How to choose a web agency for your company

Here at Square One we recognise that hiring an agency to produce a website can be a daunting experience especially when there are literally hundreds of companies to choose from!

How are you going to be sure you pick a good company that is going to create the best site for your budget?

Unfortunately horror stories are two a penny when it comes to web companies “misleading” clients and likewise clients inadvertently “misleading” agencies. By being fully informed as to what to look for in an agency you can make sure you don’t become a horror story statistic!

So heres a few pointers to help you  choose the right agency for you.

Firstly we need to get to a shortlist of potential companies

1. Is locality important? We work with local and national companies but if you want to work very closely on your web project and have regular face to face meetings then you may prefer working with a local business.

2. To find a list of local web companies simply do a search in Google – ( adding your locality if relevant). Why am I telling you to do this? Well – if a web company isn’t in the first or second page of google then chances are they are  a) maybe not that established yet OR b) not that proficient in SEO

3.Take a look at the sites listed and in particular two areas – Their portfolio and their testimonials. A site with no demonstrable evidence of their clients should be avoided. Of course testimonials could be falsified – so take the time to pick out a few , call them and ask for their experience in working with the company.

Beware claims of “.award winning”- unless their is actually evidence on their site of such awards!

4. Ask around for recommendations – use your business community – and ideally ask businesses of the same size as yourselves. After all a small one man bands website requirements may not be the same as medium sized enterprise and you need to find a company that can create the functionality you require for your site.

5. Look at sites you like the look of – either in your field of business or outside and and check out the footer  where most web companies will  have a link to their site.

Once you have a shortlist of 4-5 companies you can then narrow down your choice by asking each of them a series of questions. Most companies provide a free consultation meeting where you can do this or alternatively give them a call. The advantage of a meeting is both you and the agency can gauge whether you are a good fit as the agency can gather more information specific to your site and its requirements. The disadvantage of course is it can be time consuming.

Whichever route you take make sure you ask these questions…

1.How Big is your company?

Now this may seem an odd question but the size of a company can have negative and positive benefits. Too large and a new client may be made to feel just one of many clients and no personal contact. Two small and there is a risk of projects being delayed due to holidays, sickness etc. So decide what size company you would like to deal with. It’s not alway easy to tell from their website!

2. What is your process from start to finish?

This will give you an indication of how organised the company is – the more detail they can give you on the processes the more confident you can be that they will deliver the goods.

3. On top of the initial cost of the website would there be any other costs?

This is an important question to raise at the beginning so you know what your total costs for the lifespan of your website will be. Some companies tie you into a monthly maintenance contract.

4. Can you supply hosting?

Most good agencies are resellers and can provide a hosting service. They should also be happy though if you wish to host elsewhere.

5. What content management system do you use?

This is an essential question if you or your team are wanting to manage the content of your site as it needs to be a system that you are familiar with. If its a system you are not familiar with then ask them what type of training they supply. A word of warning about a propriety system ( i.e. a content management system that has been devised by the web company) – if you have an issue further down the line with your site and wish another agency to take over the chances are they wont know how to use that system and difficulties can occur. Best case scenario is choose a company that uses an “open source”system such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla – to name just a few.

6. What other related services do you offer?

Big web agencies will have a plethora of other services they can offer you such as copywriting, image sourcing, social media management, SEO, Email management etc. If you are looking to source these elements then you may want them all to be under one roof. Beware though the company that promises to get you on page one of Google within a couple of weeks! Small agencies will have people they can recommend for the above services.

7. Are your websites created using templates or bespoke?

This is an essential question to ask, A template website should be significantly cheaper than a bespoke  site as the design and structure is already there. Ive lost count of the number of people who have been “mislead” with a template site that they believed was a “bespoke” site and charged accordingly for!

There is nothing wrong with using a template ut if your site requires a specific look and certain functionality its likely that the agency will recommend the bespoke route. A good agency will offer you both but will point out the pitfalls of each according to your requirements and your budget.

Hopefully these pointers will give you a starting point to narrow down a couple of agencies that you can then get a quote from .