Choosing a web design company for your small business can be overwhelming. It takes effort and homework on your part. You want to find an agency you mesh well with, who is affordable and knows they are doing.

Something I get asked a lot is about timeline. I’ve had people come to me after working with another agency because they weren’t happy. They started the design process 6 months ago and still don’t have a website. That’s half a year! Half a year they are not benefiting from the time and money they invested into their most important marketing tool.

This got me thinking about red flags when choosing a design agency. Below is a list I’ve put together to help you in your search for a web design agency.

The photos of the team are contractors, or there are no photos

This is something that is becoming a huge issue for small agencies. Most of the time it’s because they think they need to seem bigger than they actually are. While it’s not a red flag for companies to use contractors, portraying them as employees is dishonest. And this leads to the related issue of not having any photos of anyone on the website. This is usually because it’s a one-person agency. They’re worried about not seeming credible, but don’t want to portray the contractors as employees. At the very least, a photo of the owner should be on the website.

They send a proposal before you’ve agreed to work with them

Many agencies are quick to send a proposal and scope of work, complete with timeline and cost, before even getting a commitment from you. This usually means they are desperate for work, and trying to convince you why you should work with them. Good agencies won’t need to convince you to work with them, because they don’t need the work.

Unwillingness to offer personalized service

Some agencies only offer packages, and don’t offer personalized services. Your business is unique – packages may not be the perfect fit and the agency should be able to accommodate that. Although we offer web design packages – which are good for many small businesses – the majority of the time people fall somewhere in-between. Look for an agency that asks you a lot of questions before you get recommendations

They claim to have a secret formula for success

Many agencies claim they have a secret recipe or proprietary methods for success. If they respond with anything other than hard work, run as fast as possible. This is a huge red flag and might mean they’re overcompensating for lack of experience – or worse – they might actually believe it themselves. There are no secrets to success and you know that as a small business owner yourself.

They claim you won’t have any ‘homework’

If an agency is claiming you won’t have any homework during the design process, this should be a huge red flag. You know your business and industry best. A good agency will need your collaboration throughout the process. Be weary of any company touting a process that won’t require your time.

They don’t do mockups

Good agencies will provide you with high-fidelity mockups. At the very least, they should provide a mockup of your website homepage so you can see exactly what it is going to looks like. Any company who only mentions wireframes or a style guides is cutting corners. You wouldn’t buy a car by only seeing the technical drawing of the framework and some color swatches. You shouldn’t do it with a website either.

They skip over competitive analysis

This a crucial step in any website build, whether it’s a new website or a re-launch. The agency should be using various marketing tools to look at your business and your competitors. If your competitors are doing something right, they should emulate it, if they’re doing something wrong, the agency will work hard to not make the same mistakes. Without this step, they could make costly mistakes that can waste time and even cause you to lose business.

They say they can do everything

Small agencies that say they can do everything, may or not be able to, but it’s usually something to be wary about. If the company is saying they specialize in 10 different areas, but only have 3 employees, it should be a huge red flag. Look at LinkedIn to check out the employees and their depth of expertise. If what you find, doesn’t match up with what the company is claiming, it may be best to go with another agency.

They make promises no else is making

Does the agency offer something no one else is offering for a price that seems too good to be true? An agency including things like copywriters or photographers in their ‘design packages’ for no extra cost, is a red flag. Chances are they’re using a sketchy freelancing site or someone with little experience. Great copywriters and photographers cost thousands of dollars. Agencies that offer quality copywriting or photography, do so for a higher price tag.

They don’t practice what they preach

Why hire a web design (for example) agency that has an ugly, old outdated website? If they can’t make their own website modern and effective, how are they going to do it for you? This goes for things like SEO, marketing, etc… If the agency is selling services they don’t do (well) for themselves, then move on.

Lets recap and end on a positive note. What are a few good things to look for in a web design agency.

  • They specialize in one or two things
  • Their process is clearly outlined and requires your time and commitment
  • They ask you questions and learn about your business
  • They practice what they preach

When all is said and done, you want a company you feel good about. While it might be tempting to go with the cheapest option, quick-and-cheap never lasts.

Still Have Questions?

Reach out to us! We’re happy to help and hope you take what you’ve learned here and find a web design company that’s perfect for you and your small business.