A website is an important tool. It must be designed right, otherwise, you lose business & money. In fact, a website is more than that. It tells your potential customers who you are. It is part of your branding.
The type of message you send out through the design and the content of your website showcases your work culture and ethics. Tells people a lot about who you and what it might be like interacting with you and doing business with you.
Then there are factors that determine how efficiently users can interact with your site. Is it easy to use your site? Are all essential features included? Can one find the information they are looking for easily? Is it easy to navigate your website? Are you using the right colors & typography? Is the theme well code for efficiency and speed?
These are a lot of questions, but it only scratches the surface of what it entails to design a great website.
Therefore, it is necessary to choose the right candidate as your web designer or design agency. We will go through some of the points to ensure you make the right choice.
Choosing the type of design agency
Websites can fall into various categories, each demanding a different skill set, knowledge & level of experience. In fact, different types of websites would demand different tools to complete them.
Some of the questions you should be asking are:
- Is it a simple informative site?
- Is it going to be a brochure or a catalogue for my products or services?
- Is it a corporate website?
- Is it primarily going to be a blog?
- Is it going to be an ecommerce website?
- Does my website need custom functionality?
- Is it a web app?
- Do I need custom software developed?
In other words, websites fall into different categories and demand different skillsets & approach.
A simple website can be made using just HTML, CSS, & JS.
Though today, even simple websites are built on top of CMS platforms, like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.
To build a website like this, one needs knowledge about Content Management Systems, and how to extend them to build simple to complex websites. A design agency or a freelancer could take of this for you.
However, if your requirement is for an ecommerce website, you would approach an agency or a freelancer who also has some development skills along with designing knowledge.
If your requirement is custom software or a web app, you would contact a developer or a development company. So, the type of designer or agency you contact depends on the specific type of project you have.
Local is not always better!
Must you choose a local web designer to ensure that your website is designed in an efficient way? That is indeed not a necessity today.
Over the years we have found that many businesses have this notion that if you haven’t met the web design agency in person, then many things could potentially go wrong if you choose them as your designer.
It could be true in some cases where you must absolutely meet face to face with the designer. But for the majority, you could very well choose to work with any web designer from across the globe.
Some of the advantages are that you are not restricted to locally few available options.
- You could choose from the best out there as you have more choice.
- You could save money with offshore companies, where labor tends to be cheaper.
- When working with offshore companies, you tend to communicate more through emails, rather than using phone calls. Meeting in person is usually out of the question. It saves a lot of your precious time that otherwise would have been wasted in unnecessary & fruitless meetings.
- Email communication keeps a written record of everything that you have discussed and agreed upon. Which, in my opinion, is a good thing to have.
- Email communication is non-invasive, and you can choose to communicate at your own pace and convenience.
But of course, there are other reasons like if you believe working locally is the right thing to do. That you want to provide employment to local businesses. Then you should work locally. You should do what you believe in.
Is it a company or a freelancer?
Sometimes you need something very casual or simple. It doesn’t matter if it is not perfect. Or maybe you want to save some money by getting it done cheaply.
In such circumstances, you could choose to work with a freelancer. As they have fewer overheads and are willing to work for less.
However, a freelancer is a one-man army. Every aspect of the website will be taken care of by him only. And usually, a freelancer is like a jack of all trades, master of none.
Reliability and support could also be an issue. He may or may not be around to provide you with support and maintenance.
On the contrary, agencies and web design companies have different people to take care of different tasks.
The graphic designer is enlisted with the task of creating graphics, illustrations, banners for the website. They specialize in tools like Photoshop & Illustrator.
The designer takes care of the design aspect of the website.
The developers take that design and bring it to life through code.
Marketing & SEO guys ensure greater visibility for your website.
So, when you work with an agency or a design company, there are a lot many specialized people working on your website. And you end up with a much better product.
You also get a lot more reliable support and maintenance.
But all this attention, care & quality comes at a cost. So, decide on what is important for you and whether you want to work with a freelancer or an agency.
Is Support Available?
Check with them if support is available. And if yes, on what terms.
With many web designers, you can opt for a support & maintenance package. Which could be payable either monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly.
Some companies could be charging a flat rate on an hourly basis.
Also, enquire about their turn around time. And everything that is included as a part of the website maintenance package. Ensuring what is including during the initial stages would go a long way in avoiding conflicts & disappointments later. Decide whether support is important. And choose an agency that fits your requirements.
Is it a Legitimate Business?
Ensure the business is what they say they are.
A little bit of diligence is indeed needed in a business where many times we don’t even meet face to face before establishing a business relationship.
I say this with experience as there have been many times when we were awarded projects without having met up with the client.
So how do you ensure the legitimacy of a business?
- You can check the number of years they claim to have been in business.
- Check their official website. Also, check when their domain name was first booked by them. Has their domain existed for many years? If yes, then that is a good sign.
- Check for their online reviews? If a business has been around for some time, then people would be talking about them. They should have some reviews.
- What sentiments do the reviews reflect? Are they positive or negative? Too many negative reviews could be a sign of danger.
- Check their website portfolio section. Go to those websites and see if their names are credited as the designer in any of them. Alternatively, you may wish to contact a few of the clients through email to see what kind of experience they had with them.
I believe these steps would give you a fair idea of the type of business they are. And whether you can trust them or not.
Personality & Culture of The Organization
I feel this is something that you need to pay attention too. Every organization has a culture that dictates the way they handle their clients and the unique challenges that arise during the web design process.
I feel this culture trickles down from top to bottom. It shows the cultural framework within which the company operates.
Many companies would go beyond to delight their customers.
Though this is not something that you can ascertain right away but speaking and interacting with the company personnel during the initial stages of contact should give you an idea of their working culture.
Combine that with the online reviews and you should have a strong opinion on whether you want to work with this company or not. If you strongly feel that this company is not for you. Then look elsewhere.
Is There a Limit to Design Revisions?
It may not sound like much, but it is an important factor to consider while choosing a web design agency for your project.
Your website is important, and you want the best design possible. It should be user friendly and should reflect what your business stands for. But if there are limits to iterations, then you will be forced to accept something which could have been made better.
I don’t blame the design agencies for keeping a cap on the number of design alternation requests you can make. It is really to safeguard themselves from nasty clients. Yes, they do exist. And if they have their way, the designers will end up working for many months without producing any concrete results. Therefore, I do believe limiting design revisions is not a bad idea.
However, there are many design agencies out there that can filter out such irresponsible clients and pamper clients like yourself by offering unlimited design revisions. It is good to choose an agency that does not limit design revisions. That way you can have the peace of mind that if you are not satisfied with something, it will be worked upon until you are happy with the results.
Exiting Work & Portfolio
This should really be your number one criterion for choosing a web design company.
The company may be big with lots of employees. They may have impressive office setup and infrastructure.
All this means is that they have invested well in their business, but it does not mean they have the creative flair that you are looking for. The designer may be missing that.
Similarly, a freelancer or a small design agency also does not guarantee the type of website you are looking for.
The number one thing that you want to look at would be their past work! How many websites have they built? What type of companies do they work with? Do you like their designs? Are their websites bringing results? Are their websites well coded, light, and fast? What do you think of the colour combinations? Do you see an artistic flair to their designs? Are they creative?
Their design portfolio and a list of their past clients would tell you whether they can do justice to your site. I believe if you are happy with this bit, then the other pieces would also fall into place. And you can safely choose such a design agency to work for you.
Look for Testimonials
Just like their design portfolio, testimonials also tell you the kind of experience clients had working with a given design agency.
This is powerful, as it indicates what you could expect if you chose to work with them.
A few reviews could be biased, but when you combine all them of, then you get a collective idea, or indication of how your experience is going to be.
So, one or two negative reviews are okay. Because whatever you do, you cannot please everyone. And there could be some haters too, like competitors, who will deliberately give you a bad review, posing as a client, to bring down the agency’s credibility.
If there are overall positive reviews, I believe you are safe to work with them.
The goal here is to be able to choose a good web design agency or a designer to fulfil your requirements for web design.
We have indeed discussed several points that would help you to narrow down your choice, so that it becomes easier to choose. And to ensure the choice is the right one.
Possibly I left something out? Let me know in the comments, and I will add them to the list.