I’ve worked on website projects with a huge number of Irish tech companies over the last 10 years. So I have learnt, sometimes the hard way, how to avoid the pitfalls that can strike when working with and choosing a web design agency or consultant. Just Google “choosing a web design agency” and you will get lots of tips.
Clearly, your chosen agency (or freelancer) should have experience in your area (whether it be technology or your market sector) and lots of happy customers that you have spoken with.
But there are other, less obvious things that should not be ignored when choosing a web design agency.
- Know what you want before meeting anybody. One of the worst things you can do is go in not knowing what you want. Employ a marketing consultant if you don’t have the in house staff to manage the project. You’ll probably need to employ somebody to write the content anyway. Content tends to get overlooked but is vital to the success of a website and most agencies don’t provide this service. So employ a consultant who can also write copy and get their help on the planning part too. It will save you money in the long run.
- CMS: Don’t be talked into using a bespoke CMS (Content Management System). Doing this means you will be stuck with the agency for any future complex changes. You will be told that it is easy to make changes, but if you need anything fancy, it is unlikely you will be able to do it yourself. WordPress really is your only man these days and most web designers and agencies know how to use it. If by chance you are unhappy with your agency at project end, a WordPress site means you can easily get help elsewhere in future. Joomla and Drupal are two other good, free CMS systems if you prefer not to use WordPress.
- Hidden charges. Ok, so the agency tells you that you can have a, b, c,d and e for a horrendous amount of money or a (basic site) with optional extras. Obviously you want to spend as little as possible, so you chose a with some extras. This is partially tied into my first point above, because if you don’t know what you want or what is needed to create a successful website, then you may chose the wrong options. You may only find out later that really you needed b and c. But now you have to go over your budget to get that. Additionally, agencies may charge extra for revisions, photography or even more pages. Just make sure you know what you are getting up front. Any reasonable agency will not charge for an additional couple of pages after site had been agreed.
- Sales person versus designer. Remember, the sales person from the agency does not have your best interests at heart. Be sure you talk to the designer before signing any contract. The designer will provide the best guidance as to how they can meet your needs.
- Staff turnover. Does the agency just have one or two key designers? What happens if they leave? Is there somebody to replace them? If you are using a freelance designer, what happens if they take a full time job? Are you going to be left with no support? Ask these questions before committing to any company or freelancer.
- Ongoing support. Make sure you know what level of support you need after the website is live. Will you need your designer to make future updates or changes? Will they be hosting your site? Who will be looking after the site to ensure that all CMS and plugin updates are implemented? Ignoring that part can actually be what makes the whole thing fall down at a later stage. Not implementing the updates also makes a site vulnerable to hacking.
A future blog will provide guidelines on what to include in a design agency brief. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your horror stories in the comments below.
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