The 5 Qualities That Matter Most When Choosing a Web Design Agency
A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
Web design services come in a wide variety of flavors. For optimal inbound marketing performance, though, your company is going to need a truly excellent website – one that’s optimized for discovery, primed to showcase your content and designed deliver an experience that converts.
What’s the best way to get such a site designed and built? The options are numerous. If you have an expert web designer on your staff, then you can handle it in-house. If you know enough about the trade yourself, then you can prepare a spec and farm it out to freelancers – either a web designer or multiple talents, including a graphic designer, a web developer and so forth. If you’re looking for a contracted party to take the lead in formulating a vision and ensuring that it comes to life effectively and efficiently, then an agency is the way to go.
Web Design Agency Attributes That Matter
Once you've decided that a web design agency is best for the specifics of your situation, you're faced with another tough decision – how to determine whether or not a given agency is the right match for your project.
As with any working dynamic, individual personality and the expectations of both parties play a role in how smoothly work is completed. That said, there are several key components that you want to find in a web design service that goes beyond technical skill and creative talent.
Below are some of the attributes that can make or break your working relationship. Look for them and assess candidates accordingly, so as to maximize the chances that you’ll end up with a website that serves your business well.
1. Understanding that Utility Trumps Aesthetics
Of course, you want your website to look good, as do your potential customers – aesthetics do matter. But what matters more is the user experience. Your website needs to be accessible, intuitive and welcoming, and it needs to function smoothly. You want visitors to your site to get a real sense of your expertise and value proposition without having to jump through hoops.
A great agency will be bent on understanding the best way to present your brand, your company’s accomplishments, values, and culture. The agency should also focus on the particulars of your sales pipeline so that your site will support the way you do business.
You want an agency that makes sure your content drives the design, and not the reverse. You also need an agency that can see the flow of your website through the eyes of a first-time visitor.
2. Adhering to Systems and Beliefs
When encountering a company that claims to be able to take on any project, it’s easy to forget that Jacks of all trades are masters of none. These types of teams end up reinventing themselves for every new client, which makes them inefficient, and their output unfocused.
The best way to make sure that you are using your own resources efficiently is to find a service that specializes in the type of product that you need. For example, if you’re in the business of capturing leads from prospective B2B customers so you can nurture them over time and eventually close, then you probably want to go with a company that specializes in creating sites optimized for inbound marketing performance.
3. A Documented and Proven Track Record
With most website visitors deciding whether to stay or to bounce within 15 seconds of arrival, you don’t have much leeway to offer a sub-optimal experience. You want a website that will dazzle, and you want a design agency you can trust to do the job. That means you need a company with a proven track record – not just a lot of energy and a decent eye.
Make sure you hire a team that has a history of creating sites that drive business.
The best agencies will have performance data, client testimonials and case studies prominently displayed on their sites. For extra due diligence, you can ask for references and touch base with the agency’s previous clients to make sure that you are getting the caliber of designer you need.
4. Contributing to Website Business Performance
Any agency worthy of your consideration needs to focus on your site’s content, marketing and sales performance as part of the services rendered.
We’re not just talking about crafting the front end and infrastructure to power performance and then handing the keys over to you. Rather, your agency should keep an eye on site performance following its launch and should have the wherewithal to enhance performance.
They understand SEO and build sites from the ground up with SEO in mind. They have a vision of how you should build out your content and drive traffic to it. They care about and can walk you through conversion rate optimization (CRO) experiments. Being mobile-friendly is important to them, and high standards of mobile accessibility drive their processes.
5. With You for the Long Haul
There are plenty of agencies out there that handle web design projects as one-offs. The superior ones view their clients as partners for long-term relationships.
If you hire someone on the quick, then you are at risk of getting a fly-by-night product. Better find the people who not only know their business but will learn yours too, as they’re interested in serving your web design needs for years to come.
It’s obvious that working with the same excellent people down the road makes your life easier, but also, when you know that you’re laying the foundation for potential mutual success over several years, it changes everything about the way both parties approach the output. Nowadays websites are continually being improved and optimized, with agile, incremental, ongoing maintenance having become an important part of the web publishing landscape.
Finding a Match for Your Web Design Needs
When you select a web design agency, you need a team with a proven track record, a business perspective that mirrors your own, a sense of utilitarian user experience, the ability to deliver more than infrastructure, and an interest in contributing to your success for many years.
When all of these pieces are in place, the odds are good that you’ve found a service that provides significant value for the indefinite future, as your company grows. Choose wisely, and reap the rewards.