10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Agency
Investing in a new website is be a pretty big undertaking for most small and medium businesses. Often it means shelling out a significant chunk of your annual marketing budget in exchange for marketing material that you’ll use every single day for the next few years.
Whatever web design agency you choose to work with had better know what they’re doing and have the work samples to prove it. And while you should trust the professionals to do their job well, it’s still important to vet them properly so that you end up with a design team that understands your vision and can deliver on it at a price that works for you.
So how do you go about hiring a web design agency, anyway? Let these 10 questions guide you on your quest.
1. Can you provide examples of websites you’ve designed?
One of the first things to do when considering a web design agency is to look at samples of their work. You want to find someone whose past projects have the same vibe that you’re going for with your new website.
Yes, you should think the other websites look nice — and don’t work with a designer if you don’t think their work is good. But you should also connect with it on an emotional level. When you look at their other projects, the little voice in your head should say, “Ooh, yes! THAT one!!!”
If you’re not excited by the other websites an agency has designed, chances are you won’t be excited by what they come up with for your brand. And if you’re not excited or moved by your own website, how can you expect your potential customers to get excited about your company? (You can read more about what customers want to see on your website in our previous blog.)
2. What kind of results can I expect from a website you design?
Your website needs to be able to perform, and whatever design agency you work with should be able to show results. Websites from top agencies should load faster, rank higher, and present a more cohesive brand image than other sites. If an agency you’re considering can’t show those kinds of results, it’s a pretty good sign you should keep looking.
Want to know exactly how the sites we’ve designed are doing? Check out some of our work.
3. Do you use templates or design from scratch?
There’s a pretty big divide in the web design world between designers who use templates and those who start from scratch on each project. We’ve seen our fair share of each, and while you can end up with a decent website through either method, we prefer designing from scratch and coding by hand each time. Here’s why …
Imagine that you just shelled out $7,000-$12,000 for a major piece of custom digital real estate. The website looks beautiful, and you’re thrilled to show it off … until you realize that it looks eerily similar to about 15 other websites that same agency built.
If we had to guess, we’d say you probably would feel a bit cheated. At the very least, you probably wouldn’t be thrilled.
Starting from scratch with each new website we build lets us adapt our designs to your specific needs while giving you a look that’s all your own. And in our eyes, there’s really nothing better than a site that’s 100% your own.
4. Can you explain the changes you would make to my website?
Good design isn’t arbitrary, and a good agency knows that. Any designer you work with should be able to back up their choices and clearly explain why it’s the right decision. If they can’t, they may be trying to stretch the scope of your project in order to charge you more. Approach these agencies with the utmost caution, and be very careful when negotiating with them.
We’ve explained some of our most frequent design decisions in our recent blog, “15+ Stats You Should Know When Redesigning Your Website.”
5. Will my website be mobile-responsive?
Websites that aren’t mobile-responsive are a rip-off, plain and simple. More than half of all website visits come from smartphones now, and that’s expected to increase dramatically in coming years.
So while you still need a standard desktop version of your site, a mobile version should be your priority … and any web design agency that tells you otherwise isn’t worth your money.
6. Do you test the website before launching?
Testing may be the most important part of building a website because it highlights gaps in functionality and user-friendliness. Nobody wants to pay for a site that breaks the first time someone clicks away from the homepage or that only looks right on one specific browser.
Not testing a site before launching is like not tasting a soup before you serve it — there’s simply no way to tell if you’re delivering something that’s high quality. And if an agency doesn’t test for quality, you’ve got to wonder: Where else are they cutting corners?
A web design agency that’s good at what they do will test every function of your website multiple times on at least the 4 main browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge/Internet Explorer). They’ll test both the desktop and mobile versions from Apple, Windows, and Google devices.
7. Can you help me with logos and images for my site?
Websites need images and logos to engage your visitors and give them a feel for your company. If you’re building a website for the first time, those images have to come from somewhere, and if you’re redesigning your current site, you may need to revamp your brand’s entire aesthetic to bring it up to date.
While this one isn’t make or break, it’s certainly easier on you if the web design agency you choose to work with can also help out on a logo design or sourcing some of the imagery. We’ve been known to help our clients out with a new logo here and there, and we even helped Foot & Ankle Center find a photographer to take photos for their site redesign.
8. Will I own my website once it launches?
You may not know this, but some web design agencies retain ownership of the sites they build. This makes it hard for you to make changes as needed down the road, and can even allow them to repurpose your design and content for other clients.
Look for an agency that gives you full ownership and copyright of any marketing asses they create for you, like websites, logos, mobile apps, etc. It’s common practice to allow them to use your website (or other materials) in their portfolio and distribute it to their social media channels and email lists. But uses, like copying your site for a competitor, should be strictly forbidden.
9. What is included in the price?
This is a question you should be very clear on before signing an agreement to work with a web design agency. Websites can already sometimes be pricey projects, so it’s important to be crystal clear on what you’re signing up for.
Does the price they quote you include a mobile version of the site? Will it include an special features, like scheduling capabilities, a members-only area, or an app? How will they bill for extra work that wasn’t in the original project scope? How many rounds of revisions will they provide? How much will you need to pay upfront, and will there be any payment milestones throughout the build?
While the answers to these questions are really up to each specific agency, be sure that the answers they provide fit within your expectations and what you’re comfortable with paying.
10. What do you need from me to get started?
You’ve made it through the interview process and found an agency you’re really excited to work with. All that’s left is to sign the paperwork and let them do their magic, right?
Not necessarily. Most agencies still need information from you about your website, like access to your Google Analytics. They’ll likely also need assets from you like bios, brand logos, fonts, colors, and proprietary imagery. On top of that, we like to schedule a call with our clients to discuss the project schedule and fill out a visual style assessment to get a feel for their design preferences.
Asking this question also shows the agency you’re eager to cooperate in getting the project started, ultimately plays a big role in how smoothly your website redesign goes.
Want to know what happens after your new website launches? Check out our previous blog
Ready to revamp your website?
Here at Trajectory Web Design, we believe wholeheartedly that your website should be both beautiful and functional. If yours is lacking in either department, we’re here to help. Fill out the form on the Contact page to get started … and don’t forget to ask us any questions you have.
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