Hiring a web designer is like getting married, it sounds like a bit of a stretch doesn’t it?
However, the longer I have worked as a web designer the more I have come to believe this statement is true. Promises are exchanged, commitments are made and arguments can often ensue.
Let me explain what I mean...
Its not just about good looks
The first thing to remember is that looks are not everything. Its easy to be seduced by the prettiest girl in the room. However, she could easily have bad breath or a terrible personality.
With web design agencies, website owners face a similar challenge. An agency can have a stunning portfolio, but that doesn’t mean you should consider them ‘attractive’.
A site’s aesthetics is only one factor of a successful website. Like bad breath, a poor user experience will undermine a site’s attractiveness.
Also remember a web design agency may produce great work, but if their approach and personality does not match yours, it would be a mistake to hire them. It will only lead to disagreements and an eventual breakup. A successful working relationship is just as important as a designer's ability to produce visually attractive work.
Communication is essential
Any marriage counsellor will tell you that good communication is the cornerstone of a successful marriage. The same is true for the client/designer relationship.
Too many web projects fail because their is a lack of communication. You want an agency that is always on the end of the phone, quick to respond to emails and constantly giving you feedback on the project.
You also want a web design ‘partner’ who is proactive in communication too. A good web designer will suggest ideas and not just respond to yours. They will contact you with project updates instead of waiting to be asked. However, most importantly they will include you in the design process rather than working in isolation.
You must want the same things
Before you get married it is important to discuss and agree on key issues such as whether you want a family. If both parties do not want the same thing it will quickly become a sticking point in the relationship.
Too many web designers have their own agenda rather than sharing that of their clients. They want to create stunning portfolio pieces or try out new technology. Instead they should be focused on your business objectives.
Before entering into a contract with an agency, be sure they share your agenda and values.
It should be a long term partnership
Surprisingly many website owners treat their relationship with a web designer as nothing more than a one night stand. They commission an agency for a single project and then cast them aside like a jilted lover.
Although working with an agency on a single project can have its place, it will not build anything of lasting, long term value. Truly successful websites receive ongoing investment and that means working in partnership with the web designer for a considerable length of time.
I recently wrote an article on my blog about how we increased the sales on an ecommerce site by 10,000%. Although this sounds impressive, that process took five years and involved building up a long term partnership with the client.
It will change and evolve as you learn
I have been married now for 12 years. Over that time our lives have changed. As we have grown older and more experienced, we have gradually made better choices which have led to improvements in our lives.
We should expect our websites to evolve and change in much the same way. We don’t throw out of old lives every three-four years and start again. Why then do we do that with our websites?
As you and your agency work together, you will tweak and improve your website, making it more effective and building on past work. It is insane how some companies go through expensive redesign every few years throwing out the old site, only to leave the new one untended before repeating the process. As I say in my book, the Website Owners Manual:
For your website to have a long term future, you need to must stop periodic redesigns and embrace continual development.
Look for an agency that wants to work with you to improve your site incrementally rather than going for the expensive design.
You need passion
Finally all good relationships need passion. Is your web designer passionate about your website or is it just another job to them?
You want a web designer who calls you at three in the morning (not literally) with a brilliant new idea for your site that just couldn’t wait.
Your web designer needs to be as enthusiastic about the success of your website as you. Do not settle for anything else.
Straining the analogy
Perhaps I have pushed the analogy too far. However, my point is that selecting a web design agency is about more than asking ‘do they produce amazing looking websites?’
A great web designer should be passionate, committed, communicative and have a clear focus on your business objectives. If you meet the right agency then there is a real chance you will raise a beautiful, happy and successful website together.