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What to consider before you engage a web design agency

6 min read

Engage Web Design Banner

Embarking on a website design and development project is exciting, but it’s a big undertaking that shouldn’t be rushed into.

To ensure success, it’s important that you get your ducks in a row before you start talking to and engaging an agency. Here are some things to consider and document before you start those important conversations…

Why do you need a new website?

This is one of the first questions any agency worth their salt will ask.

  • What’s the project's purpose
  • What are you trying to achieve
  • Why is your existing site not working for you?

Having a super clear business case for the design and development project will not only be vital for getting buy-in from your stakeholders but will give the agency team real clarity on the scale, scope, remit, and goals of the project.

Most agencies will start the project with a discovery phase, a deep dive into the business’s situation, needs and goals, target audiences, how the website fits into their broader marketing ecosystem, current site performance (GA/SC review) and required features and functionality.

This process will give you the space and forum to discuss the project purpose in-depth and get everything on the table. It’s the agency's job to get under the bonnet, unpick all the threads and understand all the nuances, but coming prepared with solid reasons for embarking on the project will give the process a kick start. Discover more about why workshops dig a little deeper.

Some reasons you might want to consider are

  • Technology and platform
  • Site speed and performance
  • Marketing, sales funnels and conversion
  • Proposition, positioning and reputation

Tip: Don’t skip the planning and discovery phase to shave the budget - you can always sprint the deliverables to spread costs, but if you don’t get the foundations right from the get-go, you risk jettisoning work further down the line.

Do you have the internal resources?

Delivering a website design and development project is no small feat - it’s a huge investment of time, resources, energy, headspace and budget - for the commissioning business! Yes, it’s a big undertaking for the agency, too - but it’s what we do!

More often than not, internal teams and stakeholders underestimate the resources needed to deliver a reasonably sized web project successfully. From choosing the right agency partner to briefing, content creation, feedback loops, population and approvals, it’s months and months of work and a huge undertaking on top of your day job.

It’s vital that internal resources are dedicated to the project delivery and that time is diarised into the project team and stakeholder’s calendars. Not only will this give the internal team the necessary time to deliver their outputs, but will ensure that the project runs on time. Agencies work fast, and they work to deadlines, with strict capacity flows and project plans. A missed client deadline at any stage will kick the entire project plan back and can lead to project clashes that need to be navigated - stressful for the client and the agency.

Tip: Start your content creation early. Many agencies, Abstrakt included, take a content-first approach to website design, so content is required before any high-fidelity design can start. Your agency should support you in this process with content guidance, but get ahead by auditing your existing content early so you have a clear view of what needs to be repurposed and/or created.

What’s your budget?

Many businesses are reluctant to divulge their project budget, but it’s vital to clearly know and communicate your budget to the agencies you are speaking to. Like with everything in life, you get what you pay for. What you are quoted by a freelance design developer, working with an open-source platform will be in a completely different ballpark from a specialised agency with dedicated experts in strategy, user experience, digital design, SEO, copywriting and both frontend development and backend development, as well as account and project management teams.

It’s also important to be realistic with your budget; the bigger the scope, the wider the remit and the higher the expectation, the bigger the budget will be. Depth of planning, design complexity, number of components, features, functionality, integrations, level of frontend polish and more will all play a part in the budget needed. We broke down why websites cost as much as they do.

Many agencies (including Abstrakt) cannot deliver a project for less than £20K+VAT, so it’s essential to be open and honest from the get-go to ensure you are aligned budget-wise, to save each other time and back and forth.

Do you have a platform preference?

Most businesses today prefer to use a content management system to control the content and assets on their website. There are many CMS platforms out there - Craft, WordPress, Contentful, HubSpot, Umbraco, Joomla, Drupal and Wix, to name just a few.

Some agencies will work with multiple platforms; others specialise, so if you have a platform preference, raise this early so you can filter down your agency choices. Abstrakt, for example, develops exclusively in Craft CMS, so if you are wed to another platform, we aren’t the best agency choice.

Tip: Some agencies will push you down a platform route because that’s the easiest option for them, so do your own research - find out the pros and cons of different platforms so you can make an informed decision on what will be best for your business.

What kind of agency do you need?

The kind of agency you need will depend on your project's needs and goals. If your project is highly aesthetic but doesn’t require complex functionality, a design agency that works across brand and digital may be more appropriate than a highly technical agency, which comes into its own regarding integrations, custom development and ecommerce.

At Abstrakt, we bridge the gap between high design and complex development as we have a team of experts across both sides of the fence, but only some agencies have this.

Other considerations might be location, sector knowledge, team size, experience, expertise, current client and portfolio.

Tip: Always ask to speak to a current client for whom the agency has delivered a project in the last 6-12 months. An agency with a good reputation and who delivers successfully will be more than willing to connect you to an existing client for a reference.

In conclusion...

Your agency is your ally and your champion; your success is their success, so be open, honest, and transparent. A correctly planned and scoped project will deliver dividends, so take the time to get it right from day one, and the right agency partner will exceed your expectations.

If you're starting to embark on a website project, we start ours with a discovery phase to really understand your business, brand and audience. Ready to make your mark online? Get in touch to discuss our approach to your project.

Lauren Article

Lauren Swarbrick

Lauren has decades of experience forming authentic client partnerships and has a genuine desire to create better agency-client relationships.

She has specialist knowledge in digital strategy and digital branding.

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