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How to choose your next website design agency

The ‘consumer journey’ is not just a buzzword upon which marketers hang their hats. These days, most purchasing will begin online even if it is not always completed there. This means a business requires a website designed to catch the eye and, ultimately, boost sales by making each step towards purchase as straightforward as possible.

Any buying experience needs to be seamless – end-to-end – and, if a website is where your business makes its first impression, it must not only appeal aesthetically but also function well.

And let’s not be fooled. The design of a website is not a ‘forever’ thing. Trends come and go and, whilst few brands can afford to continually update its online profile, they should certainly be mindful of any innovations and developments in digital technology that improve connectivity and enhance the consumer journey.

It is surprisingly easy to inconvenience online shoppers. Difficult-to-find product pages, limited payment or delivery options or clickable links that take you nowhere lose potential customers. Further down to journey, items turning up late or failing to materialise similarly risk customer loyalty.

Exceptional retail journeys are no different online or off and there needs to be a direct alignment between your brand’s business strategy and its online strategy.

The quality they deliver should be no different and should dovetail to offer a whole business approach for its customers. Not only does a brand need to offer a high-quality delivery service but all also a ‘fast and frictionless’ buying journey online.

Pain points that put off customers from shopping with a brand

  • A website that crashes, is slow (39%)
  • A website that is too complicated (30%)
  • A lack of product information, poorly designed pages (26%)
  • A website without customer reviews (14%)
  • Pre-purchase registration requirement (26%).

Source: Brightpearl

If you are looking for a website design agency to develop or redevelop a website for your brand, it should take the time to develop a deep understanding of your business – from both the perspective of what your brand hopes to achieve as well what your potential customer is looking for.

The general advice is to avoid any agency that showcases client websites that all look the same. One size does not fit all and generic templates are really not an option for a business looking to be taken seriously.

Business goals
The website design agency needs to understand your business goals in order to develop a site that makes your online marketing success – so do be prepared to share these. Talented designers are essential to convert visitors to your site into customers, but in order to be found, so too are the digital analysts who have experience in enhancing your website’s SEO rating.

A website design agency should have a dedicated team to help you rank higher to give your brand the boost and exposure to attract customers. The reports they share with you should also be in plain English ­– and should be clear, honest and jargon-free.

Essentially, there are five key areas your audience or target market will wish to see within a few seconds of reaching your website that should be visible without them having to scroll. These are:

  • Your brand
  • What it is your brand does or offers
  • Phone number
  • Contact Us link
  • Google reviews and customer testimonials.

And remember, this also needs to apply to your website when looking at it on a mobile.

10 Dos and Don’ts

1. Do decide on a budget but allow a little ‘wiggle room’ – there are always extra services that you may have failed to factor in.
2. Do request an estimated cost once you have outlined your project to the agency, but do be aware that website design agencies rarely work off a rate card so be prepared to be flexible.
3. Do take a look at their work for past clients and ask if you may speak to one or two. Client retention rate is important. If this is to be an on-going relationship, you need to know that collaboration is easy.
4. Do ask if you get a dedicated designer/SEO expert specifically working on your site or if the work is shared around? A personalised service can be important in helping you achieve your goals. Having one point of contact ensures consistency and builds solid working relationships. Accountability is important.
5. Don’t leave everything until the final version. Ask what opportunities there are to review the design and at what stages. Some website design agencies offer a timeline of checks and feedbacks so you can keep track of development and offer amends and suggestions at key stages. A good website design agency will welcome your input as the site is developed.
6. Don’t lose control. Once set up, ask who has access to the content management system? Sometimes, a website design agency will set you up with the tools you need to make direct changes to your website, which can be invaluable if you need to make a quick fix or an adjustment.
7. Do ensure each page links to your social media accounts if you are hugely active.
8. Do check that your chosen website design agency can deliver a functional and appealing mobile version of your website. Smartphones have now overtaken desktops and laptops as the preferred means of accessing the internet in the UK. According to Ofcom, 78% of all adults now own a smartphone with people checking them once every 12 minutes during their waking hours. The average daily time spent on a smartphone is two hours 28 minutes, so it pays to look good and function well. The website needs to be responsive to mobile browsing, enhanced with optimised images and short search terms, scaled media, auto-fill opportunities and is GPS friendly.
9. Don’t be afraid to outsource. It may be worth mentioning that, of course, your website copy needs to be compelling and just because it’s your business doesn’t me you have to be the one that writes about it. If you don’t feel confident in your writing abilities, ask the website design agency if they have a copywriter they regularly use. This then will need to be updated regularly with blogs and/or news so that the site remains ‘alive’.
10. Don’t leave your website idle. Be prepared to support its existence with activity on social media platforms so that your customers don’t forget you!

Your website should be attractive, simple and easy to navigate whatever the device and deliver a service to your customers without hiccups, such as loading issues and links that don’t work so that users not only find it intuitive but also a joy to use.