Another recent reader request (indeed, one we get regularly) was for advice on choosing a website design agency. Although BMON has undertaken a number of website design commissions in the past, nowadays we’re determined not to spread ourselves too thinly, and we’re focusing on supporting our Google AdWords management clients. However, I do have some thoughts on the subject.
Assuming you’re not subcontracting out the project as a whole, including the management, my advice (perhaps surprisingly) is not to get a web design agency involved until much later in the project. I’ve found that one of the biggest elements in the cost of building (or redesigning) a website is the involvement of the web designers in the planning stages, when they’re not actually doing much. This is the stage when you’re making the decisions. Indeed, their involvement can even have a counterproductive element, because they’ll be thinking about the design and content management, and how that can be done as easily as possible, and will direct your planning with that in mind. I don’t think you need compromises like that. I’ve never yet come across a structural concept from a company which can’t be met by a decent web designer.
So by all means start auditioning website designers in good time, but tell them that you will be specifying the structure of the site, and writing all the content, and you’ll just expect them to realise that vision at the end. Trust me, if you got them involved from the start, you’d still end up having to design the structure and write the content, but you’d be paying for them to sit in and watch.
In other words, completely separate the three tasks of outlining the structure, producing the content and implementing the site. Do the first two yourself (with copywriting help if necessary) without even thinking about how it might look. Shamelessly steal ideas from other sites; indeed, allocate a lot of time to examining how other companies do things. When you’ve got all that sorted, that’s when you go to the website design company. I’d also recommend requesting them to implement it in a widely-used, open-source content management system such as WordPress or Joomla. With the work you’ve done, the cost will be less than what it would be if you got the website design company in – unnecessarily – from the start.