8 steps to take before choosing a web design agency
Introduction: it’s all about the portfolio
There are hundreds of web design agencies out there, and each should have a portfolio of work for your perusal. Last month, we introduced you to 11 key questions to ask a web agency before hiring them. Now we’re digging deeper and giving you 8 steps to investigate on your own before choosing a web design agency. The most important aspect of any digital agency is their portfolio. Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio. Before making any decisions, take the time to really look at the work of the agency, or agencies, you’re considering.
Test drive client websites
Most often, a web agency’s portfolio will include images and screenshots of the work they’ve produced for their clients. Visuals on portfolio pages are great, but don’t just rely on them. Go to each project’s individual website and take a look around. If the agency’s portfolio speaks about creating an interactive projects map for a mining client, don’t just take their word for it. Go to the URL for that mining company and test the map yourself. Clicking around websites will give you a good sense of the agency’s capabilities, from how they chose to lay out information to how pathways through the site work.
Know which parts of a project the agency worked on
The best web design agency portfolio pages have a sorting function where users can see their levels of experience and participation in different projects. Knowing how much an agency contributed is important, as many digital agencies specialize in particular areas. If you are a smaller public company in need of branding materials, make sure the agency you’re looking at offers branding as a service.
Make sure their portfolio includes experience in your industry
The way websites are laid out best varies exponentially depending on the industry. If you’re a mining company and looking at a portfolio full of tech companies and retail outlets, that agency may not be the best fit. Why? Well, staying with the mining company example, a mining website may need an easy to navigate projects section identifying the different exploration, development, and producing locations. Similarly, if you’re a public company, look at web design agencies that specialize in public company websites and know all the regulations.
How do their projects treat the most important sections for your company?
What is the most important aspect for users to see when landing on your website? For most public companies, it’s usually the investors section. When investigating different web design agency portfolios, have an idea of the most important section of your future website, whether it’s the mission and vision statement section, the investor highlights page, or the email signup space. See how the agency lays out these areas. Are you satisfied them? If you’re really excited about creating an investor highlights page, but every project you look through doesn’t have that feature, that agency might not be the one for you.
All their websites should have a favicon
Wondering what that word means? (Side note: it’s a great one to know for pub trivia). A favicon, or ‘shortcut icon’ is a file containing the small icons you see on the top left corner on a website tab, in your bookmarks, as your URL icon, etc. A web designer will create and upload a site’s favicon, and web browsers will then use the file. Does the website agency you’re considering make use of favicons in their client websites? It’s a small element, sure, but highlights professionalism and website smarts.
Check to see how the agency’s projects handle email signups
If you’re a public company, this one is especially crucial. Most companies want an option somewhere on their website for users to input their email, name, etc. and receive items such as a weekly newsletter, latest company updates, or news releases. When looking at a web agency’s portfolio, see how they handle email signups. Go to one of the agency’s client sites and sign up. How did the process go? Did you receive an email right away? What did that email look like? How does the unsubscribe function work? Every public company knows that emailing investors and interested parties are both crucial and regulated. Make sure you’re choosing a web design agency who can keep up with your company’s email demands.
Test all their websites on mobile and tablet
We can’t say it enough: responsive, responsive, responsive design! At this point, if your new website won’t have mobile and tablet capabilities, you’re not choosing the right agency. As you look through the agency’s portfolio, take out your phone and test each website they’ve created on mobile. How does the site function? Can you read everything clearly, and navigate to where you need to go?
Study the content strategy of previous projects
Often, one of the most important and time consuming aspects for a web design agency is deciding how information will be presented in an easy to navigate way. Even if you already have a website, a good website design agency will take a look at the flow of information and how content is presented and make suggestions for improvements. Click through the websites of previous projects and take note at how easy or hard it is to get around. Does it make sense where the website places the team bios, mission statement, projects, etc? Are drop-downs confusing, or do you understand exactly where you’re headed when you click a button?
Conclusion: take time to research and test drive
Choosing a website design agency shouldn’t only about which sites are prettiest. Once you’ve decided that your company needs a website redesign, do your homework and research what type of design company is the best for you. If you’re a mining or metals company, check out how the agency lays out their client projects pages. If you love your vision and mission statement, see how different agencies display them on their sites. The finished product will be worth the work, we promise!