There are many web companies that specialize in helping businesses improve their online presence. When selecting a new agency, it’s important not only to do your due diligence, but to compare apples to apples.
With that in mind here are qualities to look for in your next digital team:
A Proven Track Record
Will they deliver on time and on budget? Ask for references, and get, at the very least, three. If the agency hesitates or can only provide one or two tops, move on.
Experience in Your Industry
Every industry has its own quirks. A team that knows your industry will take less time getting up to speed and may have insights from other projects that could be helpful. Ask about specific jobs and see if there’s a good fit.
Design Samples that You Like
Someone might talk a great game, but if you don’t like their past work, don’t hire them. That said, development and design can be split between firms if that makes sense in your case.
A Flexible Platform
Some platforms are very rigid, which is fine for the short-term but not for the long-term. Ask how changes are made and if you need to do fairly sweeping changes in the future, can the platform handle it or will you be starting from scratch. Ask for examples of change over time.
A CMS that Is Easy to Use and Maintain
This is a big one. There are lots of content management systems, and some are better than others. Ask for demos. Have someone walk you through how common things are done (making new posts, adding images, archiving documents, the lifecycle of the publishing process, etc.).
Experience with Mobile/Responsive Design
Mobile experience is a given at this point, but there are still some web agencies that are living in 1999. Have them show you sites on different devices. Ask how those are made. Ask how they keep up with changes in technology. Make sure their websites are very fast. If not, mobile will suffer.
A Secure Platform
This cannot be overstated. Security is everything. Ask for security audits, security methodology, internal security policies. Ask if they’ve ever gone through a DDoS attack and what happened. Ask if they conduct or are willing to allow PEN tests to be done. Ask if any of their sites have ever been hacked. Ask how they audit plugins. Ask who has access to the server(s) your website is on. Again, ask for at least three references.
Do They Outsource Anything?
If so, what? Outsourcing, on its face can be fine as long as the agency controls the process and takes full responsibility for the end product. How long have they worked with this partner? What other work have they done together? If they’re a developer, will they be available for the entirety of your project's lifecycle? Is the subcontractor reliable/stable? Do they have insurance? Is there a backup plan if something happens?
Are you going to get what you pay for in a timely fashion and on budget? Ask about their process. Ask what the common stumbling blocks are and how you and they can work together to avoid them. Ask what they need from you, the client, to make the project successful. Ask what they do when something goes wrong. Ask if they offer guarantees on all or part of their work product.
Great Customer Service
What happens after the sale? Do they have guaranteed response times? Do they use a ticketing or tracking system? Do you have a dedicated service rep? Are they friendly and helpful? What happens if something goes wrong or there’s a dispute? What’s the escalation path? What are their hours? What happens if the site goes down at 2am? These are also questions that can be asked of the references they provide. Were they treated as well after the sale as before it?
Fair means different things to different people. What we mean is: do they help you create value? Who owns copyright? Is that part of the fee or is it extra? How do they handle additions and alterations? At what point is a fixed fee not fixed anymore? If there’s a small change, what are the rates, will they nickel and dime you?
Business Continuity Plan
Do they have a written business continuity plan? If something happens in the middle of the project (fire, flood, leadership change, etc.) will they still be in business and will your project be okay? Do they have enough insurance? Are there backup systems in place for development files, plans, etc.
Focus on Customer Experience
Do they talk about helping you add value to your customers (in whatever form that takes)? If not, find another agency because they don’t get it.
Independent and Verifiable References
Don’t skimp on this one. Again, get at least those three references and call them. Ask them how it is to work with this company, and if they’ve had issues. If so, were they easily resolved? Was the web agency fair? Did they do what they said? How was customer service? How are they with changes and the unexpected? And, ultimately, would the reference do another project with them again?
They Explain Things in a Way that You Understand
How do you feel when you interact with this agency? Are they focused on you or on themselves? Do they listen? Do they try to answer your questions honestly and in a way you understand or do they use a lot of jargon and try to impress or confuse? Websites are hard, and technology changes quickly. Most folks we work with appreciate transparency and feeling like they’re being well informed so they can make good decisions.
Have additional questions? Contact us. No pressure - we’re happy to help!
~Your Friendly Animus Rex Team