If you’re a business owner in the process of hiring a web design agency, the idea of handing over your precious brand reputation (plus a sum of money) to a team you as of yet don’t know may fill you with questions.
Apart from the obvious, like ‘what is a web design agency?’ and ‘what are the best web design agencies in the UK?’, you may wonder how this team plan to tackle your project. How will they understand your brand, your brief, and what is involved in the process? This article will explain the inner workings of an agency and shed some light on what to expect as a client.
Image source: MadeByShape
This is a list of the most common design types that agencies specialise in.
All graphic design that falls under the traditional print medium. This includes assets like flyers, catalogues, and brochures; packaging, uniforms, and livery; posters, billboards, and building wrap.
Conversely to print design, digital focuses on the design of all things viewed on screens. This broad category covers web design but also digital ad creatives, email templates, social media creatives, and animations, to name a few.
Designing products and packaging that function well and carry the company branding.
Incorporating UX and UI design as well as coding, app design involves conceptualising and building working apps.
Another broad term, graphic design, covers a wide range of visual methods of communication to present a company’s brand, marketing objectives, and messaging to the world. Graphic design uses images, text, animation, film, photography, illustration, user experience, and many other disciplines to achieve results.
Design concerning the elements of a company’s brand identity. A brand design agency will focus on giving an organisation a clear and distinct visual brand personality and apply this to design assets like their website and marketing collateral.
Designing a page or all pages of an organisation’s website. If only designing a website, the design files will need to be passed to a web developer to build the website to be functional. Web design agencies usually offer the full service of conceptualising, designing, and developing a fully functional website that is ready to go at the end.
Like any organisation; a web design agency will be hierarchical like the diagram below. Work is overseen by senior staff or ‘heads of department’, each of whom runs a team. Depending on how big or small a web design agency is, these teams could range from two people to fifty.
|Head designer||Head developer||Head of SEO||Head of client services|
|Design team||Development team||SEO team||Client services team|
There’s no ‘sweet spot’ for the size of an agency, but it’s something you may want to consider as a client. Smaller teams tend to be more tight-knit, and you’ll probably find it easier to keep track of who works on your project and speak to specific team members when you want to.
On the converse side, larger teams have more resources and more availability to get work done faster. However, they must maintain consistency in the design of your site if several designers work on it.
Where agencies have a client services team, it’s through these account managers client work is organised and managed. You may find that instead of speaking directly to a web designer, you discuss things with your account manager, and they work with the designer on your requests.
In other agencies, designers will work directly with clients. The leadership members of the agency may have regular input or may only touch base occasionally. It’s different in every agency, so it’s essential to understand this during the proposal presentation as it could affect your decision to work with them.
Questions you could ask:
In order to establish your brand in the digital space, you need a stunning and robust website. In today’s world, where so much brand discovery and customer relationship building takes place online, brands must meet these ever-increasing expectations and competitive markets with powerful websites.
Bright Local found that 73% of shoppers trusted a brand’s website over other sources of information. If consumers seek your website for verification before purchasing, make it easy and pleasurable for them to find that information. They might stick around, learn more about your business, and become a loyal customer.
Web design agencies aren’t the only option when it comes to making a website. You could also instruct a freelance web designer, hire a new member of staff for your team, or take your hand at using a website builder. So why do agencies usually come out on top?
One of the most apparent strengths is that an agency consists of a group of professionals, each with their own skills and experience to contribute. The head web designer will lead the project, but they work with the head developer daily and probably sit within ear and eyeshot of them. This type of professional relationship means your project will benefit from the guidance of experts from all angles.
While a freelancer might offer you eight years of experience, an agency could offer you forty years of combined experience. This means your website project will have an in-depth approach and a comprehensive, well-rounded solution.
Internet Stats shows us there are currently over 1.9 billion websites online. To compete, you need to be at the top of your game. Agencies need to compete too. That’s why they stay at the top of their game by keeping up to date on trends, industry insights, software developments, and innovation in design.
Hiring an agency means you’ll always have access to an expert to give you fresh ideas and talk about how your brand can take advantage of new developments in design. This is especially helpful if you run a substantial business or an eCommerce website. Top Design Firms found that 42% of consumers will leave a website if it doesn’t function well. With the complex structure of an eCommerce website, having an experienced agency on hand could be invaluable.
With the rise of website builders like Squarespace and Wix, many untrained people can turn their hands to creating their own website. While this might be a suitable option for some (e.g. freelancer florist), it’s not appropriate for others (e.g. baby clothing brand). Not only do website builders leave untrained people with many constraints that professional web design agencies can work around, but they also tend to produce bloated code, which negatively impacts the SEO of the website.
The other issue with creating your own website is if something goes wrong. How long will you wait for customer support to fix your problem? What if it happens again and you lose business? Having a web design agency at your side means they can correct errors and snags promptly, and you’ll be able to discuss how to avoid them in the future with the team.
Agencies can also provide advice on domain name providers and guidance on website hosting. Many have their own website servers, work with domain providers, and can act as the middle man to manage these details for you and ensure you don’t get ripped off.
The process behind building a website follows the same general steps no matter which agency you work with. Much of the agency’s initial input and suggestions will be in the proposal before selecting an agency to work with. You can use this time to ask lots of questions and get a good idea of the team you might be working with and what to expect.
After signing the contract, your agency will have a kick-off meeting in which the goals and objectives are clarified, and the team will gather information. The table below shows the process and what’s expected from each side.
|Task||Agency responsibilities||Client responsibilities|
|Proposal presentation||Present ideas, samples of work, and introduce the team.||Convey goals, objectives, brand identity, and brand mission. Get to know the team.|
|Kick-off meeting||Confirm goals, explain project scope, and obtain information needed to start work.||Confirm project scope, and provide all information needed.|
|Design a sitemap||Present the sitemap, and adapt the designs following feedback.||Provide feedback and approve the sitemap.|
|Design wireframes||Present the wireframes and adapt the designs following feedback.||Provide feedback and approve the wireframes.|
|Write content and source images||Present content and images, or obtain from the client.||Provide content and images or feedback and approve.|
|Develop the website||Develop the website.||No responsibilities.|
|Testing||Conduct thorough function and usability testing. Present the website to the client on the staging site.||Perform testing and checks before providing feedback and approving the website.|
|Launch||Push the website live. Monitor for any snags or errors.||No responsibilities.|
Choosing the right web design agency depends not so much on the quality of the agency (is it the best you can afford etc.) but rather on whether it suits your business, your project, and you.
Start by checking the agency’s website for any specific skills or experience relative to your ambitions. If you want animations on your website, see whether the agency has produced animated effects by looking at their services and portfolio. Are there any case studies covering businesses similar to yours?
Regardless of everything, getting a good feeling about the agency might be a sign that you would get along well with their team culture—another important aspect of working together.
There’s no set price for a website, and there shouldn't be. A good agency will need a thorough understanding of the scope of work to provide a quotation.
Entering the agency work environment can be a little daunting, especially if it's your first job as a web designer. Agency work is known for being faster-paced than other settings; you will be expected to multitask and keep your eye on several projects or tasks at once.
But because of this challenging environment, many people believe working in an agency early in your career is important and almost necessary. This fast-paced work experience makes you more capable of managing your own time, and you’ll be exposed to a team of industry professionals to pick up skills, techniques, and a true understanding of your craft.
Web designer at MadeByShape, Mike Ashurst, had this to say about working in a web design agency:
When you start your job in an agency, you will likely be a junior working in a team of three of four others, overseen by the senior designer, and work on several projects at once. Having the chance to work on multiple projects means you’ll be exposed to many different industries and types of design. This is a fantastic opportunity for CV building and helps you discover new skills and specialisms you may want to move into in the future.
But there are setbacks too. Agency work can become stressful if the workload is too high, if you end up with an unsuitable boss, and if there’s a lack of organisation in project management. Web designers who work in agencies need to adapt and communicate well so they can protect their wellbeing and ensure their quality of work doesn’t suffer.
If you’re interested in becoming a web designer, find out what you need to know to get hired for your desired job in one of our guides.