We all want a great website. We want it to be our digital version of us, representing our business and core values and showing the best version of us.
This means that from time to time, a website will need updating to reflect who we are and to keep up with the changing trends of the internet. When the time comes, we all want to work with an agency that will provide this representation in a good web project.
But how do you know if it’s going to be a successful web project?
Well, we’re going to tell you. When choosing a web agency and finding out what the important elements they take into account when planning and creating a web project, you can get a clearer idea of what you are going to get out of it.
Now we’re going to be as honest and unbiased as we can here, so we’ll give you what we would look for if we needed to choose a web agency to work with.
It all starts, with finding an agency that’s a good fit.
Choosing a web design agency
Deciding on a web agency you work with can be difficut. Like most people that find us, it will likely start with a Google search, which returns millions of results.
So how do you decide who’s right for you?
When looking at the different agencies, what you should be taking into consideration is:
- The agencies own website.
- Agencies experience.
- If web design is a core service.
- What you get at the end of the project.
This will help you understand the kind of company you are dealing with and let you make a more informed decision. Some of these you can get from looking at the website, others you may only learn when talking to the agency directly.
Their own website
A web agencies website should be the first port of call as to whether they are someone you want to work with.
This should give you an initial indication of the kind of work the produce, and a web design company should generally have a solid, intuitive website.
You should get a good feeling that this comapny will be able produce a website that best reflects you.
Looking at past experience for a company (like their case studies/portfolio) gives a broader idea of the type of who they work with and what they can produce.
Are they versatile, working with different companies, spanning multiple industries, each with different, unqiue websites? Or do you get a sence of deja vu when looking through their portfolio, where each web project has use the same basic templated style.
If you talk to the agency, they should be able to cite companies and industries they’ve worked with and give solid stats to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work.
Web design should be a core service
There are many agencies/companies that offer web design and development, but that does not mean it is a core service.
For some agencies, web design is not their main focus. It might be that their specialty is print design, where they design brochures and leaflets, where web designis more of an additional side service.
You want to work with an agency that lives and breathes web design, that have experience from the conception of the design to fleshing it out into a full website.
An agency that offers web design as a core service will have the talent to provide a truly outstanding web design. They’ll know the important elements and intricacies that goes into a great design.
If you’re looking for a company that can focus and provide you with a design that reflects your business and quality, you want to have a dedicated web design team working on it.
What you get at the end of the project
This is (almost) as important as creating a solid project brief (more on that in a moment). It gives more of an indication as to the type of company you’re dealing with.
The main one to look out for is, once the project is complete, who owns the website?
If you wanted to take the website and the domain eslewhere, are you able to? This one part, can be what makes or breaks a deal, once the web project is complete you want to own it.
What you don’t want to happen is for the project to finish, have had a terrible time with the agency and then not be able to leave them as they own the website or the domain.
What comes next for the project is outlining a good project brief. Though this may not be entirely discussed with each web agency you talk to, this can give an indication of what the agency takes into account for the project.
This will let you know if they’re asking the right questions and taking into account all the important info that’s needed to create a great web design.
What goes into making a great website
When you talk to an agency, a good one will try and get a clearer scope of what you’re looking for and start to build a project brief around it.
They will likely ask a number of questions to get a clear, concise ideas on what it is you’re looking for, which then allows them to better advise you.
A good project brief will look at more than what the website needs to do, but at your business as a whole. You’ll noramally be asked about:
- The website
- Your target market
- Your competition
Each of these will help the agency you work with understand your needs and the landscape they’re working in.
We’ll be looking at what a good project brief will consist of and why it’s important to the project.
Knowing what is needed from the website helps you and the agency you work with, better understand and plan the web project.
1a. Type of website you need
Start off simple with the type of website you need, is it;
- Something else
This will be the basis for where the planning and research starts. It affects the recommended content management system (CMS), design and build needed.
All of this will help shape the main design and objectives for the website.
1b. The main objective of the website
Depending on the type of website you need, will help define the objectives, such as;
An eCommerce site will want people to buy their products and generate revenue.
A service based website wants to encourage people to contact them about their services.
A blog website may want to get people to sign up to their newsletter and be alerted when new content is released.
The key objectives for the website will help to shape the design and the calls to action (CTA), building the customer journey and how to direct people towards the desired action.
1c. The main product or services
With the base objectives defined previously, you want to let the web design team know what your priority product, service or objectives are.
You may have many products or services, but which is the focal one(s)?
Whether you need an eCommerce, service-based website, it’s likely that there is a particular service or product range that’s most important for you.
This will likely be the one(s) that bring you the most enquiries and sales. This can then be reflected in the website and directing people to these services and products.
1d. What pages the website needs
This is more than simply what services or products you want to offer. It’s more on which specific types of pages you need, for example;
A typical website will have:
- Home page
- Contact page
- Blog page
- About page
An eCommerce sit would also need category, product and search results pages. Service based company would need a service page, maybe a portfolio/case studies page.
An agency should be creating a tailored style and layout for each of these to ensure the design of the website is consistent throughout.
1e. Any specific functionality for the website?
Though some may seem obvious, such as a contact form, or the ability to process payments for an eCommerce site.
There may also be additional functionality needed. This could be connecting your eCommerce website to your stock management system.
Or it could be integrating your website and CRM system. It might even be something bespoke that needs to be developed, specifically for you.
Anything you need, the website to do, will need to be known in advance, as it will need to be planned into the project.
2. Target market
Knowing who your customers are, helps build the website, content and key messages to appeal to them.
From what your potential customers are looking for when they search for the services, products or content you offer to what they value most from them.
2a. Where you are targeting
Are you targeting locally, nationally or internationally?
This has a multitude of effects on the design and messages for the website. It can also make a difference to who your key competitors are.
It could also make a difference to what the website needs, for example, if you’re targeting internationally, you might need language localisation for certain countries.
It could also mean talking about setting up content delivery networks (CDN), for a smoother experience for those browsing abroad.
2b. The marketing channels you use to reach customers
This can help with some of the set up for the website. This is for knowing how you reach your customers, how they learn about you.
If you have existing marketing material running, some of the messages/styles might need to be included as part of the website for consistency. It might be that dedicated pages set up for people to find you.
2c. Who your target customers are
This is fairly straightforward, who is your ideal customer, what is it they’re looking for, what do they value from your service/product.
All this makes a difference to the content, the tone of the writing, the key messages displayed on the site and the imagery used. All this has a fundamental difference to what is included in the website.
2d. What your target customers value
It’s important to know what your target customers value when they come to you or your competitors.
This makes a difference to what is said on the website, what’s shown and how they can be convinced to work with you.
It could be a single or number of elements such as:
These can then be relected into the website and used to distinguish you from competitors.
For example, if you’re more expensive than competitors, more of a concentration can be put on your experience, highlighting case studies, satisfied customers etc.
Knowing who you’re competing against helps find where to position you in the market. It is used for further researching the lay of the land.
3a. Your main competitors
This is used for understanding your target market. It is used for researching who you’re up against.
This research can then be used to see what they say, what their CTA’s are and why customers value them.
This can be used to find gaps in the market, opportunities which can be capitalised on your web project.
3b. What sets you apart from your competition
This is especially important. The things that set you apart from the competition will be used as key CTA’s on the website to tell your potential customers how you’re different.
This can be things like having been in the industry longer, having more experience than others in the industry.
For eCommerce sites, it could be that your products are at a similar price to the competition, but you have a superior refund and returns policy.
All this is used as a central theme to show who you are and how you fit into your target market.
Outside of the website, target customers and competitors, there are few other key elements that are important for a good design brief.
4a. Budget for the project
Website design and development, like [example] many other things, you get what you pay for.
They can range from a few hundred pounds to a few thousand, depending on the quality.
On the low end, you’ll likely get a pre-made template design. On the higher end, you’ll be looking at bespoke web design (learn more about the difference here).
It also determines what can and can’t be incorporated, for instance, custom functionality such as [example] is going to take additional time to create, incurring a greater cost.
A good web design company will try and help direct you in the right direction on what you need, making adjustments to meet your needs.
4b. Urgency of the project
As the saying goes, time is money. If there isn’t a specific deadline for project completion, it’s not too bad.
However, a strict deadline can incur higher costs, due to the urgency, having to rearrange other projects.
Depending on the deadline and how much time is available, it can also affect what’s possible to complete for the project.
For instance, if you have complex, custom functionality that needs developing, but only one month before you the deadline, it may not be possible.
All this should be a basis of how to pick a solid web agency (though there is more – see our questions you should ask a web agency, and what makes a good website brief.