review previous clients
Look for a list of past and present clients. See if an agency has created similar websites for businesses targeting your audience.
Testimonials are important, too. These should include the client’s name, company name and web address. Some web agencies include case studies about the client’s project which can provide insights into the agency’s capabilities and working practices.
Step 7: Online reviews
Search for independent reviews of an agency using sites such as Yelp, Google and Facebook. Positive reviews are a good indicator that the agency provides a good service to clients. Look at the poor reviews and identify any common themes, such as poor communication, that could be a deal breaker for you.
Step 8: Interview the web agency
Contact each shortlisted agency and arrange for them to pitch for your business. The agency should ask plenty of questions too – a good web agency will seek to fully understand your goals so it can deliver the best possible results.
Questions to ask an agency
- Will the agency both design and build the website? Make sure both are included in the project quote.
- Can they achieve a website on time, within budget, and meeting all your business goals?
- Do they use a content management system (CMS) to build your website and which one? A CMS is a website platform that makes it easy for non-technical people to easily update their website on their own, giving you more control over your own website. The most popular CMS are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. Does the web agency offer training in the CMS so you can update and run your website?
- Can they develop mobile-friendly websites?
- Who on the team will be working on the website. You don’t want to be palmed off with junior designers and developers.
- Do they offer SEO services? How will they ensure that your website achieves a high ranking in search – especially against your competitors.
A good web design agency will answer your questions in a professional manner and explain technical terms. Be wary of web agencies that use vague, jargon-heavy terms. It’s very important that you understand what your web agency is talking about. A lack of transparency on the costs involved should raise red flags too.
Once you’ve talked directly to each of your shortlisted agencies, you should be in a good position to make a final choice.