4 things to look for in a design agency

If you found this article, then maybe you've already decided that you need to invest some money into your online presence. This could be a new website, an advertising campaign or maybe you just need someone to look after it all for you. Finding the right person or design agency to work with is vital to the success of any project.

Let's take a look at some top things to look for when choosing a team or web developer to work with.

1. Do you get on with the design agency?

The relationship that you create with your designer / agency has the potential to be a long thing. Do you get on with them or do your personalities clash? If you have already started a conversation with them, was it hard work or was it natural. It's hard to put down in writing exactly what this means, but if your initial impression is not good, then walk away. A few years ago I went to buy a new car so I went with my wife to the local dealership to arrange a test drive. The car was great, but the salesman was really hard work. In the end we walked away and bought a car from somewhere else.

The crazy thing was that it was never about the car, it just dawned on me that when something went wrong these were the guys I'd have to deal with. That was a deal breaker for me. The very start of a project is the best time to make that decision, because it's much harder once the contracts are signed. That is why we take time to find out more about our clients before we take on a project. Both parties need to be comfortable for it to work.

2. Are you confident in their ability?

It doesn't matter whether we are talking about a one-man band or a large agency. Are you confident that they know what they are doing? If you have doubts then you need to iron them out before you start a project. Make sure you ask questions and are happy with the responses you get. If you are not confident in their ability, you won't trust their judgements and you will want to start micro-managing the whole project. This is not good for you (as I'm sure you've got more important things to be doing for your business) and it's definitely not good for the designer who needs to be able to make decisions that are best for the development of the site.

A few years ago I was asked to create a website for a local business. It soon became clear that the owner knew what he wanted for his new website. Unfortunately this was at the expense of usability and search engine results. In the end we parted ways. You need to see your developer / web design agency as an expert and give them the freedom to create something that you will both be happy with.

3. Do they listen to you?

Having said all of that, you need to work with someone that has taken the time to truly understand why you want a new website and what you want it to achieve. Like everything, this takes time to be done properly and will require some difficult conversations and probing questions to get to the bottom of your requirements. If your designer has handed you a price without asking those questions, then how do you know that they are listening to what you want? That is why we use a project application to ask the right questions. Following on from our application, we then arrange a meeting to really dig deep into your requirements before putting together our proposal.

4. Do the agency know what they are doing?

This can be a more difficult question to answer, especially if you are not technically minded. Let's put it another way...Have you seen their work? Can they explain it to you? Do they have solid testimonials from other people they have worked with? That should give you a great starting point for sussing them out. Once you've done that, here are a few key questions you can ask them and a few suitable answers:

Are their sites tested to ensure the code is valid?

A good web designer should be doing their best to make sure their code is up to standard. The design agency should be able to tell you some of things they do to test their sites. Personally, we build our sites on WordPress which deals with a lot of the fundamental issues and then use design frameworks such as genesis to ensure that our code is of high quality.

Do the agency offer ongoing maintenance packages?

What is the after care going to be like for you? You want to make sure that they offer good solid ongoing support to ensure that your website is going to last the long haul. We do this by offering website care plans to our customers.

How are they going to deal with Search Engine Optimisation?

You are going to want to get a good answer for this one. You need to know that they have done everything they can to get this right for your site. WARNING - technical stuff ahead. We make sure our website markup is properly formatted for SEO. We add meta descriptions to each page and optimise page content for SEO. This sometimes involves writing content specifically for your site to use certain keyword phrases.

Do they add schema.org markup for specific data such as your address and opening times - this will help with local search results. Will they register your sites with search engines and configure Google Analytics for your site? Do they offer ongoing SEO reporting to track your sites rankings? How do they make sure your site speed is optimised - this means optimising images and content. Do they make sure your site is mobile responsive (meaning it looks great on phones and tablets)?

What about security?

What do the design agency do to ensure your website is protected? We run through a series of additional security checks to harden your Wordpress installation to protect it from hackers. Are they going to monitor your site in case it gets hacked or infected with malware? Who is going to run updates to your website and test it regularly? We do this as part of our website care plans to ensure that your site is always at its best.

Next Steps

So hopefully you feel a little more prepared next time you need to talk to a web designer. If you are meeting one, why not take along the list of questions above to help you test the water. Most web designers are lovely people who know what they are doing, but like every industry there are always a few cowboys. If in doubt, walk away!

Hey, if you've enjoyed reading this list please feel free to like share it using the buttons on this page. Oh and if you are looking for someone to work with on your latest website project, then we would love to talk to you about it. You can find out more about how we work by checking out or getting started page.