Finding the Best Website Development Agency

As a business, finding the right web development company is not easy; as there are lots around offering state of the art services at record low prices.

Not to mention offshore companies based in Spain, India and the US – why not work with them. They are after all cheaper (mostly) and may be able to do a better job.

Using a local web development agency.

The main benefit with working with a local agency is that you can visit them and discuss the project face to face. Having an initial meeting with the agency will ensure they are competent and also help in communicating what the project is.

What about using an offshore web agency?

Quality – this would be hard to control if you cannot meet the agency. Skype and webenars are all well and good, but nothing beats a face to face for being able to communicate and discuss.

Remembering that only 10% of communication is verbal, talking on the phone or via e-mail means that the web agency misses 90%.

Which agency if you opt for a UK agency?

There is criteria that most companies look for when choosing a web agency

  • Do they understand the project?
  • Have they experience of your industry?
  • What will it cost?

These are the main things that come up when looking for a web company.

Meet with the agency (as mentioned) is the best way to a/ get a feel for the agency and if they are the sort of agency for you b/ they do understand your project. Many companies will say they understand when they really do not (as no one wants to tell a customer ‘we do not understand’ – could loose the client) understand.

If the agency has worked in your sector previously then they are much better equipped to tackle your project, contribute to is and also second guess to problem solve.

Comparing quotes from local web development companies is really the best way of finding out what the market price is. All companies charge differently and some are quite expensive – to avoid paying over the odds it is advised to get a few quotes.

Choosing the Best Brand Agency Can Spare You From Negative Consequences

Finding the most dependable brand agency is no longer that difficult today. It is because the internet is so rich with information on how to get to one of those agencies. Guidelines on how to choose one are widespread and you can always find them on the web. Qualifications of those potential firms can also be read on their websites. Plus, you can always connect to other companies who already have employed several agencies in the past and get their feedbacks concerning a particular agency or agencies so you can weigh the options and narrow down your choices.

As business entrepreneurs it has always been our desire to see our brand, product , or services become closer to the hearts of our clients and target audience. So as much as possible we try to apply every marketing principle and every tool that our hands can find so that what we offer to people can go straight to their hearts and settle there. There are so many tools that are available today and a reputable brand agency is an institution that is well equipped to help you utilize those tools and put them to work for your best interest. They can provide timely solutions to your branding needs.

When looking for the best branding firm to work with you on your branding tasks, it is good to have in mind the list of things that you are expecting from them. It is a must that you have this list because this will serve as your guide during your inquiries with different agencies. This will also help you evaluate a particular agency and see whether or not it has the qualifications that you are looking for. You will also have a guide in formulating your questions and save time from asking questions that can be irrelevant. When you do this you will appear so much prepared to discuss some important business matters with them. And the agency you go to will realize that you are into serious business and so respond to you in an appropriate manner.

As you go to a brand agency and inquire about their services, it is also a brilliant idea to bring with you a previously gathered information and feedbacks of those companies that have availed the services of your potential branding partner. This will help you in situations like when you need to refer to them for verification of the agency’s claims and assurances. Having this tool with you will help you trace the agency’s performance background and aid you in either choosing or turning down a certain agency. So your decision can be so reasonable because it is based on facts, actual evidences, and testimonials of reliable source.

Getting into business is a serious matter. You always have to operate according to some established principles that have been tested and proven beneficial not just for you, but for your clients, and for those who are working with you. So, choosing the best brand agency to work with you should never be rushed or haphazard for it will always bear some consequences.

Small Business – Choosing the Right Web Agency

Choosing the right web design agency can be a make or break decision for many small businesses, it can mean the difference between a website which works for them, or a website that doesn’t. Or, in more succinct terms, the difference between a website that supports the business and one that costs the business (time, money, reputation, brand).

A large part of Hot Lemon’s online business is helping our clients redevelop their websites because their current websites are, for want of a better phrase, “not fit for purpose”. These are not websites our clients have done themselves, in which case you could forgive them, but so called “professional” websites developed by “professional” web design agencies.

This has eventually prompted me to write this guide to choosing the right web design agency for your small business to help other small businesses of repeating those very same mistakes.

Who’s to blame for bad web-design?

Quite simply, the agencies developing the websites and the small businesses commissioning them. So, that would be everyone!

The agencies are to blame because they don’t engage with their clients, they cut too many corners and they try to template design and technology too much in order to meet a specific price point. The small businesses are to blame, because they are driving the market to a low price point, they don’t want to invest much in their website, and they don’t get involved in the process as much as they should.

Bemusement – the internet is important

Of constant bemusement to me is the way some small businesses go about developing their online presence – their website. The internet is so persuasive now, and used by so many consumers in many different ways, that a robust, professional online presence is a necessity for any business, no matter what sector, no matter what size.

However, many small businesses still approach the development (and use) of their website in a casual manner, to them, the website is of secondary importance rather than primary. Unfortunately, with this mindset, many small businesses will never experience the benefits of what a good online presence can deliver, and why it is so important to invest time and resources into it.

The race for the bottom – the bargain basement website

This attitude by small businesses can be characterised by the increasing preponderance of web design agencies offering “all inclusive”, “professionally designed” and “tailored for you” websites all for the princely sum of £199.

Now fundamentally, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this bargain basement web-design.

However, you really do get what you pay for. Bearing in mind these agencies have overheads, and they are businesses too therefore they need to make a profit themselves, the actual development cost spent on a website like this might be as little £80 to £100. The agencies in order to meet this price point need to pare down the design process to a minimum. Hence use of templates, generic pictures, generic text.

The resultant website might look ok. But does it work for your business? Does it reflect your brand? Does it communicate what you do properly? Does it sell your business? Can you find it on Google?

An old adage: “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”

Top tips for choosing a web design agency

Hot Lemon has developed some top tips for any small business to use when choosing a web design agency, these are:

  • recommendation – use your network, if a colleague can recommend an agency you can use their experience to help you with your choice
  • talk to several agencies – don’t just go to one agency, talk to several. Do they treat you as a client or as a potential cash-flow?
  • don’t make a decision on cost alone – cost is important, it’s why we budget for things. However, the cheapest is seldom the best. Saving money in designing a web site can lose money in the longer term from lost business
  • do they use English? – English is a wonderful language, however, many people don’t use it and decide to use jargon instead. If an agency can’t be bothered to talk to you in plain English that you will understand, can you really expect them to spend the time getting to know your business
  • do they understand you? – Has the agency bothered to get to know you, get to know your business, your market? They are designing your primary communication channel, they need a good understanding of you in order to do that effectively
  • benefits not features – the web is full of features! But what real benefit are they to you? Be wary of long lists of features, this is especially the case for e-commerce sites
  • beware of the up sell – you are getting someone to design you a website, be wary of agencies trying to sell you other online services for your business, whilst often useful, they can tie your business down
  • copy-writing – is the agency going to help you write the content of your website, or just design the website. Writing effective web copy is not an easy skill
  • templates – have a look at the agency’s portfolio, do they all look the same? Are they designing to a template? Many low cost web designs are template based – it’s where they save the money – not necessarily a problem, as long as the template is good for you
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) 1 – the agency should offer internal SEO as an integral part of their service – not as an add on. SEO is so important it needs to be done from the start of the design process
    • SEO 2 – get the agency to explain what their SEO services are in plain English. Get them to explain their internal and external SEO services to you and their costs. Further, ascertain whether they do this in-house or sub-contract it
  • Content Management Systems (CMS) – many agencies make CMS a key feature, but do they tell you everything about CMS and is it right for you? Key things to consider:
    • ease of use – whilst you don’t need to be able to code in order to update a website with CMS, many of them are not as intuitive to use as they should be, indeed, quite the opposite
    • proprietary or published – CMS’s can come in two forms – proprietary (i.e. written specifically for a specific website), or published (Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Coldfusion etc.), in which case the CMS is adapted for your website. Proprietary is usually more intuitive as written specifically for you, but can tie you in. Published can be less intuitive and more templated.
    • templates – CMS websites generally follow similar template designs, especially the published varieties, your choice in layout and design may be limited
    • flexibility – because many CMS designs follow templates (with some agencies just changing the logo on the template and then selling it to you for £500) they lack flexibility, you may well be limited in what you can do within your budget
    • content – just because you can update your website, should you? Were not all copywriters, and this together with the relative inflexibility of CMS websites can lead pretty quickly to some messy websites. Further, if your being sold a website with CMS is the agency going to help you out with copy-writing and SEO? Do you know enough about SEO to write search engine friendly copy?
  • e-commerce – many small businesses are attracted to the online world because of e-commerce and the ability to compete with the big boys on equal terms. Err no. The first thing any agency should do is to administer a dose of reality to your e-commerce dreams. It’s not impossible to be successful, but it’s not as easy as you may think. Things to consider asking your agency about e-commerce are:
    • software – your agency is very likely to use commercially available e-commerce software for your website, the larger agencies may have their own software which they re-use. Find out which one their using and Google it! You might find out that your paying an agency just to change the logo
    • beware of the up sell – many e-commerce packages are hugely capable, able to list and manage thousands of products and do wondrous things – this might be over-kill if all your after is a simple e-commerce website selling a few items
    • ask for options – if you’re just going to sell a few things online, make sure your agency gives you a range of options, from the cheap to the expensive. For example, PayPal provides a free e-commerce facility that can be used with any website!
    • understand the amount of work involved – often, the easiest part of setting up an e-commerce site is the design itself, understand that inputting your product details with appropriate tags and descriptions can be very time consuming – will your agency help?
    • templates – because e-commerce websites are usually based on published software, and have very complex databases related to them, they tend to be very similar in how they look as they are generally set up using templates. This could be an issue if you want to differentiate how your e-commerce site looks compared to your competitors, ask you agency how they can differentiate your site from your competitors
  • beware of the plugins – use of specific plugins might make your website look fantastic, but understand that not all of your customers will have those plugins (for example Flash, Quicktime, Java, Real player files etc. ). Ask what happens to your sexy looking website when the visitor doesn’t have Flash installed for example (iPhone’s don’t play Flash). Also, the content of Flash files are not indexed by Google, so you need to make sure your agency is communicating the content of them in other ways for search engines
  • standards matter – ensure your agency codes their websites to international standards. Those standards are there for a purpose, to ensure that websites work regardless of browsers and operating platform. As a minimum you should insist that your website adheres to W3C standards for HTML / XHTML. There is no excuse for not designing a standards compliant website, apart from laziness!
  • testing – find out what the testing regime is at the agency. Web pages display quite differently in different browsers and operating systems, what works in one browser doesn’t necessarily work in another. Find a computer with Internet Explorer 6 on it (still the default browser on 10% of all computers) and test your website on it (IE6 is usually the worst culprit for displaying websites incorrectly)
  • relationships are key – above all else, do you feel that you can do business with the agency and build a working relationship with them. Things do wrong – fact of life – do you feel your agency is going to be there to help and support you when it does?

I think that’s pretty exhaustive list of tips and things to consider when choosing a web design agency for your small business.

Things to consider

Whilst the above is pretty comprehensive in terms of assessing web design agencies, it’s not all one way traffic. Small businesses equally need to consider several points as well before beginning the web development process. For example:

  • your website is likely to be the primary communication tool of your business – your shop front to the world. Therefore dedicate appropriate time and resources to getting it right
  • understand that you get what you pay for. You will not get someone understanding your needs and the needs of your business and then design an effective website for £250!
  • if you do not understand the internet, find someone who does. Find out why SEO is important, and what drives good SEO (chances are, the £250 option will become less attractive on doing this) – as a wee plug, Hot Lemon is quite happy to chat
  • do not trust anyone who can’t explain things to you in plain English
  • don’t get too drawn into CMS and fully featured e-commerce sites, understand that your good at your business, not necessarily at copy-writing, graphic design or web design
  • whilst most websites have similar structures (it’s intuitive!), don’t be satisfied with a template design. Your customers will recognise that you can’t be bothered with your own website – so why should they?
  • your website is a critical tool for your business, don’t treat it as an add on, treat it as an integral part, and commit the time and resources appropriate to it.

Points to Consider When Selecting the Most Appropriate Web Design Agency

As soon as a large number of company owners are contending to have their internet sites registered and also hosted, it is natural that the amount of website design services will certainly improve. Every web design company will certainly tell you they are the number one, however is there any accurate test to spot which website design service is best? Below are a couple of the crucial issues which could very well lead you to the very best web design firm.

1. Past Experiences

Is the website design service aware of the attitude of your prospective buyers? It is the customer that really needs to be ultimately attended to, via the website. The consumers character and also inclinations ought to be taken into consideration when designing the website.

2. Pricing

Are the services offered by the web design agency truly worth what’s quoted by it? You must clarify the product price and services contained in it. Comprehensive information about the pricing can be gained through comparison of prices of different web design firms on the web.

3. Search Engine Optimization

Is the web design company amply trained on the techniques for search engine optimization? This aspect is critical because this could bring up the website to be listed in top of the search engine results. This is crucial for increasing the number of clicks. It’s volume of clicks which have a huge impact on the purchase done through the website. An internet site can sell the products only once an individual visits and gets persuaded from the description on the online site.

4. Efficiency:

Is the website design agency constructing internet sites that are efficient at switching the site visitors into buyers? This is very important for profit generation and then finally return on investment incurred to design this internet site.

5. Visuals

It’s a common fact that appearance carry more impact when compared to the text. There are many cases where the products or perhaps the services offered by your website should be presented by illustrations or photos, animated graphics and also clips. It is also correct that these visuals don’t have any specific influence on the search engines. A decent website design agency understands how to stabilize the text and visuals. The web design service provider ought to be adept at techniques that will facilitate the embedding of images with little effect on the speed of downloading.

6. Content and Layout

The web design agency to whom you give the work of website building ought to understand how to create a good content and layout. The content should be persuading. It must know the value of embedding the responses from the former buyers upon the website. The firm must be able to build a layout that is simple to navigate and simple to download. Should the page layout is messed up and confusing, it can create a bad effect. The website needs to be appropriate for the web browser so it could be downloaded quickly.

7. Flexibility

The web design firm should be able to design such a internet site which is a bit flexible to upgrade too.