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    Web Development

    Web Development Agency: Things to consider

    For many businesses their website is more than just a shop window, it’s the whole way that they are able to operate. For others, it’s an essential business tool that accompanies the services they provide or the products that they sell.

    But, whatever its overall purpose, it needs to be professionally created, well maintained and flexible enough to accommodate changing business needs and priorities.

    To achieve all these objectives isn’t easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. That’s because, if you choose your web development agency carefully enough, they should all be a given. Plus, the right place can also offer you so much more to help make the development project a big success.

    You’ll probably have noticed that there is a huge number of agencies out there, all clamouring for business and among them there are the whole range from the good to the bad and the downright ugly. Fortunately, by knowing what to look for and which questions to ask weeding out the latter two categories can be surprisingly easy.

    So here are twelve areas to investigate if you want to choose somewhere that will not only achieve the results that you need but will also make working together a relatively pain-free process too. This is by no means a comprehensive list. But positive findings in most to the key areas will mean that you can be pretty confident that expectations could even be exceeded.

    What range of services is being offered?

    There is a trend today for web development agencies to offer you a full end-to-end service, but very few can actually deliver it. Instead, you’ll tend to find that many are strong in some areas and weak in others. Of course, it may be that you don’t need the whole range, just some. Whatever’s the case, it’s important to be sure that they do actually have experience of the services that they promise to provide. Better still, can they provide actual evidence that they have done this successfully for clients in the past? Because, if they haven’t, it’s going to set the alarm bells ringing.

    What are their official accreditations?

    As well as having the relevant experience to offer the services you need, it would also be good to know how highly trained they are in particular platforms, or just the one that they recommend. The fact that developers have been encouraged to work to achieve certain accreditations from platforms like Drupal and Umbraco is also a sign that the agencies take the development of their staff seriously. You can also be sure that they will be well up-to-date with the latest developments in the industry.

    It’s also good if they are able to recommend one particular platform over another if you want to be sure that the most suitable choice is being made for your needs,

    Do they understand the importance of marketing?

    It’s all very well designing a great-looking website that incorporates all of the features that you have demanded. But if people can’t find your site, then there’s little point in having one at all. So it’s vital that they can give assurances that all the current techniques of SEO will be incorporated. Once, this was just a question of dotting a set density of keywords throughout the text. Now it is far more complex. What’s more, Google frequently adjusts and even changes the algorithm that controls the page rankings. So being aware of the current requirements is critical.

    The fact that proper coding and the following of other protocols also affects how websites are ranked on the search engine is another very good reason why you should only ever use a web development agency that really does know what it is doing when it comes to digital marketing.

    Do they seem reliable?

    Beyond the technical skills that are essential for building any website, you need to know that the agency that you’re dealing with will be reliable. For example, when you set deadlines, will they meet them and when you leave messages or send them emails, will they get back to you promptly? Most businesses have experienced a honeymoon period with suppliers where everything has run smoothly at first, only to find that gradually things start to slip. So it’s a good idea if you can gain permission to contact existing clients for their feedback. Failing this, testimonials from clients are another, possibly less accurate, method of gauging reliability.

    Listening to what other clients have to say generally is another good way to get an overall feeling for the sort of service that you’ll be likely to receive.

    Do you want a website built from scratch or are you happy to use a template?

    Ideally, we’d all like to have a website purpose-built for our needs and fine tuned for a 100% fit. However, budgetary and time constraints can sometimes mean that this isn’t going to be possible. Even if you do find yourself in the position of needing to use a template, this won’t necessarily be a big issue. There are plenty out there to choose from and, once the designers have weaved their personalising magic, it should look every inch off-the-peg.

    While creating a bespoke site will take a very particular set of skills and abilities, one based on re-skinning a template is a lot less labour intensive. This could mean that choosing an agency is a less critical process than if you’re relying on somewhere to start with a blank sheet of paper – or monitor screen to be a little more precise.

    a website designed by Cefar

    Custom designs will always stand out from the crowd

    Do they work to a set series of processes?

    Every project has a set number of requirements as it moves through the stages from beginning to completion. At any point along the journey, there’s always a risk that it can veer off-track and go in an unwanted and unexpected direction. But if the agency that you choose has a set process that it follows, the likelihood of this happening is greatly reduced. It also suggests that they have a more rigorous approach than others might have, which is always reassuring to know.

    Set processes also provide key milestones along the way which can be a very effective way of gauging the progression of a project – not to mention sounding warning bells when it does look like things are not going to plan.

    What about the Content Management System?

    While the web development agency should be with you all of the way, there may come a time when you want to take control of your own site, adding your own content such as blogs. So it’s worth scoping out, from the very start, how you’ll want to do this and what kinds of changes you envisage you’ll be wanting to make.

    If the agency is good, they will take all of this into account. They may even be in a position to offer additional training for relevant members of your staff so they will be able to make the changes and additions themselves.  The agency should also be able to recommend which particular content management system, or CMS, will be best for your precise requirements. So this is the sort of conversation that it’s important to have while you’re still in the planning stage and long before implementation begins.

    Does the price seem right?

    Competition is fierce out there for your business. As a result, some companies will rely on putting in a low price to secure it. But, as the saying goes, “buy cheap, buy twice”. The same principle applies to commissioning a website as it does to buying work tools or even the paint to redecorate your offices. Quality costs – but it should be regarded as less of an expense and more of a long-term investment. After all, the last thing you want to discover is that your shiny new site will need re-doing in a couple of years’ time. Plus, the chances are that the agencies that come in with a very low headline price will follow the low-cost airlines’ business model. Namely, they’ll hit you with lots of incrementally added extras as the project goes on.

    As to judging what price is right, this is a question of talking to a few agencies, getting quotes and heading somewhere for the middle ground.

    Will the timings fit in with your schedule?

    Another very important aspect to get clear right from the start is whether your chosen agency has the resources to meet the schedule that you’re working towards. Again, this is important to discuss, and agree from the outset, because missed deadlines and empty promises don’t contribute very much to a strong client/agency relationship.

    So this is certainly something to consider when you’re discussing the agency’s processes as well as being a timeline to set up against them.

    Does it feel like the right support will be in place?

    Depending on the size of your business and the precise requirements you may have, you may find yourself at various different places in the pecking order at an agency. This is particularly true if you get the feeling that they have one or two much bigger clients who are going to need the largest share of their attention.

    So you need to get assurances about the team who will be working for you, the number of people who will be involved and who your regular points of contact will be. It could also be a good idea to choose an agency with a number of other clients of approximately the same size as you if you don’t want to receive a sort of second-class status.

    On the other hand, if you’re bigger than most of the other clients they have, you’ll need to be just as confident that your needs are not going to overwhelm the agency.

    Do they listen more than they talk?

    Web development agencies are also in the business of self-promotion. That means many are programmed more to transmit than they are to receive. From an initial creds presentation through to the pitch they will be very good at telling you how good they are and what amazing results they have achieved for their clients.

    This is all important information to receive and may well answer many of the questions we’ve asked in this article so far.

    But you are going to want it to be a two-way relationship. For that to work, they will need to understand your business, its objectives and what barriers may be in your way. So look for an agency that is genuinely interested, asks lots of questions and feels like it’s trying to get under the skin of your business.

    What is the overall chemistry like?

    On top of this, it’s always going to be a question of whether you feel like there is a connection with the people who you may end up working with. It’s hard to define what this spark or X Factor will be and it’s often easier to identify if it isn’t there at all. That’s why it could be important to have a few meetings before you make your final decision, especially as first impressions can be deceptive.

    It’s only through spending some time getting to know an agency’s leaders and understanding the business philosophy that they work to. But it will definitely be time well-spent.

    At Cefar, we believe that we score pretty highly in all the criteria mentioned above. We also have a roster of long-held clients who really appreciate the service that we provide.

    We’d like to give you a far more personal sense of why we believe that we’re a good choice of web development agency, however, complex your needs. So, to find out more or arrange an initial meeting contact us today.