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Finding the right web design agency

First steps to finding a web design agency

Here is a guide detailing what you should expect from the redesign process depending on the type of company you have and the growth stage it is in.

The typical process starts with a realization that you need a new website, but you have no idea what it will take to get it done. That makes sense, since you’re (hopefully) not creating a new website for your company every year.

There are many reasons to get a new website. Often the old one just looks outdated. But a new site should also be responsive, load quickly, be search engine optimized, and integrate well with your social media channels. If you sell a product, the store should be modern and usable. If you fail in any of these areas, your customers will just move on.

Who are you?

Are you an early stage startup? Perhaps even just an initial idea?

If you are just starting a business, and you’re not funded, often it’s a good idea to go shoestring. Get a proof of concept going and see what the reaction is. Starter websites from Wix or Squarespace are a great way to get started because they offer great design solutions for very affordable rates. The two downsides are the limitations on how much you can customize these solutions, and you have to put some time in to make the sites. But the tools are fairly intuitive and with some evening and weekend time invested, you can get a decent initial site up and running.

An upgraded alternative to this would be to hire someone to set up that site on one of those platforms for you. Here’s where you start to dig into the challenging side of freelance hiring. You’re probably talking to a student or Craigslist respondent, because most professionals don’t work on these platforms due to their limitations.

Or have you been running your business for a while and are ready to “step up”?

If you’ve already done the quick and dirty website, or your cousin designed it for you a few years ago in exchange for a few gift cards and a batch of brownies, then you’re ready for the next step. If you have a valid business, and you care about professionalism, you need to hire a professional. A professional designer understands a lot more than just how to make a website look good. They can help with your messaging, or create graphics that can be repurposed for other marketing efforts. They can assist you in finding the right images (legally) or steer you toward professional photography or illustration. Sometimes an illustration is a better way to represent your message! Professionals also set up the back-end of the site correctly. They make it easy for you to edit content and can think a few steps ahead during the process to help guide the right decisions.

What is the ROI?

So what do you get out of this website besides a presence on the web? If a strong professional brand presence is critical, that alone is reason enough to hire a professional. If you sell a product or service online, and the website can help that, then the numbers should add up for you. Don’t spend $50k on a website that might only help generate $20k in revenue. On the other hand, if a single sale is around $20-$30k, and the website could help with lead capture or conversion — do the math. I once had a wine store say no to a website proposal that cost the same amount of money that they made in online sales every two weeks. And the new website would have added their entire inventory online, not just the 50-100 bottles they had manually listed.

Do it right the first time

I can’t count how many times we are contacted immediately after a website has been “redesigned.” Unfortunately, an expensive website isn’t always indicative of being a good one. There are companies who don’t specialize in website design, but are happy to add it to the other work they are doing for you. If you aren’t qualified to evaluate a company’s portfolio of work, get a second opinion. More valuable than the money lost on a poor website redesign, is the time required to do it again and potential loss of sales in the meantime.

Do I really need a high-end design?

What was the cost to build out your lobby, office, or store? Why is that important? Now think about how many potential customers see your website before even contact you. What does your website say about your company, your attention to detail, what you care about? If you have a do-it-yourself office that customers see, you can make a do-it-yourself website. Otherwise, you need a website that will communicate your message quickly and effectively before your prospects (and existing customers) can click away. That’s not much time.

Find a reputable designer

Ultimately, you should understand the value of what a new website can do for your company, and then create a budget for it. Younger companies and non-profits have to get more creative with their budgets, but they should still start with the right agencies first and go from there. I have had companies come to me with “big” budgets that were too small to work with, and others with “tiny” budgets that weren’t tiny at all. A good designer or agency understands the value of a relationship and is happy to talk with you. Once you’ve identified a designer who is competent, has the resources to finish the site on time, and whom you trust, reach out to them with your project. If it’s a good match, you can almost always create a scope of work together with a reasonable budget for both sides.

About the Author: Michael Flint

Michael founded Metropolis Creative in 1999. He is currently an instructor at Northeastern University and has also taught at Bentley College. Speaking engagements include The Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Mass Health Data Consortium, and The Enterprise Center. Michael holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Rochester Institute of Technology and has won numerous design awards. Michael actively supports the entrepreneurial and startup community by participating as a mentor with MITX-Up and is e member of OpenHub. He also runs the annual Extreme Website Makeover event which supports local startups and non-profit organizations. When not at work, Michael enjoys painting, brewing beer, and playing hockey.