As you research your options for outsourcing your website design, it’s important to understand that there are many different kinds of website design firms in the world.
Unfortunately, some will plop a pre-made design template on your website and call it a day, and some will design something beautiful (but not necessarily functional or easy to use), and hope you’re satisfied with it.
But the right website design company for you is neither of those. It’s the firm that knows the power of a strategically designed website and can use its experience and tools to create one for you.
When you outsource your website design, it has got to be with a web design firm that knows what will benefit your business -- that understands your business and wants to make the best site for you, not just complete the project as quickly as possible.
And to figure out if you’ve found the one that can do it, here are four questions you must ask before you move forward:
1. Does the agency/firm understand your brand?
Despite what you might hear in advertisements, effective company website designs are not a dollar a dozen, and you cannot simply put a website design theme up and hope it works out.
Website design is an extension of your business -- the front door of your company, and also the hardest-working sales and customer support tool you’ve got. But it can only be that for your company if it’s been designed specifically for your company.
That’s why you need to work with a company that takes the time to understand your brand, your mission, and your customers, and can interpret it for the digital world. If they can’t (or don’t), you’re pouring money (and your brand’s reputation) down the drain.
When you first start a conversation with an agency or firm, they should ask insightful questions about lead generation strategies you’ve attempted in the past, what worked, what didn’t, and for details about your ideal client profiles. If they don’t ask, that’s a warning sign that they do the same work for every company, and that won’t work for you.
2. Does the agency/firm put an emphasis on strategic communication?
It doesn’t matter how much traffic your website gets if the words on your website are plain and ineffective. If you don’t have those talents on staff, then you need to partner with a team that does.
Can the company write copy? Can they write on brand? Ask them to explain how they approach strategic communication and to show you examples of how they’ve used their research to craft copy that is different from one brand to another. Many firms will just ask you for copy to throw onto the site, but that’s a red flag that they aren’t scrutinizing the message your website sends.
3. Do they have a responsive point person for your project?
Unformed and unofficial web design firms often reveal themselves in a simple hiring mistake: they don’t have a dedicated account manager to guide your project to completion.
Firms that don’t work with seasoned account managers may get the job done, but the odds of your project falling to the bottom of their to-do list, causing added frustration (and cost) to you, or falling apart entirely are far too high. A good account manager will push the project along and ensure that everything the agency is supposed to do gets done.
Good account managers communicate regularly, are easy to get a hold of by email or phone, and are friendly even when the going gets tough. They help you access the designer, understand the choices in the process, and interpret your feedback for the betterment of the project. They are your advocate, and are vital to the website design process.
4. Do they understand how your website will become a lead generation asset?
You shouldn’t be just trying to design an attractive front window for your business. Your website isn't an art project.
You should be designing (and investing in) a lead generation asset that will earn you money and fill your sales pipeline. Template-grabbers and pretty-website-makers might be able to check this project off your to-do list. Don't be surprised when your "website in a week" or your piece of modern web artwork doesn't generate any new business.
When every website design firm has a glowing portfolio, it can be hard to know who's the real deal and who has the real results to show for their work. Ask yourself (and your prospective design team) these questions before you outsource your website design.