9 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Web Development Agency
Are you starting a new business or do you have an outdated site that needs a huge refresh? This is the perfect time to start thinking about how you can take your company website to a whole new level.
If it’s been more than 3 years since your last website update, it’s likely time for a change. There have been so many advancements in digital marketing over the last few years, your company or organization could be missing out on opportunities to promote your business to a wider audience. A website will often form the foundation for a marketing plan that drives inbound leads to your company or organization, which makes choosing the right web development agency a critical business decision.
First Impressions Are Everything
A professional website is your chance to make a good first impression with your audience, before a person will visit your location, pick up the phone, or send an email. Consumers are more web-savvy than ever before, and they can spot a poorly designed and developed website within a few seconds of their visit. What does a poorly conceived web presence say about your business?
With so much at stake, it’s important to do your homework and choose the right website development company. We want to assist you in making the right decision. So we have compiled a list to help you sort through the myriad of options out there so you can choose a web development agency to effectively represent your brand online.
Here are the 9 things to help you find the right web development agency:
1. Web Design and Development Experience
This is key to ensuring that your website is designed and developed in a professional manner, with up-to-date technology and a look that will be consistent with your brand and overall marketing plan.
While it might seem like a good idea to hire your 15 year old nephew or neighbour to design your website, ask yourself this question: Do I want something so critical to my business to be left to someone with little to no experience? Not likely!
The fastest way to find out how much experience a company has is to go to their company website and find the portfolio section. A good web development company will be proud of what they do and showcase numerous examples of their previously designed websites so you can see the quality of their work.
2. Team vs. Freelancer
Find out if your prospective website developer is working with a team of professionals or if they are a freelancer one-person operation. While a freelancer may be able to handle a smaller project and offer an attractive price, a team-based digital agency can often offer a better final product.
Think of the old term, “Jack of all trades, master of none”. The environment for a small freelancer can make it difficult to provide an excellent end product because they wear too many hats.
A website development team on the other hand, has the ability to have each team member working in the area that they are best suited for based on their skills and background. This means that the person who is skilled in computer programming, isn’t writing the content for the website and the person who is best at web design isn’t the same person as the marketing manager.
Under our expert direction, each piece of the website project is managed by an expert in their respective field, giving us the ability to produce high quality websites that have been designed by a creative web designer, programmed by an experienced full stack web developer and the content is written by highly skilled search engine optimization copywriters.
3. Responsive Web Design
The term responsive design simply means that the website responds and configures itself to work on whatever browser or device the end user is visiting the website from. A good responsive design will allow all the important functions of your website to be easily accessible on desktop computers, laptops, tablets and even smart phones.
If you visit a website from your smartphone and need to scroll and zoom just to see all the content, this is a good indication that the website has not been developed to be responsive. Any website built after 2014 should be responsive or mobile-friendly since about half of your website visitors might be using a mobile device of some kind.
Let’s be honest; everyone likes a bargain and when it comes to web design, price is a major factor. Websites can have a wide range of values, but be careful when something looks too good to be true. Like everything else in life, if something looks too good to be true – Beware!
Sometimes those bargains turn into nightmares. Shopping solely on price is a surefire way to get a website that you aren’t happy with. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
At ZOO, we have heard the same stories over and over again. To save a few dollars initially, a company hires someone with next to no experience and the end result is a website that the client isn’t happy with. Unfortunately, the problems usually don’t end there. Over time, the amateur web developer might go out of business and suddenly their phone number and email addresses no longer work, leaving many companies and organizations with an orphaned website project.
5. Custom Design vs. Pre-built Templates
Ask your web developer if your website will be custom designed or will they use a template? Templates are readily available and range from free to about $100. Then you would have to also pay the developer to setup the template for your business. If a developer is using a template, you may be limited on the functionality and design options.
Overall, a template website should be about half the price of a custom designed website, so be careful not to end up paying the price of custom, while being given a template website. Understand the difference between custom built and template built websites. For example, a custom built website will have cleaner code, is designed specifically for your business, outperforms template sites in terms of search engine optimization and will outlasts any theme sites, a custom site should last for 5-10+ years.
At ZOO, we believe we can do our best, most creative work when we build a custom-designed website from the ground up. With this process you get an amazing user and search engine-friendly website that works perfectly on all devices and has a strong brand presence.
6. Customer Service Excellence
A reputable web development company offering good customer service will do 2 things right away:
1. They will respond to inquiries quickly.
If it takes more than 24 hours during a normal business week to respond to your inquiry, you might want to look elsewhere. If the company is this slow responding to your initial inquiry, imagine the delays that you might experience once the project starts.
2. They will want to learn more about your business and your needs.
A good web development company will want to have a discovery meeting or phone call to learn more about your business. Beware if a cookie-cutter quote is given without taking the time to understand your company or the scope of your website project.
7. AODA, CMS, CASL, SEO, SEM, etc
You may not know what all these acronyms stand for, but if you mention them to your prospective website development company, they better know what they mean! Building a website isn’t as simple as it once was. There are laws, rules and general principles that need to be adhered to when building a new website.
Here’s a quick summary of the terms above:
AODA – Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act – This set of rules governs how a website is built in order to make it user-friendly for those with visual impairments or fine-motor function limitations. A good website developer will understand the nuances that come with building an AODA compliant website. If your company has 50 employees or more, this is a critical item to be concerned about it, because failure to comply could actually result in hefty fines.
CMS – This is a “content management system” which is a fancy word meaning that you (website owner) will have the ability to login to a control panel and change some of the page content yourself. Other functions could involve adding events to a calendar on the website, adding team photos, gallery images, writing blog posts or adding new users.
There are a number of popular CMS software out there which include WordPress, Magento, Drupal and Joomla. These platforms collectively power well over 50% of all the websites currently online. The benefit to using one of the above is that there is a strong, knowledgeable development community that exists to support each of these platforms.
A lesser popular option is a custom built CMS, which can be very expensive and may lack future support if the company that originally built it goes out of business.
SEO, SEM & Social Media – Search engine optimization, search engine marketing and social media marketing have become a critical component of many website development projects. Once the website is fully built, the next step involves getting eyes on it.
While many companies will claim that they know “SEO” or “SEM”, being a true expert in this field requires years of training, testing and understanding. Someone who dabbles in SEO from time to time is unlikely to know and understand the nuances that come with each Google algorithm change and how best to respond to them.
A full service digital agency will know which platforms will work best for your industry and they will know how to best connect with your target market online.
8. Client Reviews & Referrals
A great source to find your next web developer includes reading their reviews from past clients. Online reviews on websites like Google Reviews, Yelp or Facebook can provide you with some assurance that a prospective web development company has been used by other companies who were happy enough to recommend them. There may be a negative reason a company has no online reviews.
Note* – If an online review doesn’t sound legitimate, it might not be. Not every review on Google Reviews or other sites are real. Look for reviews or testimonials with an identifiable source. Also, beware companies that boast being winners of “consumer choice” type awards. Many of them pay to have this designation.
9. Choose a Professional Web Development Agency like ZOO
At ZOO Media Group, we’re excited about what we do, and according to our clients, it shows! From the first conversation with a prospective customer to launching a new custom-built website, we work closely with each client and our team to build cutting-edge websites that give your company or organization a professional, vibrant first impression.
We Don’t Like to Brag…
ZOO Media Group is proud to be in business for over 18 years with hundreds of satisfied clients in and around London, Ontario and throughout North America. In addition to that, we have over 35 years of professional corporate experience in branding and marketing.
Sandra’s background is in creative direction, website user-experience development, and marketing with a discerning eye for the finer details of building a strong brand. Chris has been in project management, brand development and copywriting for many years prior to co-founding ZOO Media Group. He will find the right words to convey your brand to your audience in a way that’s creative, professional and relevant.
Together Chris & Sandra are the perfect team to cast the vision for your brand and make it an online reality. Let our years of experience and proven track record speak for itself.
Contact us today to get started with your new website. You’ll be glad you did!