Looking for a web design agency to build you a site that’s beautiful, functional, and on-brand? It can be a daunting task, narrowing down the thousands of companies out there. How can you pick out the best from so many skilled prospects?
It may be impossible to choose the “best” web design agency, but there are ways to make the process easier, and aspects you’ll want to look out for that mark a company as professional. Choose one that works well with you, and you’ll come out with an expertly-made website that’s sure to capture visitors.
Why You Need Web Design Services
Why not just create a website yourself? It’s cheaper, you can make it exactly the way you want, and it’s fairly easy to do if you’re using a CMS — especially since you can just install a theme, tweak some colors, and be done with it. Why bother with paid web design services?
While you may be able to make a functional website by yourself, developing one that looks great and captures your visitors with unique branding is another matter. Good design is important, and it’s difficult to do on your own – building a website requires a solid design and development skill set. Here are a few reasons to choose a professional web design agency.
First impressions are 94% design-related, so you need to make it count. If your website and web pages look like a generic, cookie-cutter WordPress theme, that’s sure to turn people off. The experts know just how important that first impression is, and how to make the most of it.
When users have a good experience on your website, there’s a good chance they’ll stick around. But if your UX is lacking, or your design doesn’t appeal to them, they’ll likely just leave.
By hiring a professional web design company, you’re working with people who know how to create a beautiful and functional website that appeals to users.
It Helps With Branding
You might not know that branding and web design are tightly knit concepts. Your website is the face of your company. Just like how the inside of a store — what it looks like, how well it’s maintained — defines its identity, your website leaves users with an impression on what your company is like.
Good branding also makes your organization memorable. Your colors, logo, the graphics you use on your website, even the tone of your writing — it all has an impact on how people perceive you, and whether you’ll be remembered or forgotten.
Web design agencies know not just how to tie in branding with design, but how to keep your branding consistent, and potentially even inbound marketing tactics to improve your copy and solidify your message.
Professionals Know What They’re Doing
Web design is a balance of visual appeal and usability, and it’s difficult to nail both if you’re not experienced. It’s hard enough to create a beautiful site with an appealing layout, memorable graphics, and the perfect color palette. Web design is an art of its own, and without design skills, getting everything just right won’t be easy.
Now throw UX into the mix, and it can become impossible to do by yourself. Your site might be pretty, but is it easy to navigate? Is the layout confusing? Is just trying to use it frustrating? Will you even be aware if it is? Professionals are equipped to handle these issues.
There are also web coding standards (such as web accessibility standards), image and code optimization, SEO optimization, the latest trends (what’s considered outdated), and more to contend with — things you might not even know about unless you’ve spent years in the web design industry.
It’s best to rely on an agency that’s well-experienced, able to deliver a high-quality product while remaining conscious about aspects of web design you as a layman may not be aware of.
Steps to Choosing a Web Design Company
You need web designers, but where to find them? And how can you tell which company is the most reputable, the best for its price, the most proficient at design? Let’s break it down into a few simple steps:
- Make a list of what your website is going to need, as well as some questions you’d like to ask. Having clear goals laid out will help both of you.
- Find agency websites. A Google search will lead you to many of them, but use lists like Hubspot’s Best Web Design Agencies or Clutch.co’s Top Web Design Companies, too. You could also try searches like “Washington DC web design company” or “WordPress web design agency”.
- Make a list of companies as you search. When one piques your interest, put them on it. You could include a table of the features they offer, pricing, and so on. If they don’t have what you need, strike them off the list or move them to the bottom.
- Research each company. Look for reviews, testimonials, news, mentions on forums and message boards. Have there been any major mishaps in the past? Have they earned any rewards? Are there a lot of people complaining about the quality of service?
- Reach out. Get a price quote and ask the questions you wrote down before. Gauging each company’s responses, features, and prices, you should be able to narrow down the ones you like most.
What to Look for in a Web Design Agency
As you’re creating a list of promising agencies, there are some qualities you’ll want to keep an eye out for. These will help you select a suitable company.
Good Design Sense
It goes without saying that the company you choose should put their excellent design skills on full display. Look out for agencies whose websites have a generic, cookie-cutter look, like something you’d get from a free WordPress theme — how can you expect the site they create for you to look any better?
They should be clearly experienced and skilled at design. Besides their own website, also check out their portfolio/case studies (and beware if they don’t have one). Compare them to other modern websites. If you’re not sure of any, try looking through Awwwards to see what’s trending.
Refer back to the list you made, and see if their designs match what you’re looking for. Do you want something simple and professional, or flashy and eye-catching? Choose a company whose work matches the style you’re going for — you’ll know they already know how to do it well.
On that note, if you’re using a CMS like WordPress or would like your website coded in a certain front-end language, that’s something you should ask about. A WordPress designer and a general web designer are very different, and you’ll want to make sure they can work in your preferred environment.
Great Value and Ongoing Maintenance
When it comes to web design, you get what you pay for — but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal for the price tag. Many web design agencies also offer a myriad of related other services.
Development, SEO, marketing, website training so you can use your new site on your own; these can all help you get off the ground. And often, you can get them in a bundle that costs little more than solely web design services.
Agencies that offer ongoing maintenance for a monthly fee are often a good investment. They’ll take care of backups, cleanup, security, analytics, even development of new features — everything! You get the fresh redesign your site needs, and you’ll no longer have to stress over the little things. If something goes wrong later, you won’t be on your own.
Modern, Up-to-Date Standards
The business you choose should follow modern web design and development standards. Accessibility and mobile responsiveness should definitely be mentioned somewhere on their site or in their feature list — these are among the two most important web standards, as they have a major impact on user retention and SEO. Yet even now, too many overlook these crucial elements.
Look out for other outdated web design blunders. Autoplaying audio in the background, Flash elements, sites that take way too long to load, cluttered interfaces that are difficult to navigate, annoying popups that appear at inappropriate times — if the web design agency’s website looks like it’s from 2008 (or 1998!), even if they’re the cheapest, go with someone a little more professional.
Also keep in mind usability. How easy is it to find their contact, about, and other important pages? Are they tucked away somewhere hidden or instantly easy to access? Is navigating their site in general a smooth process or frustrating and confusing? If you have trouble getting around the site that’s supposed to be their portfolio, you can be sure visitors will struggle with what they make you.
You should always be hesitant to work with companies who provide very little information about themselves. At minimum, there should be an about or contact page with general information: where they’re located, how you can reach them, how long they’ve been in business. This also goes back to if they offer a portfolio or a list of companies they’ve worked with before.
Blogs are another positive sign; a web design agency with a blog knows what they’re talking about, and is willing to share information to help their users succeed.
Transparent pricing is also important. Of course it’s annoying to go to a pricing page only to see “Call us for a quote” without so much as an estimate, but it’s also a sign they’re going to try to wheedle you into making a purchase before you have time to do proper research.
Beware of web design companies that include small pricey addons or lots of confusing discounts too; it’s easy to get distracted by the low pricing of their main package and lose track of how much you’re really spending.
Look for agencies that give clear, concise pricing information, as well as generous info on their process and past connections.
It’s safer to work with an agency that’s well-established and has had plenty of happy customers. Check out the testimonials on their website to see what people have to say, and look at their portfolio or case studies, too.
But don’t just rely on the reviews posted on their own site — of course a business will only use positive testimonials. Google their company name and look for third-party reviews on impartial websites, too.
You can see Google Reviews by looking at the company’s infobox when you search for them. See how people talk about them on social media like Twitter, and check out third-party review sites to find out what people really think.
Works With You
While pricing, value of services, modern design skills, and positive reviews are all very important elements of a good company, the most important thing is that they work well with you.
Your web design agency is giving identity to your brand and your website. They’re providing you with a service you’ll be using for years to come, and possibly even continuing to work with you to maintain your new site.
You could have access to the best web designers in the world, but if they refuse to listen to you, don’t understand what you want, and overall just don’t seem like the right fit, you’re not going to be happy with the results.
Choose a company that’s willing to work with you to discover your vision, and create the website you’re perfectly happy with — hire an agency that clicks with you, and you’ll love what they’re able to accomplish.
Find an Agency That’s the Right Fit
There are hundreds of web design agencies out there, all with their own processes and unique company culture. It’s important to choose one that fits. You’re handing over your website into their hands, and you should feel completely assured that they’re capable of bringing your vision to life.
In other words, don’t settle for less. Keep hunting until you find a web design agency you have faith in.
At DC Dev Shop, we’re ready to tackle any project you bring to us. WordPress is our focus, and we yearn to provide web design, development, and marketing services that will give you the site you’ve always dreamed of. If you’re interested, take a look at our services and the affordable care plans we offer.