#1 Question to Ask Your Web Design Agency
You know you need a website, or at the very least a new one. What you currently have just isn’t cutting it, its not bringing in the business, and isn’t presenting your company in the professional, compelling way it should—especially compared to your competitors. And you know what else – it can’t even be found when searching for your business.
The problem is that you don’t know where to begin, you’ve been given a ton of advise, your brother-in law’s girlfriend’s sister will do it for free (a huge mistake), or you just don’t like the idea of sending money on a website.
For most small businesses, hiring a web developer to have on staff isn’t really an option. That means you need to contract with an agency—and that presents a challenge, because there are many choices. Finding the right partner for your company isn’t always easy, but if you want a truly exceptional website that does everything you need it to do and grows your business, it’s critical.
How do you find the right agency? There are many ways to go about this, here are a few that we suggest to get started:
Step One: “What Do I Want My Website to Accomplish?”
Every company needs a website, but not every company wants or needs the same look, style, pages, or features. There are, of course, a number of basic goals that every site must accomplish—present a consistent and professional-looking brand, easily explain what your company does and why your customers need you, provide relevant (and accurate!) contact and location information. Beyond that, though, it’s worth thinking about what you really want and need your website to do for you. Here’s a small selection of potential goals:
Attract New Business
In 2017, most people locate and research businesses online before they buy. In practical terms, that means you not only need a website, but one that shows up on the first page of the search results. Staying on top of the rankings is an ongoing process that will require continued updates and maintenance (such as blogging regularly). But the way a website is built, coded, and optimized on the front end can influence whether it’s very easy (or very difficult) for search engine robots and algorithms to read and prioritize.
Generate, Track Leads, and Follow-Up so the Potential Business Becomes Yours
Let’s face it – you want a website that brings people through the door, calling your phone or ordering online. This is especially important for service-industry businesses and professionals, but increasingly mission-critical for all kinds of companies and industries. A phone-shy potential customer might not have the guts to pick up the phone (at least not yet), but a contact form might draw them in. At the same time, providing multiple opportunities for customers to signal their interest, request more info, place an order, call your business or download helpful information can help you attract, keep, and connect with qualified customers and clients that you can seamlessly bring into your business.
More and more companies are starting to sell their own products online, whether for shipment or in-store pickup. A slick e-commerce section can help you take, processes, and fulfill those orders and payments securely. Your website agency should know the ins and outs of not only building a rich e-commerce website but should also understand all the intricacies that go into making sure your orders process correctly and they should be able to help get or find the right people to pack/ship or align with to make sure the orders are delivered.
Protect Personal Information
If you are tracking leads through a contact form, or especially if you are processing payments, you need to be sure your website is able to process that data security. You have a legal obligation to do so, as well as a business incentive—data breaches can and will bankrupt you in a hurry.
You may hire an agency to build you a website, and you may even contract with an agency to maintain or develop new content for that site. Some business owners want to be as hands-off as possible, and that’s fine (to a point). However, even in that scenario, most companies are going to want a website with a simple content management system (for example, WordPress) so that employees with login access and with the right permissions can update content or make changes easily on their own.
Educate Your Customers
Every website must present a clear sense of what the company offers, of course, but for some businesses that’s a more difficult proposition than others. Say you own a restaurant, you probably don’t need lengthy articles on the science of digestion. Companies that offer more complicated professional services (medical, legal, marketing, IT, consulting, etc.), will want to provide a more expansive library of resources and information about the services they offer and the problems they can help their customers and clients solve.
Reviews, Testimonials, Accomplishments
Third-party validation is critical, especially in certain industries. Awards, news clippings, case studies, testimonials—incorporating these on your website and displaying them prominently can establish your credibility with prospective new customers.
Take some time to think really hard about what you want your website to do for your business. Take a look at the sites of some of your competitors or leaders in your industry. What do you like about them? What do you not like? What should you do differently so that your company stands out (this is another area that the agency should help you with)? You don’t have to know everything with 100% certainty before you start working with a website design agency, but thinking through these issues in advance will help focus your thoughts and help you find a partner that offers a good fit for your business.
Step Two: Finding the Right Web Design Agency to Partner With
Now that you have an idea of what you want your website to do, you need to go out and find an agency that can build it for you. Below, you’ll find four key signs of a good agency partner.
They Have a Portfolio and Get Results
Sure, uncle Bob or cousin Mary might do a little web design work on the side. But if you’re going to entrust the online face of your company to someone, you’d better make sure it’s someone that knows and has a trusted reputation, you need a web design agency with a track record. Do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask for examples of work, references or testimonials. If the agency sends you screenshots of homepages they’ve built, search those companies to see if their websites are still live. If they are, take a few minutes to review them. Do they look good on desktop and mobile? Are they easy to navigate? You might even consider reaching out to these clients and ask them about their experience with the agency.
They LISTEN to You AND Provide Constructive Feedback
You’re the expert when it comes to your business and industry. The agency is the expert when it comes to web development and marketing. If you want the best possible website, both sides have to provide insight, listen to each other, and work together. Be skeptical of an agency that won’t listen to you and tries to shoehorn you into a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter project. Be equally skeptical of an agency that cheerfully agrees with and supports everything you say and never pushes back or offers contrasting advice or guidance.
They Design Sites for Multiple Industries – This is CRITICAL.
Certainly, partnering with an agency that has experience in your industry can be a plus, for obvious reasons. But be wary of companies that work exclusively with one or two industries. Specialization has its advantages, but you’re much more likely to receive an automated, cookie-cutter design and feel that’s no different from dozens of others in your industry. You may even get a bunch of identical content copy (a big-time no-no for your Google rankings).
On the flipside, building successful sites for companies in a variety of different industries is a good indication that your agency will truly take the time to understand what you do and create a website that’s unique and helps you stand out.
They Do More Than Just Websites
Agencies that only build websites probably know how to make your website look pretty, but what’s going on under the hood? Is it going to perform in Google and get you business? Once the project is over, will you have the tools you need to develop an effective marketing strategy around it? Will they be there for you in the long haul?
By contrast, well-rounded agencies that also provide services like content development, digital marketing, video, strategy, social media marketing, SEO, etc. and should give you confidence that they will be there for you as your business grows. The obvious advantage, of course, is that you can have a single agency handle not only your website development but also your ongoing digital marketing efforts in a way that’s convenient, efficient, and effective. But even if you’re planning to handle the post-launch marketing on your own, hiring a web developer experienced in marketing is a huge advantage. Simply put, if the agency does digital marketing, and understands the importance of digital marketing, they’re going to build you a website optimized with digital marketing in mind.
In the end, spend time and get to know the agency you hire. Make sure it’s the right fit for you and the right fit for the agency. Don’t accept one size fits all approach. Biggest question you should ask your website developer – “How are you going to make me better than everyone else?” And they should have an answer for that!