A lot of small businesses struggle when trying to find the right web agency for their new website. Let’s face it when it comes to agencies; there are many options. There are generalists, specialists, and everything in between. How do you pick the agency that’s right for you?
The decision-making process can be long and exhausting. Here are a few things to think about when evaluating potential vendors.
1) Are they Building or Branding?
A web agency that builds will typically translate your ideas into a website with guidance on how the design will look, developed those designs into an interactive experience, and may offer additional services such as copywriting, SEO, marketing, etc.
A brand-focused web agency will do all of the above but offer a lot more. This type of agency will look at building a web presence vs. just a website. They will not only guide you on creating the site but also how to speak to customers in the right way. They will consult with you on the personality, position, and perspective of your website based on the brand that you want to create.
Traditional builder agencies tend to look the same, offer the same ideas, and follow the same industry model. If you just need to get a website up or refreshed, then this is an excellent choice.
Conversely, brand-focused agencies will assess your position in the market and offer ways to improve that position through branding. If you want to stand out in the crowd or break the mold of your industry, then brand-focused agencies will be the best option.
2) What platforms are they using?
The platform is a big decision that is often overlooked. There are many CMS platforms and frameworks out there to build your site. If you choose widely supported platforms like WordPress, Webflow, or Drupal, then you will have the most flexibility in terms of making changes to your website or adding additional features.
However, should you go with a company that offers a custom CMS solution, then you will be locked into doing things there way. When you want to make updates, you may have to contact that agency only to find out that the system doesn’t support the feature or changes you require. Not only that, but you may have to wait for weeks to have those changes made.
5 yrs ago, we had a company come to us and ask us what we thought about the custom CMS that they were offering. We warned them of the pitfalls but suggested that the price was fair for what they were looking to spend at the time. Over a year later, they finally finished with their website. Over the next 4yrs, they struggled to make updates to their site. The agency continuously told that the website couldn’t support the features they wanted, and there was nothing that could be done to fix the issue.
Always go with an agency that offers a widely supported platform. The reason being if your agency falls off the grid (this happens more than you’d think) and you need help. It’s much easier to find support from a large pool of companies and individuals that support that platform. If you go with a custom platform, you could end up stuck waiting for the next redesign.
3) Can they explain their process clearly?
Most agencies will try to sell you on their portfolio of work, awards they’ve won, or things they have achieved for other customers. Let’s put aside for the moment that the results they got for other clients may not be achievable for you. Seeing design work and awards doesn’t help you understand what it will be like to work with this company.
If the process isn’t clearly defined, you could be in for a perilous journey. This journey could be filled with mismatched expectations, confusing objectives, and a whole shit-ton of frustration. When vetting an agency, ask them what their process looks like. If the agency talks about the process but doesn’t educate you on how it works, then you are likely going to be working with a disorganized agency.
However, if they can show you how it works, what the steps are in the process are, and what outcomes you should expect, then you have a winner. Never start a web project without knowing where you are going and how you are going to get there.
Bonus: How often do they complete projects on time?
This question is relatively straightforward, but one that clients rarely ask. Also, ask why they didn’t complete the project on time. If they don’t know, start making excuses, and blaming the client, this is another poor indicator.
Ultimately, you’ll know you have the right web agency when you can clearly understand the process, are using the right platform, and there’s an alignment with your goals and how the potential vendor works.