Hiring a web designer or marketing agency can be an overwhelming arduous process, especially if you don’t know anything about websites. This article should provide the basics of what to look for when hiring a professional to ensure you get the right website for your business.
This one is both easier and more difficult than most people think. Before hiring anyone to build you a website you need to look at their portfolio of work. You need to make sure they build websites of the same quality that you are looking for, and at the quality that justifies their price. Does the website look new or remind you of AOL? Do all their sites load properly on your cell phone and tablet and computer? You should be able to get a visual feel of the general quality of their design abilities without any specialized knowledge.
Most people focus on niches. If they are a dentist, they want to know that the designer has built a website for other dentists. This honestly doesn’t matter at all. A good web designer can build a website for any industry. What you should focus on is complexity. All lead generation websites are the same, but if you have complex functionality you need to know they have experience with complex websites.
Where this gets complicated is that looking good is not the primary goal of a business website. You need to know if it performs well. Your goal isn’t a good looking website, your goal is to increase your business. How do you know if they built it properly? Run tests. Load their websites on a cell phone, on a tablet, and on a computer. If should look good on all of them. Test the speed – go to www.gtmetrix.com and enter the domain – if it loads in under 4 seconds they did a bad job. Run a technical SEO audit – this one can be complicated, message us and we will provide one for free. Do a marketing analysis – put yourself in the perspective of a prospective client and go through their website like you are trying to find something. Is the phone number easy to find? Are your questions answered? Do you understand what their services and specialties are? Are there any broken links? What does the website make you feel about the company? Get references – call their current clients and ask them what they think of them. While many website clients don’t always know if their website was built properly they will be able to tell you if they are responsive to messages, if they are quick to make necessary changes, if their website has held up over time, and the overall manner for which they conduct their business.
Considering vested interest is an important aspect of hiring someone to build such an important part of your business. There are 4 main categories of web designers – Amateurs, Freelancers, Artists, and Agencies.
Amateur web designer’s main interest is to build their portfolio. They typically want to build a website on the side of their main job, and will focus primarily on how the website looks because they haven’t learned the technical or marketing aspects yet. Do not ever hire your cousin, or neighbor, or your friends brother to build your website unless they own or work for a web design, web development, or marketing agency. Even if they build it for free it will cost you money in opportunity costs.
Freelance web designer’s main interest is to get the job done as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next. They usually focus more on completing jobs because they don’t have the branding or marketing set up to get regular high paying clients. Freelancers usually skip steps because it is the only way to keep costs low. This applies to B2C freelancers, not to B2B freelancers. Freelancers that design for agencies usually do better work because they want repeat work. Some freelancers are fantastic, but they don’t have the same vested interest as a business. An agency or business is going to have a reputation to uphold, freelancers generally fly under the radar enough that the worst repercussion they could face is you don’t refer them new clients. This places more risk on you – sometimes it will work out, but it will work out less often than with agencies.
Artists will build fantastic looking websites, but as mentioned previously the main goal of a website is not to look good. Do they know how to market your business? Do they know the technical aspects of websites? There are tons of do it yourself web design platforms that allow people that do not know how to code to make beautiful looking websites – but these platforms are usually awful on the technical aspects because machines cannot code as well as humans can. This means fewer visitors for you, fewer conversions for you, and overall a worse website and business. Agencies often hire graphic artists to design websites and then developers to code the websites. Unless you can develop the website, yourself you are better off not hiring a graphic artist to build your site.
Agencies are usually your best bet for building a website that both looks and performs great. Good agencies typically have different people in different roles. The web designer will design the website, the web developer will develop the website, the SEO (search engine optimization) will optimize the website, etc. Agencies usually have a larger overhead, do better overall work, and generally cost more.
First step is to make sure they are a legitimate agency. Is their website custom and professional? Do they have a good logo and interesting designs? Good design agencies will have a good website. Bad design agencies will look kind of generic and blah. Good agencies will have custom graphics that are interesting and eye catching, they will have good color schemes and catch your attention. Bad agencies will have stock photography everywhere with only basic colors and have elements that don’t always make logical sense because they just changed the content on a prebuilt theme. There are an increasing number of agencies that are really just freelancers that use do it yourself platforms and don’t really know how to build websites. Be sure to perform your due diligence and check their portfolio and references before hiring them. The number one thing we here from people is that they are worried about hiring a web design agency because they got scammed by someone else. Someone sold them on something and built their website, but then they disappeared, and the website stopped working. Do your best to avoid these scam agencies, and don’t categorize the legitimate ones in the same boat with them.
If the agency is legitimate and you like the work they do, then you need to focus on your overlapping interests. Do you want to make content and coding changes to the site, or do you want them to? Do you want to host the website yourself, or do you want them to? Are you comfortable paying them up front or do you want to see the finished version first? Do you want to pay up front or monthly? Do you only need a website, or do you also need a logo and copywriting and marketing services? If you need changes will they make them? If they will make them how much will they charge and how long will it take them? What content management system do they build on? Are they also going to handle the website security or is that up to you? Will they have a vested interest in your success? Not every agency fits every client, and not every client fits every agency. You should focus on how well the agency fits your business model and specific website requirements. You should end up hiring the agency that fits your business the best.
If you have any other questions or feel like we left anything out of this please send us a message and let us know how else we can help.