Choosing the Right Web Design Agency

  • Choosing the Right Web Design Agency

    As with any business decision or investment it is imperative that you make the right choice for this vital partnership. Selecting a Creative Design & Web agency can be a minefield, with endless jargon and significant differences in cost and quality.

    Here are some simple pointers to help you select the right partner for your business.

    Do you need Branding or any Design for Print, as well as Web Services?

    This may seem like an odd point to start with, but it’s a very important one. Many web companies are exactly that, they are entirely web based, and although they may offer complementary design services, they are not necessarily trained graphic designers with knowledge and experience of print.

    If you are seeking professional branding, then apart from creative ability, your chosen partner also needs this specialized knowledge. The correct design methods using the appropriate software packages, will be essential in order to provide you with artwork in industry standard formats suitable for print.

    For example, logo files should be provided as ‘vector’ files, which means they can be scaled up to any size without any loss in quality at all. Professional printers will typically expect and ask for artwork in this way and failure to supply it will result in a lower quality finish to any collateral you have produced.

    To be fair, the converse can also be true, in that some creative agencies are proficient at design, but don’t necessarily have the technical ability to build websites. This is because design and development are also very different skill sets, and without having developers as well as designers any web solutions delivered will likely be very basic in functionality.

    In summary the key skills can be categorized as ‘design for print’ (typically a designer with these skills shouldn’t have an issue designing for web, as this is considered more technical), ‘design for web’ and ‘web development’.

    The solution to this, is either to find an agency that can clearly demonstrate expertise in these areas, or to find separate partners specializing in each area, that are prepared to work together.

    Do you Require a Bespoke Solution?

    Clearly, a professionally designed bespoke website is going to be far more effective at portraying your brand, than an off-the-shelf template.

    Of course there are some good premium templates available, but however good the template is, you may still be limited, because the significantly lower cost typically expected with a template solution, means that a web agency will not be able to commit the level of resources required to customize the template.

    Colour schemes and fonts can usually be changed, but layout changes will typically be beyond the brief of customizing a template website.

    The functionality may also be limited by your chosen theme and the associated platform (if it’s based on a content management system).

    Given the choice and available budgets, our recommendation would always be bespoke for flexibility, individuality and a more professional ‘on brand’ look and feel. (95% of our own work is bespoke). This also means that more advanced features and functionality will not be limited by a pre-defined template.

    Do you need Content Management?

    Content management systems (CMS) are becoming increasingly desirable and considered the norm these days, because it means that you can update your own website using a simple interface similar to a word processing application.

    A CMS will typically allow you to change text and images, upload files, embed videos, and even add pages, as well as more advanced functionality such as user management/permissions, depending on the nature of the website.

    However, it is worth considering whether you will need to make many amendments to your site after launch, since a bespoke website, without CMS, can be produced for a significantly lower cost. Of course if you intend to add content regularly, to a blog for example, then a CMS is going to be really important for you.

    If you’ve decided you do need a CMS, then the next consideration is which platform is most appropriate for you? This question may highlight or expose the technical ability of your web partner. Some will have expertise in one specific platform and therefore actively promote a single platform; Wordpress being one of the more common of these. You can read more about this specifically with our previous article

    Is Wordpress all it's Cracked Up to Be?’

    Without going into too much detail or repeating too much of the aforementioned article, our recommendation would typically be Drupal, as this is considered to be one of the most robust, flexible and secure platforms.

    However we also firmly believe that the requirement should influence the chosen platform, rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and, in some cases, an entirely bespoke CMS, which is built from the ground up, may also be required in order to meet a clients brief and ensure maximum scalability in future.

    Where will Images be sourced from?

    This is a simple but important point, which with a professional, credible agency should not really be a concern, since they will typically source legitimate images from stock photo websites.

    Of course, if you intend to have your own bespoke pictures taken this will not be an issue. However, it is still prudent to be aware of the restrictions, since it is your responsibility to ensure you have the legal right to use images on your website (and also in any printed collateral).

    Sourcing images from ‘Google Images’ is almost certain to infringe copyright rules.

    Apart from the legal aspect, of course, quality images will really enhance the look and feel of a site, just as low quality images will detract from it.

    For further reading on this topic feel free to read one of our previous articles

    A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words’.

    Who owns the website?

    Naturally you would assume that having paid for something, you therefore own it.

    We have found a number of instances where customers have paid in full for their website, only to find out later that the web designer’s terms and conditions stipulate that they retain ownership of the site, images and content.

    This is obviously engineered to force customers to remain with that company for all future services, but is often not highlighted at the beginning.

    A good web agency will transfer full ownership to you upon settlement of their invoice, preferring to retain customers based on quality service, rather than hidden clauses.

    Where will the website be hosted?

    Many web design companies will have their own hosting packages, and it can often be easier to opt for these because they are familiar with the hosting setup. This can avoid potential problems as well as making implementation and future support easier and more efficient for you.

    In addition they may have also invested in higher end technology (made viable due to hosting multiple websites), offering better performance and redundancy.

    However, if a company is adamant that they must host your website, this could be a potential cause for concern (In other words why are they insisting on this?), you should have the choice to host the site elsewhere, as long as the hosting package can support the website requirements.

    Project Duration

    This can be a difficult question to answer, due to the design and feedback process, which is critical to ensure you are happy with the end result.

    However it is important to know that your site will be completed in a sensible time frame and most providers should be able to give you an indication based on experience.

    Often delays to projects are caused because the customer has to find time to review and provide feedback, but a credible company should be able to provide solid time frames for initial mock designs as well as development times from the point of artwork approval.

    A snagging process is critical to ensure a website is fully tested prior to going live, and a sensible amount of time should always be allocated to this part of the process.

    Of course another key consideration before selecting a web design agency, is have you seen and do you like their portfolio, and have they got client testimonials to back this up?