Selecting the right design firm for your website can make or break your redesign project. Learn what questions to ask before picking your agency partner.

Diary of a Redesign - Part 5

How to Choose a Design Firm for Your Website Redesign Project

Wed Jul 9, 2014

Have you been hearing any of the following from your marketing team or members of your organization?

“Our unique website visitors keep trending down.”

“I don’t send anyone to the website—it’s useless.”

“Our bounce rate stopped bouncing—it’s skyrocketing!”

“The website no longer represents our brand—it’s using colors from two revamps ago.”

With each response, you creep closer and closer to the realization that it’s time for a website redesign. After identifying business goals for your website and determining that there is budget available for the project, you have the next obstacle. “How do I find the best design firm for my redesign project?”

Choosing the right partner can make or break the success of your website. Beyond the first impression of their work, make sure you ask the right questions to determine the best fit and a design firm's ability to help you meet your business goals.

Do you like the design firm’s website?

You can tell a lot about a design firm from their own website. As it is with your own site, this will be the first impression you get from them. Does their site have all of the bells and whistles you want in your design? Are you able to find what you’re looking for easily? While we all have heard about “the cobbler’s unshod children” this should not apply for a website design firm. If they’re not employing the latest trends and technologies for themselves, how can they share best practices with you?

Does their design portfolio reflect your website goals?

Most agencies display their portfolio by vertical, industry or company size. That can be helpful if you’re in a highly specialized vertical that requires unique website needs such as compliance. If they don’t understand HIPAA compliance, they won’t be a good fit for your healthcare website. But the needs of your website may not be dictated solely by vertical. Based on your goal definitions, make sure the agency has demonstrated experience addressing your goals.  A beautiful website that can’t accommodate multiple calls to action would be awful if driving leads is the primary goal of your redesign. This is an agency’s best work, if it doesn’t get you excited, it’s probably not a great fit.

Do they have a project management methodology that will clearly get you from start to success?

All agencies will say they have a “proven methodology.” Ask for details that substantiate this claim. How much time do they suggest for discovery? What are the outputs for each stage? How many revisions are standard versus what you pay more for? These nuances can have a significant impact on budget and time frame, so dig deep on their methodology to find out the finer details.

Do they listen?

All websites are not created equal. And all website goals aren’t either. If a design agency is trying to offer solutions before they’ve actively listened to your needs and goals, this is a serious red flag. In order to develop a website that fulfills your needs, they need to understand your needs! If you’re presenting questions and asking for clarity during the vetting process and you’re only getting stock responses, this is what you’ll get during the project. A firm that listens to your problems before offering solutions is going to provide you with a much richer experience—the experience working together and the website experience.

Do they have offices near my office?

In today’s flat world, most work and collaboration occurs online. And with tools like Basecamp, this form of collaboration is easier and easier. But with a website redesign, having the opportunity for some face-to-face time can be helpful. Being able to share real-time feedback can have a profound impact on review cycles—less time clarifying feedback and more time spent finessing wire-frames and designs.

Coupling standard selection criteria (budget, time frame, portfolio, etc.) with these considerations will give you a more complete view of your design short list. Once you’ve selected your design agency, you don’t want any bombshells to derail your project, so ask as many questions as you need  in this phase to mitigate surprises.

What questions have you found are critical in the design selection process that you would include? Let us know in the comments.

This post is the part of our weekly Diary of a Redesign series, which covers every stage of the website redesign process, from planning, to design, to implementation, to launch. New posts published every Wednesday.