There was a time in the not-too-distant past when a small to medium-sized business owner could ask around and find a cousin, a friend’s son, or a college student to throw together a website — and that was good enough.

That time is long gone. The Internet is absolutely essential to doing business — in fact, Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day — and if your website isn’t easy to use, you will lose customers. Period.

So how do you find a good web design agency? Read on.

1. Know What Your Site Should Do

What’s the purpose of your website?

That may seem like a silly question, but give it some thought. Maybe you’re a local business that needs a site to get your information out there not only for customers, but for SEO purposes. You could be an agency that wants to showcase its portfolio. Or you might rely on your site as a fully functional e-commerce platform.

In the former case, you’ll want to focus on having a mobile-friendly site that’s clean and easy to navigate. A service provider will want calls-to-action, testimonials, and images (if appropriate). If your site will handle the majority of your sales, you need product pages and secure ordering.

Know your needs before you contact a web design agency; some are more prepared to provide all the bells and whistles than others.

2. Check Out Their Portfolio

A good web design agency won’t hesitate to show off its work. Since design is a combination of technical skills and creative art, it’s important to look at the agency’s experience and coding chops, as well as its aesthetic.

If you find yourself engaged with the sites that a particular agency has created, there’s a good chance they’ll create a website for you that will appeal to visitors. If their work is uninspired or doesn’t speak to you, keep looking.

Before you hand over the keys to your internet castle, so to speak, give the web design agency a trial run by asking them to complete just one small project for you. This could be a social media profile or maybe just a landing page.

This is a great way to find out not just whether the agency is on board with your vision, but how well they communicate with you during the design process.

3. Decide What Services You Want

Do you need web hosting in addition to development, or will you handle that separately? Who’s going to manage your search engine optimization, social media management, and blogging?

Some web design agencies will take care of everything related to your site, soup to nuts. Others focus solely on the actual look of the site, then hand the reins back to you. There’s no right answer here; you can do as much or as little work on your website as you like.

Just make sure you know what services are provided by your agency, and whether you’d rather have it all taken care of by the same folks, or if you will need (or want) to outsource some aspects of your digital marketing.

4. What About Branding?

Your website design will play a pivotal role in your company’s branding. If you haven’t given much consideration to your brand, now is the time.

If your business is new, or if you’re undergoing the process of a brand overhaul, a web design agency should sit down with you to discuss what image you want to convey. Branding encompasses not only design choices like theme, style, and typography, but also value proposition, voice, social media presence, and much more.

Branding can be an intimidating proposition — where do you even begin? Digital marketing, branding, and web design can be difficult to tease apart, so it may well make sense to have them all handled by the same team. This ensures consistency across all channels.

5. Make Sure They Can Design Your Mobile Site

Having a site that is equally user-friendly on both desktop and mobile devices is absolutely crucial in 2017 and beyond. Why? Over three-quarters of Americans now own a smartphone, and increasing numbers of them are using that phone as their only connection to the internet.

Local businesses, in particular, should consider a mobile app or a mobile-responsive design so that people who are searching on-the-go can access their services easily.

6. Think About Updates and Upgrades

Web design isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it project. When your business grows, or as design trends change, updates will be necessary. The web design agency you choose should be on hand to provide those updates, so that you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

There are some updates that will need to be made regularly. Some are technical in nature; for example, when Google updates its algorithms, it’s necessary to revisit some back-end features of your site to ensure that it’s compliant and optimized for search.

You may want to handle other updates yourself. Keeping your blog up-to-date, for example, or even changing your home page to reflect seasonal promotions, can be relatively simple to take care of in-house. If you plan on tweaking your site, you’ll need login credentials and other elements.

7. Don’t Forget About SEO

We touched on the importance of search engine optimization earlier, but it’s worth emphasizing. These days, web design and SEO go hand-in-hand. Keywords and backlinks may be two critical factors in getting your website to rank well, but design aspects are also important.

You may think that aesthetic considerations like color scheme, font choice, and navigation won’t influence your rankings, but they actually do come into play. More and more, Google is giving preference to websites with good UX.

If visitors to your site click away quickly because you have outdated design elements like Flash, a cluttered appearance, or clunky navigation, Google will notice. Even for desktop sites, a clean and easy-to-use interface is important. The web design agency you choose should be well-versed in SEO best practices, even if they don’t perform the ongoing optimization tasks.

Ready to Hire the Best Web Design Agency?

Good web design doesn’t just make your site look pretty. It promotes your brand, boosts your rankings, drives traffic to your brick-and-mortar location, and ultimately improves your bottom line.

Chili Pepper Design understands this. Give us a call today to discuss your web design strategy!