Partnering with a web design firm is one of the most important decisions and investments that a business will make. In many cases, a visit to your website may be the first introduction that a customer has to your brand, and their entire perception of your potential value can be drawn from this interaction.
If they encounter a clunky experience and muddled design, they may scurry to click or tap in search of other options immediately. If they find an engaging user experience and sound principles of design incorporated throughout, these can be the building blocks of a long-term relationship that benefits both parties. All of this and more is at stake when you are choosing a web design agency.
Look for an agency that avoids overly trendy designs
There’s a significant difference between modern design that could never be mistaken for something that appeared on a GeoCities page in the 1990s, and trendy design that will look outdated in a year or two. Effective, modern web design is always centered around intuitiveness, user-friendliness, and timeless aesthetics; as opposed to trendy design, which is rooted in gimmicks and a desire to draw attention to itself.
Not only will trendy web design stand out in a negative way to many audience members with a discerning eye for design, but it will likely cost you more money as well. Trends fall out of fashion as quickly as they come into it, meaning that you’ll have to constantly pay to update your design scheme in pursuit of the next hot thing.
Find designers who can meld visual design and content effectively
Visual aesthetics are an important component of good web design, but they are far from the only consideration. For instance, company websites are both brand representations and information delivery media, and much of this information comes in the form of content. A talented web designer will always remember this principle when creating a site for a business, rather than simply creating a visual motif or template that looks good to them. Even if the visual work itself is beyond reproach, if a prospect or a customer can’t easily find what they’re looking for on the site it will be for naught.
Ensure that the sales team and designers are accepting of your goals and ideas
Innovative design agencies will come prepared to your planning sessions by having researched your brand and your needs, and they’ll have some creative ideas about what kind of design elements could have the biggest impact on your digital presence. They’ll also be prepared to listen intently to your goals, and will refrain from being dismissive about your particular ideas for the website.
For instance, many lackluster web designers may view the quality of their proposed work only through the lens of the design itself, ignoring your concerns about whether or not the redesign will have the desired effect on conversions. Your website exists for very specific reasons, and a quality agency will always listen to these reasons and work with you to accomplish your ideal outcomes.
Insist on viewing a substantial portfolio of live websites
Web designers who have something to hide will want to impress you by showing you static screenshots of their most beautiful design work. These designers know that they don’t excel when it comes to developing websites with an exceptional UX, so they’ll hope to entice companies to sign a contract based on the aesthetic quality of the work alone.
When you’re vetting your design agencies, choose to partner with a firm that will allow you to experience live versions of websites they have designed. This is the only way to know for certain that their designers have the ability to create pages that will not only be superficially beautiful, but also provide a pleasant and logical digital journey for your customers. Data from the Society of Digital Agencies indicates that 77% of agencies surveyed cite poor UX as a weakness in their clients’ websites, so it stands to reason that good agencies will want to prove they can solve this problem in order to win business.
Designers who understand the importance of responsive design are a must
Until there is some drastic technological advancement in the world of digital hardware, users will continue to turn to mobile devices for ecommerce needs well into the future. According to research, tablet consumption increased by 30% from the end of 2013 to the end of 2015, and smartphone consumption grew by an astounding 78% during the same period.
Companies must be prepared for the continuation of this phenomenon by incorporating responsive design into their platforms. Responsive design provides website visitors with a seamless and well-designed experience no matter which type of device they use by automatically formatting the content to fit each user’s specific screen.
Quality web design firms know how to help you choose a CMS
Regardless of the industry you operate in, it’s almost impossible for contemporary companies to compete in the digital realm without the aid of a content management system (CMS). Content reigns supreme among modern business websites, and your design template and content management system must bring out the best attributes of each other in order to both engage the reader and give them the information they need to confidently make a purchase.
The best web design agencies have a thorough understanding of the content management system’s role for the company. They will work with you to choose a CMS that makes sense for your business goals, and create a UX that takes unique advantage of the CMS to drive value for the customer.
Remember to retain ownership rights
Creating a digital presence for an organization can lead to some sensitive issues regarding intellectual property. This is especially true as it relates to ownership of the code after the new website has gone live. It is important that you choose a digital agency who, by default, relinquishes ownership rights of the assets they create for clients as part of their working agreement.
Agencies with integrity know that their work speaks for itself, and their customers will keep returning to them because of this fact and the relationships that they maintain. Carefully review the contents of your agreement to ensure that your organization retains ownership of all website assets once the project has been completed.
Danny Wong is the co-founder of Blank Label, an award-winning luxury menswear company. He also does marketing at Conversio (your all-in-one ecommerce marketing dashboard), Tenfold (your modern phone intelligence platform) and Big Drop Inc. (your preferred web design and development partner) . To connect, tweet him @dannywong1190 or message him on LinkedIn. For more of his clips, visit his portfolio.