Here is part 2 of a talk that Remedy gave at the Not For Profit Technology Show in London, alongside James Higgott from The Royal Marsden Hospital.
The first part was about preparing a website design brief, this part is about choosing your design agency and the third part (blog post to follow) is about getting the design right.
Choosing the right design agency
1) Who’s work do you like?
Boutique web design specialist? Integrated design agency? Award winning, West End hot shop? A freelancer that a friend recommends? Whoever you shortlist and however you come across them, the first filter you need to apply is “do I like their work?” If there is a design sensibility or aesthetic that you admire in their portfolio, then that’s a great start. Also, it’s good to keep an open mind – just because the agency doesn’t have experience in your specific sector, doesn’t mean they can’t create a fantastic website for you.
2) Understand who you’ll be working with
It’s all very well meeting the Creative Director, Managing Director and Head of Online Strategy, but will they actually be looking after your web project? If not, it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable to know the calibre of the team that will be designing and writing your website and who you will be dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
3) Understand their processes
Every agency will have it’s own ways of working. Some will be a comfortable fit and some will drive you up the wall. One marketing director we recently met described working with his previous agency as being like “pulling teeth”. Websites don’t happen over night, so you will, by default, have to build a relationship with your design agency; so make sure it’s one that will work.
4) What do they expect from you?
From day one, right up until your new website is launched, you will have to be part of the process. Make sure from the outset just how involved your agency will expect you to be and what they will need from you, and when. Will they want to work with you to determine site architecture? Will they want draft copy at the outset? Will they want a face-to-face meeting every week? To help things to run smoothly, insist on a project schedule that is realistic for both you and the agency.
5) Ask for references
You’ve met the team. They’re charming, eloquent and have some great work in their portfolio. If they’re really as good as they say they are, they will have left a trail of very happy clients in their wake, so don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of references. It could well save a lot of heartache.
6) Choose people you get on with
Yes, it sounds obvious, but this is just as important as choosing a design agency who’s work you love. If they’re creative geniuses, they could also be prima donnas with egos the size of Ben Nevis. So, here’s a simple formula – a great portfolio + nice people = at least half way to choosing your design agency.
7) What does the estimate include?
Websites are complex, with lots of elements to consider, and all adding to the cost. Architecture, wire-framing, front-end design, content management system and CMS training, copywriting, Search Engine Optimisation, imagery, hosting… Make sure that you know what is included in the price. If there is a lack of clarity in the estimate, ask the agency to spell it out in black and white. Remember, a seemingly simple functionality change could have significant cost implications, so agree the functionality spec. at the start.
8) Licensed CMS?
Sometimes, a bespoke content management system is the best solution, often an open source system will work just as well. Think long and hard before you choose an agency that insists, come what may, on using their licensed, bespoke content management system. However, if your new website requires functionality that means a bespoke CMS is the most practical option, it is important to understand what happens if, at some point in the future, you want to move your site.
9) You get what you pay for
‘Websites from £500′ shouts the poster in the agency window. Now, let’s stop a moment before getting our cheque books out. Even if the agency only charges £50 an hour, can they really plan, design, build and optimise a website that will help move your business forward, in 10 hours?
A website is more often than not, an organisation’s most powerful marketing tool. If your website is going to be your shop window; a key way to communicate with members, clients or supporters; or the first port of call when anyone wants to find out about you, don’t make cost the most important factor when choosing your design agency.
If you are putting together a shortlist of agencies (three is the magic number), we recommend that you read our previous post on preparing a website design brief
You can download all of this presentation in PDF format including slides from James Higgott at www.ioftech.org.uk/resources