Your website is probably the cornerstone (or should be anyway!) of your digital marketing efforts. When it comes time to redesign or build your first website, choosing the right partner is critical. It’s going to be a little bit like getting married, but without the romance.
This will be a major investment for you business. It will likely cost quite a lot of money, and will definitely take a considerable amount of time. This investment warrants careful consideration before you pop the question! Aside from any internal procurement policies your organization may require, here are some points for you to reflect on, and actions you can take to help find a great partner agency.
Define Your Criteria
While you might be looking for an agency to help you decide the features of your website, it is important that you come with good idea of the type of site you need, and how it fits into your digital strategy. If you are looking for an e-commerce site vs. a portfolio site, you might want to look for an agency that specializes in e-commerce.
Also know if there are any absolute requirements that you have, such as a specific technology that your site must interact with. Perhaps you are a performance venue, and your ticketing software is not going to change. Your web design agency will need to be able to work with and around your required tech.
Put together a list of tech you new site must work with, such as CRMs, Ticketing Software, Data Bases etc. and ask if the agency can work with them.
Determine a Budget
Money is going to be the elephant in the room when interviewing agencies. You are going to want to know ahead of time what you are willing to spend. But before you come up with a budget number, take some time to think about the value of your web site, not just the cost.
What’s the difference?
Cost is simple, that’s how much money you pay for something. Value is what you will gain as a result of the transaction. The value of a new car, for example, is not just 1500 lbs of steel, glass and rubber. Instead, you gain the ability to travel distances in comfort and convenience. It can also be a projection of your status and beliefs (Nissan Leaf or Hummer?). Similarly, your website is more than a collection of graphics and text files.
Your new website will be your public face on the internet. It can be an important channel of communication with your customers, or the store front for your product. It can give you new abilities to capture leads and convert them to paying customers.
Use the above to consider an appropriate budget for you project. With that number, you can filter your candidate agencies a little. Some agencies prefer big projects starting at $50K, others are more comfortable with $5K projects. Your not going to want an agency that does $50K projects working on your $5K project, and vice versa.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the criteria you came up with here. An e-commerce website with custom CMS and CRM integration will be much more expensive than a traditional 5 page brochure website.
Using your criteria, and the value of a new website to your business, come up with a number you are comfortable spending. Many agencies are quite public about the range of budgets they work in.
Look at What They’ve Done
Every agency will have a portfolio. Don’t just look at the screen shots though. Take some time to visit the websites they built. Are they fast? Easy to use? Look at them on your smart phone too. Like physical products, it’s the little details that sets a quality job apart from the rest.
Some designers and agencies are very flexible, and others have a very distinct style. That’s not a bad thing, but you want to be sure the style suits your brand and style too.
Check out the portfolio, and visit a few websites the agency has built. Make sure that’s the kind of product you would want your name on.
Get to Know Them
You’ve found an agency that can do the job, the budget suits them, and their aesthetic suits you, but your not done. Take a little time to get to know them. Not only will you spend a lot of time working on this project, but a good agency will be in touch with you after the project is done too.
Take note of the style and timeliness of correspondence and replies. Be clear about your preferred method of communication, be it email, phone, face to face or text message. Make sure you are comfortable with the individuals you are dealing with, and that they are with you too. Status update meetings shouldn’t feel like getting a box of your things from your exes apartment. This really will be like a marriage, and you want it to be a happy, healthy one!
Make sure you are happy with, and understand the conversations you have had with an agency at this point. Also be sure that they understand you, and that you enjoy the way they communicate.