You’re a new business looking for high-quality website design, but you don’t know where to start.
Maybe you’re an established business owner looking to revamp your current design to make a more responsive website.
No matter which bucket you fall into, one thing is certain: your online presence matters, especially in the digital age. Great web design can be hard to come by, especially if you don’t know what to look for in web design companies.
Let’s dive into how to choose the right web design agency for your goals, and how you can make sure that they will be a good fit for you.
What is a web design agency?
A web design agency doesn’t necessarily have to specialize solely in web design services. In fact, you’ll find that most creative agencies offer web design services. Don’t just sign up for the first one you check out, or the cheapest one however.
Digital agencies do a ton of different things and vary in size, price, clientele, and the way that they work. While this may be your knee-jerk reaction, the best place to start is actually by looking at design agencies.
This is typically where the best graphic designers live. While design agencies do fall under the creative agency umbrella, you’ll find a lot more web design case studies and testimonials here than you would at a creative agency. They typically showcase their video production (commercials) and ad work.
Why you need a good web design agency.
Your website is the equivalent of the foyer of your house, or the inside of your retail store. Customers may be drawn in by that glamorous facade, but the state of your foyer will dictate whether or not they will stay for tea.
You may dedicate a lot of budget to your ad campaigns and marketing efforts, but nothing will draw potential customers away faster than a badly designed website.
Working with a web design agency ensures that your online store, or informational website is relevant for your target audience and can help with search engine optimization. The designers involved in a website redesign or building a website, have specialized knowledge of your target audience and what will resonate best with them.
It is their responsibility to ensure that the visual identity of your company is represented in the most lucrative way possible, down to where to draw your customer’s eye first when they visit your website for the first time.
The designers who work at these agencies have had to go through a rigorous vetting process just to land that job.
How much should your website cost?
The price of a great website largely depends on the avenue you are taking to get there. For example, working with a freelance designer may be more cost-effective than an in-house team, but their timelines may not be reliable.
Freelance designers typically charge around $100 an hour to design your website. Working with a freelance designer also means that the likelihood of them being available for ongoing changes is slim.
In-house design teams have reliability on their side and the advantage of knowing your brand inside and out. The reason why midsize companies don’t just hire in-house designers right away is because in-house teams are paid salaries and benefits. The average salary of an in-house web designer ranges from the mid 60s to $100k per year.
Working with a design agency will typically require a retainer or a flat monthly rate. One thing to consider is that a lot of agencies require upfront payment and a minimum commitment. Even if you finish your project early. This is why doing thorough research is so important.
Who are the designers?
When shopping for a design agency, consider who is working for them. Many times, design companies will offshore their creative work. This means that the designers and project managers who are working on your project, may not be employed by the design company.
It’s important to understand the vetting process that the service uses, because you may be assigned a design team right away, but what tools are they using? Are they truly experts in web design or are they just winging it until they figure it out?
Choose a design company that fully vets their creatives, beyond just sifting through a nice portfolio. When you are on your introductory call with a potential agency or service, always, always ask how they vet their creatives.
What to look for:
Fully vetted creatives: This means that creatives are either employed with the design company, or are not chosen solely based on their alma mater and portfolio. Are they given a challenge project before they are hired in order to ensure that their skills are as fine tuned as their portfolio suggests?
Transparency: When you ask about their creatives and whether or not they are freelancers, was the representative fully transparent? If a company says that their creatives are US-based, go on Linkedin and verify that information before signing the dotted line. If they are not transparent about who they work with, don’t sign with them.
No matter how low their price might seem.
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Why clientele matters.
It may be tempting to sign with the agency that works with bombshell brands. Seeing those big names in that slider on their homepage is proof that this or that agency is the very best in the game.
And we want the very best for our brands, right?
We don’t necessarily recommend signing with the big fish if you are a medium fish. Think of it this way: If a design company works primarily with enterprise brands, their pricing is going to be enterprise pricing. Another thing to consider is that their account managers may not be as invested in your needs as they would that of Amazon or Target.
We’re not telling you to sign with a tiny design service that focuses on small businesses. You just want to make sure that their primary clientele represents the size of your brand. This way, you can rest assured that you’re going to be taken care of properly and that they are familiar with the needs of a business of your size.
The last point that we want to bring up is project management. Marketers don’t really consider this often enough when it comes to creative projects, but it really matters.
Some web design agencies assign clients a creative team and it’s up to you to not only set timelines, plan the project, give feedback, and take the reins, but also manage that creative team yourself. For a simple site map, this may not be such a big issue. But if you’re looking for something more hands-on, then this may overwhelm your bandwidth and frustrate you.
There are design companies out there that do assign a project manager, but this project manager may be assigned for a higher premium, or based on the size of your company.
Make sure that you know exactly what you need out of your web design project management, and ask about project management on the introductory call.
Helpful questions to ask when vetting creative agencies.
Choosing the right design agency for your needs doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some helpful questions you can ask on your introductory calls. Just make sure that you have your ideal answers organized before the call. This will make your own vetting process easier and ensure that you are committing to the best possible choice for you.
What is the vetting process for your creatives?
Are your designers US-based, or are they global?
Do you offer creative direction or project management?
If so, is that an extra premium or is it included in my package?
What is the project management process? Does my creative director manage the team or do I do that?
What is your primary clientele base? (note: if they say that it’s a good mix of enterprise and mid-sized companies, ask them to clarify)
Have you ever designed for [your industry]?
How does pricing work? Am I required to commit to a specific amount of time, or can I cancel my engagement whenever I want?
In the end, choosing the right web design agency comes down to your own needs and goals as a company. For more information on web design, stay tuned for our next blog post: Everything You Should Know Before a Website Redesign.