As a business matchmaker, I match companies with digital design and development agencies every day. Businesses come to me because building a website is no joke – it’s a significant investment, both from a time and cost perspective. While you may only hire an agency a few times in your career, selecting the right one is imperative.
Aside from viewing the agency’s case studies, looking at their previous clients (and the industries they’ve developed sites for) and obtaining client references (don’t forget to do this!), I recommend asking agencies the following questions to ensure the most successful outcome.
1. How do you build a user-friendly experience?
The future is mobile. Over 37% percent of website visits come from mobile devices, and that number will continue to grow. Will the agency build not only a responsive website but redesign the user experience for mobile? A recent McKinsey study suggests that 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. Users want a seamless experience across all devices. Your web agency should deliver this.
2. How will you help me drive traffic and generate leads?
Your agency should think long-term (and by long-term, we mean the next 2-3 years). What is their approach to SEO? How can they help you grow your audience and enhance your business profitability? Content is king, and updating it often will increase organic traffic. Will your new site allow for easy (and inexpensive) updates?
3. How will you secure my website?
According to Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal’s personal tech columnist: “If you haven’t been hacked yet, the chances are even greater in 2017.” What happens if your site crashes or gets hacked? What protections are in place against phishing and data theft? How will personal data (if your site requires passwords/log-ins) be verified and protected?
4. Are you customizing an existing theme or designing a new website?
Depending upon your needs and goals, customizing an existing theme can be a smart decision, but should be reflected in the price. Ask for a price comparison.
5. Will you analyze my business, market, and competitors?
This is an often overlooked but crucial part of any redesign project. A good agency will look at your current site, tell you what you’re doing right and identify opportunities for growth. Not only that, they’ll research the market and competitors to understand how you can differentiate.
6. Who will be working on my project?
British researchers concluded that a website’s first impressions are 94% design related. According to the study, “poor interface design was associated with rapid rejection and mistrust of a website.” When participants did not like an aspect of the design, they never explored further than the homepage. To solve this, make sure you have great talent. Identify who will be part of your team to avoid bait and switch. Does the agency have a creative director who will stamp their personal style onto your brand without considering your end customers and other internal audiences? Consider engaging a more versatile agency that employs multiple creative directors or senior art directors. Has the team worked across multiple industries or do they specialize? Both have pros and cons.
7. What is your project manager’s communication style?
The leading killer of projects is the result of poor project manager/client communication. To avoid this, ask to meet your project manager and have them explain EXACTLY how you like to communicate (include everything from reviews to presentations to deliverables). The project manager/client relationship is the key relationship that holds the entire project together. Meet early (and often) to manage expectations and gain a firm understanding of what you’ll get and when you’ll get it – and what happens if you don’t.
Steve Kirsh is Founder + Managing Partner of KindKhameleon, a free business matchmaking service dedicated to connecting cannabis companies with top-level creative, marketing and development agencies. He is also a mentor at the Cannabis incubator, Gateway in Oakland, CA. Learn more at KindKhameleon.