When you have to work with someone, make sure you work with the best.
But, how do you find the best?
With the number of digital agencies out there, ranging from freelancers to other bigwig agencies, how do you know who’s right for your business?
Better yet, what questions do you ask before you hire them? It’s a tough task, to say the least.
But, here’s how you can deal with it:
To help you figure out what you want, we have compiled a checklist, that will help you make the right decision when choosing a digital agency to partner with.
This definite guide comprises of 27 research tactics. To make it more easier for you, we have broken the guide into 3 categories namely:
So, ready to venture further?
Then, let’s get started!
A. Search Investigate And Analyze
#1. Draw Up A List Of Digital Agencies
A list always helps!
When you have no clue where to start, a list gives you the initial sense on what to look for and will ensure, that you find a quality digital agency for your project.
Short-listing the names of prospective digital agencies, that you want to work with, should be your first step.
On what basis do you make a list?
- Recommendations given by friends, colleagues – it is a good place to start as any, plus it is a great way to find reliable people.
- Ask referrals from professional contacts.
- While browsing on Google, look for agencies that have experience in your industry and with similar websites.
- If you know someone who has a great website, contact them and ask them who their designer is.
#2. Check If Their Website Is Legit
Time to put on your investigation hat!
Once you have narrowed down your choice to just a couple of digital agencies, it’s time to check them out.
To begin with, check if their website is real and legitimate.
Because there are known incidents, where clients have been duped by fake companies. Further, it does not hurt to double check, before you have dealings with them.
Here are some quick ways to check if a website is legitimate:
- Visit the Whois website – To validate, assess and to find who owns a web domain, check them out here.
- Google – Type the company’s name into search engine and see if they show up on Google.
- Get in touch – Verify if the contact number and email id listed on their website is working.
#3. Take A Look At Their Website
A simple fact:
If you don’t like a Web designer’s site, you probably won’t want them to design your website. Hence, it is important that you browse through their website, before you move forward.
Browsing through their site will not only give you a good idea of their experience and knowledge, but it will also give you a glimpse of their technical skills, where you will be able to check:
- If it is easy to navigate their site? Are things aligned properly?
- How fast does the page load? Is the text easy to read?
- Does the design complement the colours used? Is it easy to find information?
If you find a designer’s own website not up to the mark, then it is senseless to even consider working with them!
#4. Look At Their Design And Client Portfolio
Here’s a fact:
A freelancer or a digital agency’s portfolio always exhibits a variety of their best work.
Thus, reviewing the portfolio or the projects that they have worked on, will give you a basic idea of what they have to offer to you, in terms of designs and creative styles.
When you go through their current and past work, it will help you to determine if, what they do suits what you need, and if their personal style matches to what you are looking for in a website.
To put it simply:
A designer’s portfolio, shows you at a glance, what their talent and abilities are and what kind of clients they have served.
#5. Check Out Their Web Design Prices
Lets say your budget for building a website is $2000, but you don’t share this information with the agency. They put in several hours working on a proposal for you, only to realize that their quote exceeds your limit.
It is a waste of time for both of you, plus it makes you look unprofessional.
Thus, to avoid such a scenario, it is important that you check their web design prices, before you even approach them.
All companies have different pricing structure, some have a flat project price, others charge an hourly rate, while there are still others, who first check the scope of the project and then quote their price.
Hence, knowing what different packages a digital agency has to offer is important.
#6. Do A Thorough Background Check
This should be a no-brainer.
To avoid poor service and dealings with questionable characters, it is important that you do a thorough background check, before you enter into a business partnership.
And what better way to do it, then through web search!
What to do?
These networks are not only a quick way to do a background check, but they are also reliable sources. Plus, they offer access to professional as well as personal history of the company and all its members.
#7. Check Testimonials On Their Website
Knowing what others have to say about the digital agency, that you want to work with is important.
And one way to know that, is through reading testimonials.
No one, who has a less than satisfactory experience, while working with an agency, is ever going to endorse them.
But, why should you read them?
Here’s the deal:
Reading testimonials is a great way to know
- What your prospective business partner is like
- What you can expect from them.
- It tells you about their trustworthiness and reliability.
Testimonial is the client’s way of saying thank you to the agency, that has helped them to make their dreams come true, and in the process, give an insight about the company’s services to other interested clients!
#8. Check Case Studies That Show Results
Check for results, before you hire!
Because let’s agree:
A website is not just about having a beautiful online presence, but also about getting return on investments and having a website that generates revenue.
Thus, by reviewing case studies, you will be able to understand how a digital agency have helped their clients, in terms of specific results such as:
- Increased online sales
- More newsletter subscribers within a time frame
- Lead generation and conversion rate.
- Reduction in on-page bounce rate.
It is only when a digital agency is result-oriented, would it be able to help you with your goals. Hence, checking case studies is very important.
If an agency doesn’t publish case studies, you can ask them directly, because if they’re legit, I am sure they will be happy to provide examples.
#9. Check Out Their Core Services & Expertise
Hiring a designer with the right skill set is very important!
What is their core expertise or range of services? These are questions that you need to find the answers for, before getting involved with a digital agency.
Because it is only based on their ability and skill set, that you would be able to know, if they can effectively manage and complete all aspects of your project.
What should you look for?
- Check if they provide comprehensive design, development and marketing services
- Do they have SEO expertise?
- Do they develop mobile applications?
- What about experience with customized web projects?
Since, no one knows better than you, what expertise or service you would require to build your website, it is important that you first find answers to these questions, before proceeding further.
#10. Check What Technical Skills They Have
The amount of technical skills required to build a website depends on the scope of work.
Thus You don’t have to fully understand all the technical details that are involved, but just have a basic idea of the technical jargon that the agencies might throw your way.
So, what should you look for?
Like I said:
A general understanding is more than enough, because technical aspects keep on changing and technical skills mainly depend on the scope of the project.
#11. Check What CMS They Use To Power Websites
Is it open source or licensed?
Knowing what kind of content management system is used by a digital agency to power websites, is of utmost important.
Because, if a website is built using Open source CMS , it can be modified by any developer in the future.
Whereas, if it is built using a licensed CMS, it cannot be modified by just anybody, which means that you are tied to your website designer for life.
Today, mostly all digital agencies use an open source software (WordPress). Still it doesn’t hurt to check!
#12. Check If They Follow A Process
What’s a process?
A process is like a flow chart, that shows the sequence of steps, that a digital agency follows while handling a project.
What should you look for?
- Check if they do a basic analysis of your business, competitors and market research, before beginning the design process.
- How much time do they spend on research and planning?
- Do they provide wire-frames before designing a website?
- Do they check the functionality of the website before it goes live?
They should be able to first create a structure for your website, based on your brief, and the results obtained through planning and research.
Things like overall functionality of a website, content structure and other details, must all be planned out, before they start working on your project.
#13. Check Their Team Size
Knowing what their team size is, will help you to determine if an agency can deliver on its promise and if they can complete your project.
Checking the “About Us” page on their website, will give you a fair idea of how big or small the company is and will also tell you what skills each team member has.
But, why is it important?
Here’s the deal:
If an agency’s team size is too small, you may run the risk of the project getting delayed, due to lack of available expertise.
Similarly, if the team is too large, problems like lack of personal service or care for your project, may arise.
Therefore, it is important that you check their team size before you start working with them.
C. Important Factors To Consider Before You Start
#1. Non-Disclosure Agreement
Why you need a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
Signing an NDA, protects any type of proprietary information or a trade secret being shared in the public domain, without your knowledge.
This could include your business’s ideas, designs, processes, or any other matter, that is specific to your project, that you wish to restrict access to.
If you want confidentiality concerning your business information, then clarify before hand, if an agency or a freelancer is willing to sign a Non-disclosure agreement with you.
#2. Check Payment & Delivery Terms
Agree to terms before you start!
Since different companies use different payment structures, it is important to know how much and when you will need to pay, before signing a business agreement.
Some digital agency’s payment schedules match the delivery schedules, i.e
- 30% at the beginning of a project
- 25% on finalizing creative design
- 25% once the structure is completed
- 20% balance to be given before the launch
Knowing what payment pattern they follow, is critical before work commences. Plus, don’t forget to check on the deadlines and delivery of the website.
#3. Do A Trial – Work With Them On A Project
So, finally you have identified the ideal digital agency or a freelancer, that you want to work with, but still not certain?
Just to be sure you that you have banked your money on the right person, start out by giving him a small project. That’s right!
This way you will be able to:
- Observe the person in action and will get an initial sense, on what working with them is like.
- You would get to know how efficient they are.
- How well they follow directions.
- How well they communicate problems and delays.
Sometimes even though they are good at their job, there is a conflict of personalities. Thus, it is better to deal with it now, than be in a miserable client-vendor relationship, for months on end.