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October 2, 2018

How to choose a website development agency without pulling out your hair

By NOW Marketing Group

Your step-by-step guide to hiring a gold-star agency, what the website building process will look like, and how to get through it with the least amount of stress

The task of finding a good website development agency is an important one.

If you’re not already working with a website development team, but want to rebuild your website, you are no doubt looking for the best team to take your site from design to launch. Choose wrong and you could spend a lot of money for a dud. Yikes! But, choose right and your website can be a beautiful tool that allows you to meet, connect with, and sell to clients and customers.

The biggest determination of whether the agency is right for you is a matter of personality and experience. You need the perfect blend of beauty and brains. Someone who can wine you and dine you and have lots of fun with you, but who still knows what they’re doing and problem solves like no one else.

Basically, it’s like finding your one-true-love, but in the tech and internet world.

To determine whether an agency will work well for you, there are some things you’ll want to do during your search. Most of it includes knowing your project and asking the right questions. Just like all first dates, the questions you ask and the answers you get mean a lot.

But, you have to know what your project is all about before you can grill somebody about it.

So, the first thing to do when choosing which website development team to hire, is to figure out your goals.

Things to think about:

  • What special features would you like to see?
  • What are your sales goals?
  • What style would you like the new site to have?
  • How would you like to update it after it’s complete?
  • What makes you unique and what will make your new website unique?
  • Do you have lots of events you need to feature?
  • Are you a restaurant who needs an online menu for your patrons?
  • Do you have tons of resources you need to easily give out?
  • Are you looking to implement a whole inbound approach to marketing on your website?

That’s a lot of things to consider! Grab your team, have a couple of conversations, and get everyone’s ideas collected and objectives set.

Once you have your goals set, it’s time to find an agency who can achieve them!

When you start the hunt for an agency, start by:

  • Investigating their website. How does it function, look, and sell to you? Their website is a good indication of their style and capabilities. While it doesn’t need to match your exact style, it should perform to your expectations, it should be visually pleasing, and it should be functional. In other words, if you don’t like how it looks and works, it’s probably not the agency for you.
  • Checking their portfolio. Any good website company worth their salt will have an online portfolio of websites they designed and built. Look through these websites and look at the design and functionality. Do they seem to be at the same scope you’re looking for?
  • Call them and set up a time to talk. You’ll be working with them closely for the next couple months. Is there chemistry? Are they more focused on the project than the sale? If they are, they’ll likely ask you a lot of questions related to your project and desires.

Next, the goal is to find a website development team who can accomplish the items you want to see on the new site. It’s not so much a question of finding the right roles in an agency, it’s about finding the team who is a good fit for your wants and needs. There are lots of agencies who have similar set-ups and roles in the website department, but if you’re a health organization and the agency you’re looking at specializes in eCommerce, they probably have a different skill set than what you need.

Choose a team:

  • With multiple people who work in specialized roles (giving them more expertise)
  • Who works in responsive design which focuses on mobile traffic
  • That can hand off the website to you when it’s done, but is still available for updates and can offer website service packages
  • That delivers a website that has a backend that is easy to use
  • Who can help you set up the hosting and domain in your name (you own everything)
  • Whose style matches your aesthetic with a custom design
  • With a portfolio and example websites that are similar to what you want
  • Who follows trends and keeps themselves educated about all things website development
  • Who can provide custom coding and features that accomplish the goals you have
  • Who has working in industries similar to yours

It’s important to note that custom coding is a very important skill of a good website agency. Those who aren’t capable of custom coding rely on plugins, which have a tendency to bloat the website and cause it to be slow. This is something Google doesn’t like and may count as a knock against your search engine optimization. Plugins also leave the site open to vulnerabilities and may become outdated and break quickly.

If you need a little help knowing which questions to ask before hiring an agency, we came up with a list for you– check it out here.

A website development team works alongside you to build the site for your business

While a website development team will focus their work on all the technical and creative bits and pieces, you will also have a role in the success of the new website. As the business owner, you will most likely be asked to provide relevant and accurate content from which they can work from, photos of your team and business, and for PDFs, resources, and other information which could be put on the website.

You may want to loop in the sales and services team, who can also provide valuable input. After all, they know the customers best. That’s a key component to making a website work well. Not only does the website need to look good and perform well, but it also needs to be used as a utility, resource, and sales tool to support relationship building with the user. Ultimately, a good website will work to collect leads and convert them into sales.

Don’t be stressed, get blessed

With the right agency, the whole website building process is a lot easier. That means a lot less stress on your end. The best agencies will do the brunt of the work. You’ll hand stuff off to them, they’ll collect it and work with it, and deliver the site you’ve dreamed of. In the case your must-have features are unrealistic, they’ll work with you to scale the project back and find a solution that works for you.

Choose wisely, and you’ll be #blessed with a team who understands you, knows your audience, and works with you to develop and achieve the goals you have for your website. The website building process will be pain-free and smooth. And, you’ll be given a website that’s your dream.

What to expect when building a website

To continue the search for a website development agency, when you are scoping out different website development agencies, it’s good to ask them what their typical process looks like. Most websites will be broken up into three stages: the collection and approval phase, the coding and building phase, and the final touches. Here is what our website process looks like.

The first stage is collecting information and getting approval on design and content

We start all new website projects off with a kick-off call. During this call we discuss the project scope, what special functionality may be desired and how that would work, homepage colors, and what the focus of the homepage will be. We will also bring up hosting and domain and help the client purchase both, if needed (we always set it up in the client’s name).

Content will probably be discussed and your current web content may be repurposed for the new site. In the case of updates and changes, you will be asked to collect the new information (in the form of bullet points, brochures, or website links) so that the content specialist can get started writing.

After the kick-off, a weekly call is scheduled. The website development team will get busy working on the wireframe, which will block out features on the homepage. At the same time, the content specialist will get started with the content. Once the wireframe is approved you will get a design and once that is approved the project moves into the coding phase.

The second stage is focused on coding the beta site and building it out

Coding the beta site typically takes about two weeks. During this time, a lot of focus is placed on the content. You may have had to send new team bios, information on services and products, and other information. Once this information is received by the content specialist, he or she will begin to rewrite. They will make the content SEO rich and appealing to customers, all while telling the story of your business.

Once finished, the content will be handed back to you to review, make any changes, and approve it. By the time this process is complete, the beta site is usually done being coded and the content, images, videos, resources, and other items will begin to be built out. This process takes about two weeks as well, depending on the size of the site.

The third stage is all about reviewing and making the final touches

The very last stage is centered on having you review and make any final changes to the website. Every page should be reviewed, the content read through again, and functionality tested. Once the final review has been completed and the website is approved it can go live.

Going live doesn’t mean the website is done; there’s always an opportunity for growth

While going live may seem like the finish line, it’s not the end of the website building process. There are always ways to grow the website after the fact. Whether it’s a monthly blog, adding new resources to the resource center, or creating new functionalities, you can always improve based on internal needs or desires from your customer.

This is why it’s so important to choose a team who jives with you and your team. A new website isn’t a one-time investment, it’s an ongoing project that should be growing and evolving with your customer and your business. You’ll likely need a team who can keep working and keep building the site as needed. Most website development agencies will provide ongoing help in the form of a monthly web package which gives you so many hours to use during the year. Others may just provide ongoing work at an hourly rate. Either way, if you don’t get along with the team at the agency, it’s not going to be pleasant to work with them for an extended period of time.

Finding the right website development agency is all about experience and functionality

The best website development team is going to be the one with experience in the functionalities and features you want– like calendars, resource centers, calls-to-action, forms, galleries, just to name a few. They should have an experienced coder on-team to problem-solve and present solutions to you. In the case the exact functionality isn’t the best solution or isn’t possible, the team should be able to come up with a workaround that gives a similar capability to the one you need.

When searching for agencies, the key is to determine what it is you want and then look for a team that can accomplish it. Next, decide if the personalities are a match. And lastly, determine the budget. If you’re curious about website pricing, we wrote a blog on that as well. Find it here!

Once you find an agency who works with all of those things, you’ve found a winner!

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Tags: Web Development


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