You have a big web project ahead. How do you know which web agency can do the job?

Are you thinking about hiring a web agency to handle the next major overhaul of your website? This is a common choice for organizations of all sizes, from the small businesses who don’t have the internal resources to build a website themselves, to large enterprise corporations with an extensive marketing department that nonetheless lacks the requisite expertise.

Hiring a web agency for the design of your site is a smart move for a number of reasons. The first and most relevant reason is expertise: you need access to a team of people with specialized skills, and the likelihood that you have all of them in-house is very low. And then there’s cost: even a website with a six figure price tag is cheaper than hiring the number of full-tiem employees you would need to build it internally.

And finally, there’s experience: a web agency specializes in websites like yours, meaning they build multiple projects a year for a wide range of industries. Your most competent internal staff probably haven’t worked on a new website since they build your last, upwards of five years ago. Now they have their own initiatives to work on which must move forward, and they may not have the focus to spare for such an extensive project.

A qualified web agency is at the cutting edge of industry expertise, and has the resources to turn your website around in a matter of weeks, rather than the better part of a year. But how do you tell if the agency you’re looking at can deliver on their promises? Here are five essential qualifications to look for.

1. What does their portfolio look like?

First of all, take a look around their website. Do a deep dive and explore their content. Their own site should be an excellent indication of their capabilities. It’s the one site over which they have full control, so you don’t have to question whether any of the design decisions were overridden by clients.

Next, look for their work page: how many projects do they have listed, and what do they say about them? Do you recognize any of the brands? Can you go to the websites and look around? This will give you an idea for how the website look once they’re in use. While clients can sometimes change the appearance of a website after delivery, the functionality and usability should be on full display.

2. Can they demonstrate that they have done similar projects in the past?

Ideally, the web agency will have detailed case studies describing some of their best projects. This goes beyond a simple client testimonial and gives a background into the specific challenges they faced in a web project, as well as the solutions they provided.

Best of all, these case studies should show results. They should describe their process and how they achieved their end goals. You should walk away from their case study with a firm understanding of their capabilities, not vague on the details.

3. How well do they understand your business and your needs?

As we said earlier, one of the benefits of working with a web agency is their outside perspective. They’ve worked with dozens of other clients, and that gives them insight into a diverse set of industries—some maybe even similar to your own.

More importantly, a competent agency knows how to learn about your business. They place a priority on listening to your businesses needs, and go out of their way to do the groundwork both for their proposal, and in the early discovery stages of your web project.

Any agency delivering a canned proposal with a one-size-fits-all solution isn’t paying close enough attention to your needs. If they aren’t delivering a solution that takes in your unique situation and planning time in their proposal to do deeper research to know your company inside and out, they won’t be able to deliver a satisfactory result.

4. How big is their staff and how long have they been in business?

Every company has to start somewhere, and most agencies begin small with just a couple people working around the clock to deliver the projects they need to build up their portfolio so that they can land bigger and better projects. That’s certainly how we started.

But that was a decade ago, and in the interim, we’ve not only expanded our portfolio, we’ve build a team of employees with diversified skillsets. As our company has grown, so have our capabilities, as well as our experience in working with a range of businesses and industries.

That’s not to imply that there’s a magic number out there for how big a company should be in order for you to work with them. Some companies seem larger than they are because half their staff are contractors or freelancers. And for small projects in niche industries, a one- or two-person team may be able to accomplish your project with ease.

But if you’re trying to hire a company for a complex new web project, a multichannel marketing strategy, a complete brand overhaul, or an intricate piece of custom development, you should look for a company that employs a full team of specialists with expertise in each aspect of your project.

5. Do they have references you can contact?

Finally, hiring a web agency is much like hiring an employee. You want to be able to speak with someone who has worked with them in the past and who can attest to the quality of their work. Even if you never end up making the call, any agency should be forthcoming in providing access to clients who can testify to the quality of their work.

Of course, much of this you should already know from looking at their portfolio. Because of this, the main purpose of a reference call is due diligence. You want to confirm that what they put on their website aligns to what people from that company will say about their work.

Evidence inspires confidence.

We talk a lot about how important trust is in sales and marketing. In best-case scenarios, the relationships you build with customers can result in productive, long-term relationships. But when you first begin a project with a company, you shouldn’t have to base that decision on trust alone. In fact, the more a company is expecting you to trust them without solid evidence of their ability to fulfill their contract engagements, the less confident you should feel in your decision to work with them.

Conversely, companies you can actually trust will offer enough evidence of their abilities that you don’t actually have to. There’s power in proof. And when a web agency can show you the work, the research, and the data that backs every claim and every decision, you should be confident that they are a good choice for your website.

Published 06/14/19 by Laura Lynch