A website is the online gateway to your business. It is the face of your brand and your reputation, and will be the first touchpoint with your business for many potential customers.
This will be where regular, loyal and new customers come to contact your teams, find products, consume content and exchange information.
It is where people can be transformed into brand advocates, sharing, recommending and talking about your business. And your website can place you either significantly a cut above, or below, the rest (your competitors).
Every element should be meticulously planned, scrutinised and rationalised, beginning with the most important decision of all – your website design company.
You must select a web design company that you can rely on and form a sustainable working relationship with. Someone with adequate experience across design, user-experience, functionality, and SEO. And of course, people you have good chemistry with, who you enjoy working with and feel you can trust.
You may have a website already and are thinking of undergoing a redesign, or perhaps you’re starting a new business and need something from scratch. Either way, these questions and points will be the most meaningful in helping you find that gem in an extremely competitive and saturated market.
First and foremost, ask yourself:
Do they need to be local?
For many SMEs, or those a little less experienced in the digital world, a local web design company could be better suited to your needs. Of course, technology makes it much easier to communicate with businesses across the globe: Skype, instant messaging, email etc. But that’s not for everyone.
Sometimes there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face meaning.
Having a local web design company means ongoing interaction and involvement throughout the process. It means being able to sit with the team and see your website on the big screen, having them talk you through each element and explain and rationalise each part of the user journey. It allows you to ask questions there and then, tackle problems and issues more quickly. That’s incredibly valuable for a small business.
What’s more, for a smaller business trying to tackle a more localised market, a local website agency will already have a grasp on localised SEO and any local competition. If you are a small cake business in Bedford, for example, without capacity or desire to expand beyond that boundary, your audience will be much more specific, as will your SEO and ongoing marketing requirements.
Identify your digital needs
It’s important to then outline exactly you’re expecting, and what is best suited to your business in terms of your digital requirements.
For some, it will simply be a brochure site: a catalogue of high-quality product imagery, brief pricing outlines and contact details.
For others, a deeper and more complex e-commerce site which keeps an inventory of your stock levels, product codes and pricing systems.
Can your potential web design agency support this functionality? Look at their pricing and see what packages they can provide. This will be simple to identify if you weigh it up against your business needs.
Will you require online marketing to generate traffic to the site following the build?
A good web design company will help you to set goals, but a great web design company will set purpose-orientated goals and guide you through the steps to get there, helping you create a self-sustaining website.
Ask your potential agency about the tools they use to measure site performance, and which metrics they will be analysing. Their knowledge of site performance and ongoing improvement is just as valuable as their talent for design. Website performance and stats must be stringently monitored and used to inform your marketing strategy to help you get the best results possible.
Are they PPC ninjas?
Yup, you read that right. We’re a rare breed. But some web design agencies will stay with you beyond the build, and a great web design company will elevate you across search engines using their majestic PPC skills.
PPC (Pay-per-click) is an advertising model which drives high amounts of traffic to your website, and fast. The advertiser pays the publisher a fee every time the ad is clicked. This is often needed in those early days after launch to get the ball rolling, and find suitable prospects
A great web design company will set out its PPC strategy and ideally offer a tiered service to meet the unique needs of every one of their clients. They will advise and inform you of the best strategy to get viable users exploring and interacting with your website.
Are their design capabilities flexible and suitable to your brand?
By taking a look at their own website, you’ll start to identify their design capabilities. If there is a portfolio section, go and explore some of the websites they’ve built for other clients. Are they easy to navigate with a pleasing user-experience? Are they professional-looking and aesthetically pleasing? To give you insight into how broad these capabilities are, you should look for a wide variety of sites. If their remit is very tight and specific and focused niche, and doesn’t embody the branding your business needs, they might not be the right fit for your design needs.
Check out their case studies and customer testimonials
Do they showcase their work and talk in depth about the support they have offered their clientele? Look for details such as how they might’ve helped a client overcome a high bounce rate, or engaged in local SEO. These are common challenges that are likely to crop up along your journey. The best web design agencies will have processes in place to help their clients conquer and overcome these challenges, enabling them to continually improve their online presence.
Set up a call or a meeting
During your initial conversation with the team, pay attention to how the asses your requirements. Are they approachable and helpful, asking the right questions? Do they appear knowledgeable yet open to your desires, goals and requirements? Are they interested in your long-term goals and objectives? This working relationship is likely to become long-term, so it’s important to have good chemistry and a mutual understanding of how both businesses like to work.
Above all, it’s important to have an agency that you have good chemistry with. At the end of the day, these are the people you will be working with on an ongoing basis. They should be open to your ideas, ask questions about your goals and objectives, your fears and your challenges. If the relationship is one-sided, it’s doomed to fail.