Your website is often your first impression on potential customers. Considering how a consumer-friendly website design can significantly alter your audience’s perception of your business, the design strategy and development that goes into your website are crucial for achieving positive business results. If you’re thinking about hiring an agency to improve your website, you might question whether an “outsider” could understand the ins & outs of your business. Will they know what’s important to your customers? Will their proposal deliver results? Here are a few questions to ask your potential partner before signing off.

How will a firm determine which web design will work best for my company?

If it looks good, it must be good, right? Well, while a visual appeal may draw people to your site, the thoughtful user experience will keep them there. This means that a “good” design should create a positive experience for visitors as well as easily guide them toward your website’s content which allows them to achieve their objectives. Like finding store locations, completing a transaction or being able to view other important information quickly and easily. A pretty website that’s hard to use, too slow, or ignores the perspective of the user, is a website that doesn’t fulfill its purpose. An agency with user experience in mind understands the goals of good website design. An agency that places a high priority on user experience can help your company achieve their goals.

Ask your potential agencies if they might practice “design ideation”. These workshops (often with a designer or art director) help you become an active partner with your web design firm. This session will help you discover styles, tones, colors, visuals, and elements that not only fit the image you want to portray but also gives insight on the specific needs of your company and your brand.

What’s your experience with website architecture?

Because good design is so closely linked to user experience, organizing your websites is just as important as design. Just as content on your blog does a service to a reader, content on your website should be organized in such a way so that it is easily found and can serve its purpose.

It may be natural to want to organize your site based on the structure of your business but does that make sense for your website? Your potential firm should be able to explain the best way to organize based on user experience. The goal should be to make the user be able to locate information and navigate your site the easiest way possible.

An effective agency takes site structure into consideration when creating the architecture for your site, a process that involves organizing and naming pages and features. In addition to understanding your business, agencies can better understand your website audience and plan for user experience by using tactics like:

  • Personas – Fictionalized examples of your primary target audiences, including information such as demographics, device usage, emotions, needs, and challenges
  • User stories – The primary tasks that your users want to complete on your website, and how they are done
  • User pathways – Envisioning how users will complete those tasks based on your site architecture

Does your new potential agency have examples to show you of some of their ‘architecture’ ideas? They should be able to relate their experiences on creating the persona, user story, and pathways of past clients, and their plan to implement that with you.

How will I know my ideas will be implemented?

You may already have some ideas, expectations, and results you want to see, but programmers and developers need to put in the legwork that makes your ideas a reality. To avoid setbacks and create a website that can be maintained and updated in the future, communication and transparency are a must-have. Communicating with clear terminology, understood by both parties, and avoiding assumptions is an integral part of the business relationship.

Is your new potential agency speaking your language? Making the effort to ensure your ideas are in sync?

An agency that goes quiet during the planning of your site, or insists on handling it all without checking in, may deliver a product that’s different from what you anticipated. Both parties should insist on straightforward objectives and frequent communication throughout development. All team members on both sides should participate at key points during the project for successful results.

Does your new potential agency have a plan for open communication?

While it may be exciting to see the design and development of your site, it takes a discerning eye and an understanding of the user experience to create a website that not only looks good but will deliver results. When searching for an agency, pay attention to the level of transparency between you and the agency and understand how they perceive the goals of your business.