How to Choose Your Web Design Agency: A Step-by-Step Guide and Tips

In this guide, we’re going to show you how to choose your web design agency, and what questions to ask your web designers. 

First impressions matter. And since your website is the first thing your clients will see, it has to convince them you’re the best.

Back in the day, it was enough to get a website up and running with no care for structure, content, or how it plays into your marketing strategy. 

But today, with more and more businesses (and clients) going online, you need a great web design agency.

Here’s what you need to know!

Step 1. What Are Your Web Design Goals and Needs?

Before you start searching for the right web design agency, it’s important to outline your website goals: what do you want it to achieve for you?

Your goal depends on your industry.

For example, if you’re a doctor, you might need a website to schedule appointments. If you run a law firm, you can use your website to post useful legal content that will convince leads to schedule a meeting.

After all, your website is a part of your marketing strategy

By defining its goal, you’re giving it an active role in lead generation. Plus, it’ll be much easier to find an agency with the right experience if you know what you want to achieve.

If you also know what you need to achieve those goals, that’s even better!

For example, if you own a restaurant, you might need a website with plenty of images, and emphasized calls to book a table. 

Similarly, if you own a hotel, you’ll want to emphasize the amenities and make it easy for your customers to book a room. 

If you’re in the healthcare sector, you’ll need to make sure your website is HIPAA-compliant, especially when processing your (prospective) patients’ data. 

There’s plenty to keep track of, so even if you don’t know what exactly your website should contain, you should find a web design agency with plenty of experience in your specific sector.

Yes, there are some general best practices for web design. 

For example, we always make sure our clients’ navigation menus are intuitive and fit use-case scenarios.

Choosing a specialized agency that knows the industry, such as health, law, and hospitality is the best way to make sure you achieve your unique goals.

Setting SMART Website Goals

SMART Goals

We also recommend setting SMART goals. Your website goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For example, a SMART goal for your website would be onboard 50 leads that came from search engines to our mailing list within 1 month.

On the web design end, that’s going to tell your web design agency that your website needs to have: a seamless mailing sign-up process, targeted landing pages, and content and structure optimized for search engines (SEO).

Step 2. Search for Web Design Agencies

After you’ve outlined your needs and goals, it’s time to start the search!

Now, there are thousands of web design agencies online, from international, to national and local. 

It’s best to choose a web design agency in your area. 

They not only possess the necessary skills but also understand the local climate. They know what your competition is like, and what your target audience prefers.

Commissioning a web design agency from London isn’t going to be the same as working with a web design agency from Carlsbad if that’s where you’re situated. They don’t know what’s happening “in the field,” so going local is always the wiser choice.

Let’s go with our previous Carlsbad/San Diego County example, and say that you’re looking for a web design agency in the area. 

You’d use Google searches such as:

  • Carlsbad web design
  • San Diego web design
  • Web design near me

In general, “web design near me” is pretty practical. Still, it can be a bit of a hit-or-miss since Google takes it literally and shows you agencies within walking distance, so that might not be the best fit.

If you want to look for a specialized agency, use queries such as:

  • Carlsbad web design for law firms
  • Website for hotels in San Diego
  • Websites for private practices near me
  • And so on. 

Pay attention to details, reviews, and ratings in directories such as Clutch.co’s list of top web designers in San Diego

In addition to listing the best-rated web design agencies in the San Diego area, Clutch also lists every agency’s service focus.

Some agencies primarily focus on web design. However, others incorporate web design into your overall marketing strategy. We’ll talk about that in a sec, but make sure you mark agencies that do more than just create websites.

UpCity’s directory of top web designers in San Diego can be really helpful, too. 

Once you expand to see the agency’s profile, you’ll see detailed reviews, platforms, service areas, and more.

Make a List of Suitable Agencies

Using your primary criteria, make a list of 5-10 web design agencies that fit the bill

Pay attention to their reviews and testimonials, especially from people who are in your industry. 

If they also mention concrete results (e.g. “We helped our clients increase their revenue by 20%” or “We generated 100 leads within a week”), jot that down. 

You definitely want agencies that understand websites are a part of their clients’ marketing strategies

They have to be results-oriented to help you achieve your goals.

Step 3. Review the Web Design Agency’s Website

If they plan on making your beautiful and efficient website, their own also has to be up to standard. But we’re not just talking about aesthetics.

When reviewing web design agencies’ websites, pay attention to:

Presentation: Does the website look good? Is it easy for you to find everything you need? Is the content on the site useful to you?

Portfolio: Do they have a portfolio, and is it relevant to your project? Don’t immediately exclude an agency because they do not have an online portfolio. May agencies, Nimbletoad included, choose not to display a comprehensive portfolio of client work due to confidentiality. If you do not see a portfolio, do not be alarmed, explain to the agency what you would like to accomplish, and have them send over examples of relevant work.

Experience: How long have they been in business, and do they have experience in your niche?

Service areas: Does the agency only handle web design, or do they offer other services, as well?

Presentation: Do Your Web Designers’ Websites Look Good?

Pay particular attention to navigation; is it easy for you to find everything you need to know on the website, or do you find yourself going through dozens of pages to find relevant information?

Other things to keep an eye on include:

  • Speed – Does it take ages for the website to load? 
  • Visuals – Does the website look modern?
  • Mobile – Try accessing their website on your phone; does everything look alright, or are some things out of place?

Web designers have to keep up with the latest trends. Make sure their websites are responsive (i.e. they adapt to different devices and looks great on both mobile and desktop) and fast. Their website should reflect their skills.

If the web design agency’s website looks like it came straight out of the early 2000s, and takes a long time to load, cross them off the list.

Portfolio: Have the Web Designers Worked on Similar Projects in the Past? Many agencies including our own do not display their portfolios online.

Portfolios are an excellent gauge for your web design agency’s experience and skills. 

If all their websites look similar, no matter the industry, you might want to cross that one from the list.

Similarly, it’s always a bonus if the agency has won rewards.

If the agency links to live websites, make sure you visit them to see how everything works in real-time. Websites need to be dynamic and powerful to attract and convert customers.

Finally, pay attention to how the web design agency describes their projects. 

Do they talk about their clients’ goals, and explain how the website helped achieve them, or do they just provide a one-line description?

Experience: Can the Web Design Agency Handle Your Unique Needs?

First, you want to make a note of the agency’s experience. How long have they been in business, and what kind of clients have they worked with in the past?

An agency that has been in business for years (or even decades) can’t afford to compromise on quality. 

It also means that they’re successfully keeping up with modern design trends.

Secondly, it’s essential to know what industries they’ve worked with in the past. 

While it’s normally best to work with specialized agencies, they should at least cover 2-3 industries.

Why? Because multi-industry experience gives agencies perspective and insight as to what is working well in other industries that might be translatable to your industry. It shows that they are approaching every project with the client’s goals in mind.

Otherwise, they might be just creating garden-variety sites that look the same. 

Your local agency should also have (inter)national experience. 

You should go to a local agency whenever possible. Still, they need to have a broader perspective to help you reach your goals: at least 1 or 2 projects under their belt that demonstrate their understanding of different national and international audiences.

Finally, make sure that the folks at the agency are people you’d like to work with. 

Check out the agency’s social media profiles and see how they work as a team. Getting a website isn’t a quick process; you’ll need to communicate with the agency. 

So make sure they’re people you’d like to communicate with.

Extra Services

Yes, you need a website. But here’s the thing: your website is a part of your entire marketing strategy.

Since your website is your customers’ first touchpoint with your business, you have to make sure it does its part in convincing them.  

Prioritize agencies that incorporate web design into your overall marketing strategy

They should be skilled in different marketing disciplines, such as:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Multichannel marketing

That way, they can set up your website for success.

Web designers who just design websites don’t understand what it takes to generate leads or convert them into customers. 

Instead, they just make sure that the site is pretty on the outside.

But web design agencies that offer additional services know how to set up every element to convince and convert your prospects into customers. 

This ties into what we said about local experience. 

A Carlsbad web design agency will know exactly what it takes for Carlsbad SEO success. 

Remember: no two audiences are alike, so you need an agency that understands the local competitive landscape.

Consequently, your local multidisciplinary agency will know what customers from your area want to see. 

If you already know your marketing strategy, look for agencies that offer that kind of services. 

If you don’t yet have a marketing strategy, look into the agency’s scope of work, and consider working with them on your marketing strategy, as well. 

Reviews and Testimonials

Look up the agencies online. 

You can browse directories, Google My Business profiles, social media, and other review sites like Yelp. 

The testimonials on their site will always be glowing, so make sure you get objective opinions from clients they’ve worked with in the past.

Pay special attention to clients who are in similar industries to yours, or had similar website goals.  

Step 4. Shortlist Web Design Agencies and Reach Out

After you’ve narrowed the list down to 3-5 contenders, it’s time to get in touch with them!

This is an exciting part of the process, but you should still be mindful of a few things:

First, make sure you explain your needs and goals clearly. 

You don’t have to talk about all the details, but explaining what your website is for, and what you want it to do is a great way to get started.

State which services you’re interested in.

If you just want web design, great. It’s good to mention your other marketing methods, so you find an agency that can incorporate them into your web design. For example, if you often use PPC ads to promote your business, mention it.

Finally, ask for their insight.

Ask them what they think would be the best course of action. 

This insight will show you if they’re approaching the project seriously, or plan on giving you a cookie-cutter website that doesn’t differentiate your business from your competition.

Communication-wise, pay attention to:

  • Promptness – How long does it take for them to respond? 
  • Proactiveness – Do they show an understanding of your needs and offer different solutions?
  • Questions – Do they ask additional questions and demonstrate knowledge? 

The ideal web design agency will be knowledgeable and show you that they understand how your website plays into your marketing strategy. 

By the end of the exchange, you should feel convinced that they are invested in helping you create the best possible website

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Agency

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you worked with similar businesses before?
  • How have you helped similar businesses?
  • Do you have experience in achieving marketing goals similar to mine?
  • Do you offer additional marketing services, like SEO?
  • What content management system (CMS) do you use?
  • Do you provide hosting and ongoing support and maintenance?
  • Will you provide training for me/my employees on using the website?
  • What does the process look like on your end? How long does it last? 
  • What are the next steps?

Posing these questions will both show the website design agency that you’re serious about leveraging your website for your marketing strategy, and their answers can alert you to potential problems.

Like we already said, the longer the agency has been in business, the better. It shows signs of longevity and competitiveness. 

Similarly, you want to hear how they helped their past clients in their own words. 

If they discuss past projects with enthusiasm, it’s a good sign. If they keep it short, well… reconsider.

If they skip questions about using websites for marketing, it could be a sign that you might end up with a website that looks good on the outside, but it’s a mess on the inside. 

In the long term, you’ll likely need to have the website rebuilt for marketing campaigns and additional features. 

When you hire a web design agency that offers web design and marketing services, you’re getting powerful alignment and synergy. At Nimbletoad we are ranked among the top web design, SEO, and PPC companies in Carlsbad and the greater San Diego area. This local knowledge allows us to build websites optimized for search engines from the get-go. This, in turn, allows our clients to rank highly on Google for their target keywords and generate more leads.

Instead of always having to rework your website to fit the new features you need and campaigns you’re launching, you’ll get a website that’s flexible and ready to convert your site vistors into customers.

A good website is an investment that pays off in the short and long term.

You’re going to be updating your website often, too, whether with articles, new forms, images, videos, or anything else. If your web design agency doesn’t use a CMS (content management system), you’ll have to code everything from scratch.

But with a CMS like WordPress, you can easily log in and add the content you want on your site.

Finally, if you and/or your employees don’t have experience with the agency’s CMS or new features on your site, they could provide training. 

Typically, great websites are pretty easy to use and intuitive. 

However, if you need a complex website (e.g. a site with a booking system, if you own a hotel), the web design agency should offer training.

Step 5. Choose the Right Web Design Agency

After interviewing multiple web designers, it’s time to go with the agency that best suits your needs.

Ideally, you want an agency with plenty of experience and knowledge in not just web design, but in marketing in your industry, as well. In addition to that, they have to be proactive and invested in helping you achieve your goals. 

If your gut instinct is also telling you to go with them, and you like their style of communication, you’ve found the right one!

When it comes to selecting your web design agency, don’t try to rush the process.  You should get proposals from all your shortlisted agencies, as well as talk to them. 

In the end, choose the agency that shows how it can help you achieve your goals.

Step 6. What Does the Web Design Process Look Like?

In the beginning, make sure you’ve outlined all the requirements and outcomes for the project. 

Include your SMART goals, as well. It’ll be much easier to understand if your website meets the goals if it’s all on paper.

Establish deadlines and milestones. For example, you might check in with your agency after a specific portion of your website is done.

Finally, stay in touch. You don’t have to call them every day, but it’s good to periodically check-in, and make sure they have everything they need.

In the end, you won’t just get a beautiful website that converts.  You’ll also get a reliable partner for all things digital marketing.

Is Nimbletoad the Right Fit For Your Next Project?

Let’s talk. Schedule a call with us today and we can discuss your goals. It’s a win-win scenario. We might be the match made in heaven. If at the end of the call we determine we are not the best fit, we will give you a list of Agencies we would go to if we had the same goals and business model. Schedule a time to talk today! We look forward to helping you in any way we can.