How do you spot a bad web design agency before you go ahead and hire one? So many business owners come to us every year after a bad experience with a web design agency.
And we find this really sad because we have friends who are great web designers and who are constantly looking at ways to improve their clients’ websites. Yet, so many business owners have horrible experiences with web design. Does it mean the industry is full of ‘bad agencies’?
It’s more to do with the fact that business owners struggle to find the right web design agency for their needs.
And sadly, that’s why this industry has such a bad reputation. It’s easy to hire an agency because of their ‘wow factor’. We make buying decisions based on their glossy website and fancy offices.
But what if the big agency with the comfy chairs and the shiny coffee machine isn’t the right fit for your business?
Why we aren’t right for some people
Not all web designers are clear about who their ideal clients are, and that doesn’t help consumers who are looking to make an informed choice and pick an agency that works for them!
That’s why we’re so passionate about using our copy and our content to spell out who we’re right for and who we’re not right for. Take this blog post – 10 Reasons We’re Not the Right Fit For You, as an example.
We’re probably a ‘bad agency’ for some people. If someone isn’t prepared to work on their website once it’s live and expects us to write copy and blog posts, change images for them, etc. then we’re not for them.
Because that’s not what we do.
And that makes us a bad choice for that particular client.
As an agency, we are right for people who are quite proactive, want to learn, don’t mind getting their hands dirty and are happy for us to provide them with remote support through training videos and emails. We’re the perfect agency for some people, and a terrible agency for others.
Why big web design agencies aren’t right for some people
Equally, a big agency with an amazing portfolio who will charge tens of thousands of pounds might not be right for someone with a small local business.
To give you an example, we once spoke to a florist who had her website designed by a big agency who worked with the likes of the BBC and Cadbury. They were industry leaders. And of course, this lady’s website turned out to be amazing (and very expensive!).
But in hindsight, she told us she’d have rather hired a freelance web designer because all she needed was a great-looking website that ranked her locally for her keywords. And the agency she hired didn’t help with that – they were almost too big for her business and her needs.
If you’re a small business (with a smaller budget), you’re better off hiring a web designer who cares about your business and will take the time to ask you exactly what you want to achieve with your website.
So, if you’re in the market for a new website or a website re-design, how do you know which web design agency is right for you?
How to Find the Right Agency For You
1. Be clear on what you need from your website
First of all, what kind of support do you expect from a web design agency? Do you want to work with a big fancy agency or a local freelancer?
Both are fine. There’s no right or wrong here – as long as you understand the differences between the various options and the pros and cons of each.
So start by identifying what’s important to you, for example,
- Do you want to rank highly in search results? Then you need an agency with SEO knowledge.
- Are you a luxury brand, and do you need your website to be all about the design? Then find an agency that fits the bill for that, with previous experience of dealing with luxury designers
- Are you a total technophobe and would find it helpful to have lots of face-to-face time with a web designer? A local freelancer might be best for you.
If you want some help in identifying your needs when it comes to creating or re-designing your website, download our FREE Website Buyer’s Guide. It’s an impartial guide that we created to help you find a web designer that’s right for you.
And if you want to hear about the time when we made a bad buying decision by hiring a designer who wasn’t right for us, listen to our podcast episode: Why our first website failed miserably!
But what other signs should you watch out for before you go ahead and hire a web design agency?
2. Stay clear of web agencies with a bad website
This sounds quite obvious, but an agency with a bad website probably won’t be right for you!
So don’t hire them! Even if you’re friends or if someone you know recommended them to you because they are friends! (Or even family!). If their website isn’t great, chances are they won’t know how to design a great one for you.
3. Make sure you are given access to the backend of your website
You need to have access to the backend of your website.
So before you hire anyone, make sure that the agency gives you full access to the backend (or Content Management System) of your website.
Even if you’re not yet sure how to navigate your way around it, you can always learn. And having access will definitely work better (and be cheaper) for you in the long run. You just don’t want to be in a situation where your web designer quotes you a ridiculous amount of money whenever you have to make a tiny change to your website!
If that happens, you’ll be angry. And you’d have a right to be!
4. Watch out for the web designers who use a lot of jargon
So you’ve been researching web design agencies, and their websites are full of talk about HTML, CSS, and PHP.
You conclude that having a website is technical and confusing, so you’re better off just handing it all over to these guys who sound like they know what they’re talking about.
Stay. Away. From. them.
They might (or might not) know how to build websites. But their copy is telling something else – they have no respect for you. Because they choose to ‘explain’ things in a way that makes no sense to you!
And you know what?
There’s no need to use jargony language at all – we don’t do it! Just have a look at our website, we’re not writing to impress our peers or confuse you, we try to explain things in a way that’s easy to understand.
We have no interest in wasting precious space on our website using words that mean nothing to our prospective clients. For us, it’s a missed opportunity to connect with our visitors and tell them exactly who we’re right for and who we’re not right for.
5. Beware of those who don’t want to show their face
Have you ever noticed how a lot of businesses seem to hide behind their website and never show their face? We call them hermits. And we feel so passionate about this that we even wrote a blog post a while ago called Show us your face.
We always recommend to website owners that you use professional images of yourself on your website as it helps you to build trust and authority with your audience. You can read more about this in our blog post What is the B.R.A.N.D. website framework.
Think about it. As a consumer, don’t you find it difficult to make a buying decision when you can’t see the person you’re going to be working with?
We find this very off-putting. Why hide? What’s so bad about being able to put a face to a name?
Of course, not having photos of themselves on their website doesn’t mean a web designer isn’t good. Maybe, just like a lot of business owners out there, they’re a bit shy about putting photos of themselves on their website. That’s all.
Just beware of this and do some more research to make sure you’re clear on who you’re hiring for the job.
6. Big or small doesn’t matter, as long as they meet your needs
Equally, we’ve seen plenty of examples of people who started their business from their kitchen table (nothing wrong with that!) who then went on to plaster their websites with stock images of shiny offices and big teams – essentially making themselves look much bigger than what they are.
There’s no need for that. And most people are genuine and honest about who they are and who they’re not, but not everyone is, so just be careful.
If you need a huge company or even just a team, don’t get caught out by one guy in his basement trying to be all things!
7. Stay away from obscure Content Management Systems
What will your web designer build your website on?
You may have heard of WordPress, Magento, Shopify, or Joomla, for example. These are common Content Management Systems.
So if the web designers you’re thinking of hiring use a specialist and obscure Content Management System you haven’t heard of before, do some more research! You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re fully reliant on your agency to support you.
The reason why we only use WordPress is that it’s the most popular and well-trusted Content Mangement System. If you need help with something and for some reason, we’re not immediately available, you can still find answers and resources on the internet. But if your website is built on a rare platform, you may struggle with that!
8. Avoid a web designer with a questionable portfolio
One of the first things we suggest you do when researching web designers is to look at their portfolio to get a sense for:
- what level they’re working at,
- what kind of websites they’re designing,
- and what kind of industries they specialise in.
A word of warning on this though.
If the web designers you’re considering tick a lot of boxes, but you’re not convinced about their portfolio, get in touch and ask them for more examples of their work.
We know from personal experience that keeping your portfolio up to date is time-consuming – we have a lot of websites we’ve built over the last few months that don’t feature on our site because we haven’t had time to add them. So do reach out to a prospective web designer if you want to see more of their work – they’ll be happy to oblige.
9. Watch out for web designers who don’t offer a discovery phase
If an agency or a freelancer doesn’t factor in how they’re going to find out more about:
- your business,
- your target audience,
- what you want to achieve from your website,
- and what kind of goals you have for your business,
stay well clear!
We have what we call a ‘discovery phase’ where we delve into all our new clients’ businesses. We get to know a lot about them during this process, and it’s the only way we get to design a great website for somebody.
So if a web designer doesn’t offer this service, consider this a warning sign that they aren’t invested in your business.
The price you pay will have a lot to do with this too. The agency you hire for £500 might not even know what a discovery phase is. And in a way, that’s understandable – the price tag doesn’t cover for that! But the agency that charges £5,000+ should get to know you as a vital element to the web design process.
10. Be wary of the agency that doesn’t put their prices on their website
We are huge believers in putting prices on your website.
Yes, projects and requirements vary and so do prices. That’s why we use a minimum package price on our websitethat our potential clients can use as an indicator. We even publicly write about the process we use to come up with our prices! Head over to our blog post Why We’re Increasing Our Web Design Prices to find out more.
But a lot of web designers won’t display prices on their website.
And while that’s not in itself an indicator of a bad web designer, you’ll want to get a quote quite early on in your research. The worst thing any business can do is to make you jump through hoops to find out their prices. What happens when you find out that the price is way over your budget? What a waste of your time (and theirs)!
So stay away from anyone who’s putting pressure on you to have several discovery calls before they give you a quote! They’re probably trying to make you feel so invested in the process that you won’t be able to say no to them. It’s an old-school sales technique that no longer works. And frankly, it shows that the other person doesn’t respect your time.
So how exactly do you find someone who’s right for you?
We’ve given you a lot of pointers to avoid picking the wrong web design agency for your needs. But how do you find one that is good for you?
Ultimately, and above everything else we’ve mentioned, look for someone who:
- cares about helping you move your business forward,
- you can trust and connect with,
- you see yourself having a good working relationship with.
We find this always happens with our clients. We get so close to their business that we end up getting to know them really well. And that’s both a pleasure and an honour.
Would you like us to help you with your website?
We are passionate about helping business owners build and grow successful websites. We also understand that people might have questions and concerns as they get into this process for the first time. Or maybe because they’ve had an awful experience in the past!
- That’s why we don’t use code or jargon.
- That’s why we are open and honest about the type of web agency we are.
- We are transparent about the type of clients that are right for us and those who aren’t.
- And that’s why we publish our prices on our website.
We want people to be able to make informed decisions.
So if you’re looking for a web design agency who cares about your needs and your business, and you think we may be right for you, get in touch!