There are literally thousands of options when it comes to hiring a web design firm, and finding the right fit for your company can be time consuming and stressful. With so much competition in the marketplace, it can be difficult to know what to look for when selecting an agency partner.
Your website is one of your most valuable and visible marketing assets. While you may only care about getting your website up and running as quickly as possible, choosing the wrong partner can be a costly mistake. Web design agencies are far from being created equal. So, to help you narrow the field, here are the top 4 traits you should look for to make sure you’re partnering with a truly great web design agency.
The best web design firms become the best because of their employees. Since agencies provide services rather than products, they're only as good as the people they employ.
The top web design firms understand this and make it a point to hire the right designers for their team because they can't afford to make mistakes in such a fast-paced environment.
The importance of user experience in web design is a big factor when it comes to hiring web designers versus graphic designers. So too is dealing with designers that only have experience working with templates.
Often you will see that the best web design agencies have talent with 7-15 years of experience in design and they'll have a Creative Director oversee everything.
2. A Well-Defined Process
One of the best indicators that you're working with a top notch web design company is whether or not they have a well-defined web design process that's been tested and refined over time. The best web design firms establish a clear process to ensure that goals and deadlines are met, and ultimately, to better serve their clients.
At The Creative Momentum, our typical web design process looks like this:
The purpose of the discovery phase is to identify the client's goals, objectives, and vision. It all starts with a kick-off meeting, followed by in-depth stakeholder interviews where we ask clients to clearly define their goals for the new website. We cover everything from technical requirements, competitor sites, aesthetic preferences, content requirements, SEO, analytics, and more.
Sitemap, Wireframes & Information Architecture
The next phase in our design process is to create a sitemap outlining the general architecture for the pages of the website. The sitemap is a list — either visual or text — of pages to be developed and the hierarchy of how those pages will be navigated on the website. Having a well organized sitemap lays the groundwork for the physical development of the product.
From there, we move into wireframing. Wireframes, similar to a blueprint for a house, are a schematic of the page layout, including necessary form functionality, navigational elements, what content will be placed where, and any other functional UX considerations.
UI/UX Design Strategy
Once the blueprint for the site has been defined through the creation of the sitemap and wireframes, the next phase is where the visual layout of the website begins to take shape.
Our team researches users within the context of their unique environments, collecting important information about typical users in order to create a well-informed view of the visual experience.
In-depth research grows insights and brings light additional strategies. This ensures ease of use of the design, and reduces the need for expensive re-work before an investment is made in development. Ultimately, the methods enable the web design team to innovate and remain focused on the user.
Custom design comps are created and presented for a full design review – 2-3 rounds of comprehensive revisions are pretty normal. If you see “unlimited revisions” – run! This simply means they cannot hit the vision, but are trying to make up for it in promising never-ending revisions.
Development begins once designs are approved, and involves the bulk of the programming work, as well as loading content (whether it's created by our team or the client’s).
Development also includes making the website responsive for mobile and tablet devices.
Testing & QA
While this should be an iterative process throughout the project, it includes full review by the design and development team. It also allows for user acceptance testing where you as the client have the ability to go thru test cases to make sure everything looks and works great prior to launching the website.
Launch & Training
The best of the best web design firms can host your website (through one of their partners) so you don't have to deal with it and they will often provide training on the content management system at the end of the project so that you can become familiar with changing text and photos as you need.
The goal is NOT to take your website hostage in making changes, but to provide ongoing backups and dealing with all the things you don't have time for.
3. Services and Capabilities
While hiring the best web design firm you can find is important and a big factor in your decision, it shouldn’t be the only factor. There are many advantages to hiring a full-service agency on top of finding the best web design firm. It goes back to the architect and engineer discussion. An architect needs to consult with the engineer to make sure their design and vision can actually function and work the way it is intended to.
Having SEO in-house can be very helpful when developing out your website with best SEO practices and those 301 redirects you need to consider. Last, what about content editing needs? While you may be writing the content, it may be worthwhile to get your agency to help with content editing and on-page SEO optimization for your new website.
4. Acting as Partner vs. Vendor
Many clients are looking for a web design firm to be their partner versus vendor when taking on their project. Clients often take on website redesign projects in addition to their daily duties and are already strapped for time.
Asking clients to come to the table with every detail is nearly impossible and also doesn't make sense given that they are not the experts in this field. A great web design firm will take the time to come up with new ideas or alternatives to certain situations or goals the client is trying to accomplish.
In summary, the best web design firms have a portfolio that speaks for itself and is very diversified in their clients. Take the time to ask about the team that would be working on your upcoming project. With great web design firms, you generally get a great feeling from the very first person you speak with at the company-they are pretty consultative in helping you get what you need.
Want to know more about the web design process? Check our our eBook which outlines the entire web design process from start to finish.