How to choose a website design agency

The website design and development racket is a tricky field to navigate.

If you find yourself in search of web design agencies, it’s sometimes hard to tell the wood from the trees in terms of differentiating between the good and the bad.

The aim of this blog is to give you a few pointers on why it’s worth your while getting professionals to design and develop your website.

 

#1 How hard can it be? I’ll do it myself for a fraction of the price

 

Don’t get me wrong many people have successfully designed, developed and launched their own websites using one of the well-known platforms such as WordPress or Wix.

But, have they created something that truly reflects their brand or business? Well I’d bet that 99% of ‘self-built’ websites entirely misrepresent their brand/business or simply don’t do it justice.

A website is often the first place a prospective new client will look – the importance of making a good first impression is essential in building trust, driving conversion and encouraging advocacy.

 

 

#2 Due-diligence whether it’s a new business or an upgrade – don’t go rogue

 

So, you’ve made the right choice and realised what’s best for your business.

You must be careful though. As in every industry, especially overcrowded ones, there are those who have your best interests at heart, and then there are the crooks.

Owing to how diluted the industry is, the web design and development space is littered with people trying to exploit other peoples ignorance and make a quick buck and whilst most agencies in question provide a similar service offering to one-another, it’s up to you to differentiate between them all.

It’s important to try and choose an agency that will take as much pride in the client’s business and brand, as the client themselves.

This is obviously easier said than done but finding a team with enthusiasm for not only their work, but also their clients, will ensure a positive outcome further down the line.

An obvious place you can check this is in their case studies. If there aren’t beautiful examples of past work proudly placed on a pedestal on the agency’s website, alarm bells should be ringing.

Another easy way of finding reputable agencies is through industry related publications and the annual awards given out to leading website design agencies in London and globally.

 

#3 Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys

 

Monkey selfieWhen it comes to costs, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is and somewhere down the line you’ll end up in losing out either financially or being lumped with a mediocre, under-whelming website.

Always bear in mind the number of different elements it takes to build a good website – design, UX, development and SEO. Each are very specific skills that people spend years honing and as such you expect to pay!

So, save your time and don’t engage with any company who quote significantly less than all the other quotes that you have received.

Especially in regard to SMEs and start-ups, budgets can be restrictive, but, considering the importance of a website plays on client’s first impressions, every effort should be made to make them as well-crafted as they can be.

Websites are often more expensive than people think but when you take into account the expertise you are getting for your money, the juice is worth the squeeze.

75% of user judgment about your business’s credibility is based on your website’s design
University of Surrey

People are often taken aback by the costs of building a custom website. Whilst these costs are usually fair, the agency should provide fairly comprehensive breakdowns demonstrating how they are arriving at the forecasted costs, including an idea of additional development and post build costs should they be needed.

Getting several quotes from different agencies should give you a good idea of a ballpark figure you should expect to pay.

Whilst there are some very intuitive platforms out there that can walk you through every step to building an intuitive and responsive website for relatively little money, the chances of you creating a website that best reflects your business is hard with off the shelf templates. What’s more; by using the standard themes offered by the likes of WordPress and Shopify, it’s likely that your website will end up looking similar if not identical to someone else’s and correct me if I’m wrong, it’s in a businesses interest to stand out from the crowd, not mix about in it.

 

#4 Forming Lasting Relationships

 

Digital professionals helping ambitious brands thrive online.

This is the mantra at the core of Diffusion Digital’s ethos and fundamentally lays out our driving force, and, in danger of sounding self-righteous, it’s one that every digital agency should pursue.

people working happily

I say ‘pursue’ because – owing to evolving environments, demographics and products, to name but a few – this process is changes with the times and we must adapt with it. Having an agency aboard throughout will make your life easier in the long run.

Agencies should demonstrate that they take genuine pride in the websites they help craft. They should take the time to truly understand what the brand or business stands for and the client’s objectives or vision into the future, as well as Key Performance Indicators.

When a collection of brilliant minds, hearts, and talents come together… expect a masterpiece
John Ruskin

 

#5 Sit back and watch your business/brand evolve online

 

The beauty of using an agency is that you should expect all bases to be covered.

  • Appropriate platform

Magento, WordPress, Kentico, Salesforce, Shopify are just a few of the platforms that people host their websites on and which one to use depends on your business. Engaging the correct platform from the outset is critical to all businesses moving forward in terms of functionality abd scaling the business in the future.

  • SEO structure

It is essential to involve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) from the earliest stages of a website build. Creating keyword optimised landing pages will help Google recognise what your business is and subsequently, with an ongoing content strategy, high quality organic traffic will be driven to your site.

  • Clever custom animations

Being able to customise apps and other integrations is essential to truly bringing a brand to life online. Agencies make it their mission to tweak existing apps to best fit the profile of the business they are working for. This allows entirely bespoke interactions that will truly enhance the appearance and performance of the site.

  • Seamless user experience

Creating a site that is easy to navigate, with intuitive integrations and that’s pleasing both visibly as well as practically is a crucial part of attracting engaging and retaining visitors to a site.

  • Responsive design

Increasingly people use a variety of devices to access the internet making it essential to develop a website that transitions seamlessly from one device to another.

#6 Key considerations

 

  • Does this agency have the right expertise?

Choosing an agency cartoonThe agency doesn’t necessarily have to be old but it is worth checking the experience of the team who is going to be working on your account. It has been known that experienced people will be in the discovery stages in order to win the brief and subsequently pass the account onto less able juniors. Whilst this is great in teaching other people skills, it might not be ideal in terms of building your website.

  • Does this agency offer all of the services I require?

Where possible find an agency where all departments — SEO, Development, UX, Copy Writing to name but a few — are housed under one roof. In terms of simplicity, efficiency and ease of communication this is far better than working with agencies who sub-contact elements out to people who might be based on the other side of the world

  • Is my business important to them?

Find people who care. If it is a small project don’t go to a big agency because they might not assign the same amount of time as they do to other projects.

  • How many people will be working on my account?

This will vary throughout the build. Expect all sections to be involved during the initial discovery stages but once designs and strategies have been laid down the teams will work individually on the sections that are relevant to them before passing it onto the next to complete theres.

  • Who will be my main contact?

Ensure clear lines of communication are set up and you know who you speak to directly should you need to

  • What am I paying for?

You are paying for a team of experts in their respective fields to help bring your business to life on line. In a world where digital is taking over a little more each day, it is essential that we keep up with the times and by creating a beautiful website you will extend your reach enormously.

  • Do you like and trust them?

This isn’t just an agency who you need to help you in the short term. These individuals are going to be dealing with something which is incredibly important to you and as such you need to not only to like them, but more importantly trust them. You need to be able to look at them and tell that they are going to treat your baby – so to speak – with the upmost respect. Essentially a website design agency becomes intimately involved in the development of your brand/business and as such you need to see that they care.

  • Are they asking the right questions?

The agency should develop a deep understanding of the business and how it works during the initial discovery stage, this should also look into key performance indicators and future targets.

  • Are they able to provide testimonials and examples of work?

Whilst the agency doesn’t necessarily have to be too old, it is important that at least a few of the people who work there have considerable experience working in the industry. This can be tested by looking at the testimonials on both the individual as well as the work they have done.

Ultimately what you ant to ask yourself is whether or not you will form a good relationship with the agency and especially the team who are going to be working on your account.

Contact with an agency rarely ends after the build is complete and usually an agency will offer retainer packages to manage a website into the future. Moreover finding an agency who offers on-going SEO and content marketing retainer strategies that will help drive high quality organic traffic to your site.

 

5 Telltale Signs that your Website Needs Updating

A lot has changed in the realm of web design over the last decade – if you had a new website built in 2006, the concepts behind it would have been flashy, innovative and unique. Leave this design unchanged and fast forward to 2016 – it is now clunky, hard to navigate, and has aged very badly!

But what are the telltale signs that are an instant giveaway that your website is in desperate need of some TLC. Here we have chosen five of the most telling signs that you should keep a look out for.

No Responsive Design

This is probably the biggest giveaway in an age where over 50% of all internet traffic is coming from either a mobile or tablet device. Your website may look great on a large computer screen, but if it doesn’t have different functionality to suit different screen sizes then you can instantly lose 25% of your clientele in the blink of an eye. This is why it is vitally important that your website is responsive to all screen sizes. It is now possible for web developers to code a single website to work on every type of platform. A non-responsive design is something that will greatly add to your bounce rate.

High Bounce Rate

A bounce rate is something that shows you how long a user stays on your website after viewing the first page. If your bounce rate is 50% that means that 50% of your web traffic leaves the site without ever navigating deeper into content. There are a number of reasons that affect your bounce rate (responsive design), but one of the key factors is the ‘information architecture’ of your website. If your website was not created with the user in mind and designed in a way that allows users to navigate intuitively from page to page, then this is likely key aspect as to why your bounce rate is suffering. You want to give the impression that the quick easy navigation of your website reflects the experience people will have when they do business with you.

Can’t Easily Make Content Updates

This is one for you – the website owners. In the past it was necessary to be an expert in HTML coding in order to update a website, leading business owners neither the time or money to keep their content up to date. Well, how things have changed! Now there are CMS (Content Management Systems) such as WordPress and Shopify that allow you to keep your website updated even without an expert knowledge in computer sciences. Updating a CMS is almost as easy as editing a Microsoft Word document – so is something that has numerous benefits and saves a lot of time. Also, if your website is easy to update, its something that you will do more often, which will leave your customers with more accurate information – something that means your site will rank higher in Google searches.

The Overall Design is Dated

This (as well as responsive design) is probably the thing that is going to be the most noticeable to users – your website is, after all, a reflection of your business. When someone is searching online, your website is often the first time they come into contact with your business, therefore leaving it to form the basis of their opinion on you. An old and amateurish website reflects badly on your business.

Some of the more noticeable signs of this include the presence of a splash page, too many colours, small imagery, and a very narrow page layout.

Probably the easiest way to compare the design of your website is by checking the websites of your competitors – all other services being equal, users will go to the site that looks the most modern and up to date.

Your Social Media Interaction

A social media presence in this day and age is rather vital to the success of your business, and as a result the majority of businesses maintain a presence in some shape or form. Your website should include links to various social media accounts in order to optimise the traffic to the page, whilst also allowing visitors to easily flip back and forth between platforms.

In 2016, having an up to date and modern website, with functionality to match, is so key to the success of your business in an era where nearly all aspects of our lives are governed by an online presence. Take a look at your website, if you spot any of the above signs, then perhaps you should start thinking about the next steps.

 

Do you have a WordPress site and need to take it to the next level in order to stand out from the ever swelling crowd? Find out more about our WordPress design and development services here.

Responsive Web Design – What Is It?

Different websites have different needs and therefore will require different features in order for them to be successful. The needs of an e-commerce site compared with that of an accounting firm are far and few between, for example, where a clothing brand is selling a range of T shirts, they need to have a feature to let customers know when a particular size or colour is out of stock. This necessity would be obsolete in an accounting firm where they are offering their services rather then a physical product. Regardless of a particular site’s needs, however, there is one feature that is critical to the success of all sites – mobile-friendliness and responsive design support.

 

What Are The Basics?

Responsive Web Design or RWD is the technique of designing and coding a website so that it provides an optimal viewing experience for the user – easy reading and navigation with as little resizing, panning and scrolling as possible – across a whole host of devices (ranging from desktop computer monitors to mobile phone screens).

The designer who is responsible for creating the Responsive Design has to ensure that the websites navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and all other UI (User Interface) elements readjust themselves on a variety of devices. This means that you do not have to waste time developing two separate sites – one for desktop and one of mobile – and can therefore save yourself a lot of money and hassle!

More people in the UK now use their phone to browse the Internet then with their computers or laptops. This shift in device usage outlines the importance of incorporating a Responsive Design in your plan. In fact, Mashable even dubbed 2013 the Year of Responsive Web Design. Pete Cashmore wrote,  “For those of us who create websites and services, all this leads to a singular conclusion: A million screens have bloomed, and we need to build for all of them.”

 

What Does Responsive Web Design Look Like?

The purpose of Responsive Design is to have one site, but with different elements that respond differently when viewed on different sized devices.

For example lets use a traditionally ‘fixed’ website. When viewed on a desktop computer, the website might show four columns, but when viewed on a tablet screen you might be forced to scroll horizontally through these – which is something that users aren’t too fond of. Other times elements might be hidden or images appear distorted. This is often complicated by the fact that mobile and tablet users can view websites in both landscape and portrait orientation.

On an even smaller smartphone screen, there are often even more challenges. Largely sized images may break the layout, and if the graphics are too heavy, the pages can take a long time to load.

With Responsive Design, however, the tablet version could automatically adjust to display just two columns – making the content readable and much easier to navigate. On a smaller smartphone screen, the content could appear in just a single column, stacked vertically – therefore having the same beneficial effects as the tablet. Previously distorted or cut off images would have automatically resized to the screens dimensions.

Basically the content on your website automatically adjusts to whatever device it is being viewed on!

 

How Does Responsive Web Design Work?

Responsive websites use something called fluid grids. All the elements on a page are sized by proportion rather then by pixels. For example, if you have three columns you wouldn’t say exactly how wide each should be, but rather how wide they should be in relation to the other columns. Column 1 should take up half the page, column 2 should take up 30%, and column 3 should take up 20%, for instance.

Media such as images is also resized relatively. That way an image can stay within its column or relative design element.

 

To Round Up

Got the basics of Responsive Web Design, or still a little lost? Every website, regardless of that particular site’s goals or the audience that it serves, will benefit from a display that works great across different screen sizes. As a consumer it is now expected that a website is responsive when they access it from a device other then their computers – when the website isn’t, they will immediately be aware of this factor, and ultimately it can and will affect how they engage with your business.

 

 

Diffusion Digital can help with your design needs. Read more about our responsive web design and development and how we can help optimise your website here.