Finding Your Ideal Mobile-First Web Design Agency
Why Finding Your Ideal Mobile-First Web Design Agency is so Important
OK, you have decided that your business needs a new or re-designed website. Most likely you already have some pretty specific ideas of what you want or need on your new website. Maybe you have even started collecting the different things you need for your website. So what exactly comes next? Well, unless you are planning to build your own business website you will need to find someone to build it for you. For most businesses the logical choice is to work with a mobile-first web design agency.
And this is where things frequently go wrong. Many business owners tend to rush through this part, and tend to regret that later. Designing and building a mobile-first website is a pretty complex undertaking. Therefore the better aligned your mobile-first web design agency is to your business requirements and personal style the better the outcome will be. Selecting a mobile-first web design agency is just like choosing your business lawyer, accountant, or any other professional. You have to feel comfortable working with them.
It’s a Bit Like Dating, You Know!
Looking for a mobile-first web design agency is a little bit like going out on a first date. Maybe you are looking for a simple landing page or small site. In most cases this is a quick project, like a passionate summer romance. When the project is finished you go your separate ways. But what if you are looking for a long-term relationship with a potential mobile-first web design agency? It becomes more like planning to start a family together, doesn’t it?
Of course, the above scenarios are at the extreme ends of the engagement you will have with your mobile-first web design agency. Most likely you will ease into the relationship by actually building a mobile-first business website together, and seeing how that goes. Here are a few things that will help you find your perfect date, or mobile-first web design agency.
How to Start Looking for a Mobile-First Web Design Agency
One way to start looking for a mobile-first web design agency is by asking your friends or business associates for any recommendations. This is especially helpful if one of them recently got a new website. Simply ask them if they would be willing to refer their service provider.
Another way to look for a mobile-first web design agency is by looking at websites you like, and checking who designed them. Look for a design credit in the footer or on the contact page. If no web design credit is provided you can always contact the business and ask.
Googling mobile-first web designers or web design agencies will likely result in millions of search results based on your search criteria. And pretty much every one of them will offer similar things: timely delivery, budget-friendly, search engine optimization and cross-browser compatibility, etc.
A Few Words of Caution!
We recommend you take some of these promises with a bit of caution. Not all mobile-first web design agencies actually provide all listed services in-house. And others are simply not very good at what they do; just look at all the crappy business websites out there!
A word of advice on where to look for your mobile-first web design agency. Many business owners head straight to Craigslist. Please be aware that most professional mobile-first web design agencies do not list their services on Craigslist. This leaves you with a pool of questionable amateurs at best. If you really want to find the best possible mobile-first web design agency for your project we recommend you check out professional service directories such as Clutch.co, Expertise, and UpCity. You will find service providers like us on all three!
Evaluating Your Ideal Mobile First Web Design Agency
Many business owners don’t really know what to look for in a mobile-first web design agency, and that makes it harder for them to evaluate. While there may be many more factors you need to consider for your specific project there are always the basics. To make it even easier for you we grouped them into three basic categories for evaluating a mobile-first web design agency.
Specializes in Mobile-First Design
No matter what type of business you have or service you provide your website visitors will use mobile devices at least some of the time. Even more important, according to Google more than half of all searches are done on a mobile device. For most people, their iPhone is the preferred way to access the Internet. This means your site must look and function great on mobile.
Mobile-first design enables your website to adapt or respond to the size of a screen without losing its look and feel by focusing on how it looks on a small screen first. It is much easier to build a website for bigger screens, so make sure your chosen service provider focuses on mobile-first design standards and practices.
Is a Full-Service Agency
Most likely your project will require more than one service. Many of our own clients require help with content strategy, copywriting and editing, and many also need some other creative services. For e-commerce sites you may need product photography or image editing. And in today’s competitive online marketplace many businesses expect search engine optimization to be part of their project. Once your mobile-first website launches you may require ongoing social media management and digital marketing services.
This type of service is usually offered by mobile-first web design agencies since it requires a team of developers, designers and marketing experts. While it is not absolutely impossible it is very unlikely that you will find an individual service providers who is really good at all of these digital media skills. But be aware of potential outsourcing of services. Always ask your mobile-first web design agency if they perform all services in-house.
Uses a Content Management System (CMS)
The most awesome new mobile-first website is not going to do you much god if you are unable to easily update it yourself. Having a Content Management System (or CMS) that allows the business owner to easily update the site will make life a lot easier. Building a static HTML site means you will have to go back to the designer for any updates. Be sure to ask your mobile-first web design agency if they use a CMS, and if so, which one. We recommend WordPress, but there are other options.
Can Handle Technical Requirements
Perhaps your project has a unique feature or very specific requirement. Your mobile-first web design agency must be proficient with the web technologies your project will require. We believe it is better to engage a service provider who can provide all the things you require rather than a jack-of-all-trades who may be mediocre in everything. So be sure to mention any technical requirements as part of your evaluation process.
Many business owners fall victim to envisioning their website based on their expectations instead of their audience. This can lead to instances where design far outweighs any content considerations. And that just doesn’t work! Having a “pretty” website is pointless unless it actually engages your visitors and converts them.
Conversions are actions you want your visitors to take such as filling out a form, clicking a link or calling your business. Conversion elements are an essential part of web design because they help your visitor engage with the site. Make sure you hire a mobile-first web design agency that understands how to optimize your conversion rate.
Has Relevant Case Studies
Before you select your mobile-first web design agency check out any available web design case studies. It can be very helpful to find out how they worked with a similar business to yours, and the results they were able to provide.
When you evaluate your mobile-first web design agency be sure to learn a little about their past projects, from their existing clients. Ask the agency for client testimonials and references, and make it a point to check them them. Ask clients whether they were responsive, on time and within budget. Keep in mind that some references may only be willing to provide general info. This is why case studies may provide additional info.
Keeps Up With Trends
OK, let’s go through this together. You have decided to get a new site because you want to be relevant. That means your mobile-first web design agency should at least be familiar with all the latest web design trends. Not only will that help your new site appear fresh and up-to-date, it will also help you avoid outdated web design trends.
Has a Great Portfolio That You Actually Like
You most likely have some sort of vision for your mobile-first website. And that includes what type of web design style appeals to you! If you want to make that vision a reality it really helps if your mobile-first web design agency has a similar design style. To find out for sure you need to take a good look at their own website and portfolio.
Make sure that your mobile-first web design agency’s overall design style matches what you are looking for. That includes their own website. Designers that are set in their way may not be willing to adapt to new ideas. Others who are just starting out may not yet have a well-developed eye for design. We have encountered many websites offering web design services with hideous websites.
Test out previously launched websites to ensure that they are user-friendly, error-free, and suitable for their target market. Any professional website should pass the Google Mobile-Friendly Test and get at least a passing page speed score on Pingdom or GTMetrix. If a mobile-first web design agency failed to meet Google guidelines in the past it is not likely they will do better in your case.
Cost and Budget Expectations
Let’s get this right out at the beginning. No matter if you are looking for a brand new website, a simple re-design, or a complete update of your e-commerce platform you have a budget figure in mind. And so does your mobile-first web design agency. The trick is to make sure these two sets of expectations line up. It is important to consider both your required options and functionality and your anticipated cost or budget.
Here at the highly caffeinated agency we always get a kick when we get a call, and the first thing the caller asks is: “How much for a website?” We tell them “A Million Dollars! If you provide some additional details it becomes one heel of a lot cheaper!” Websites come in all kinds of configurations, can have one or hundreds of pages, and be simple bits of information or advanced online communities. And all of that comes at different price points, of course.
The “Ouch” Moment
Hiring a professional mobile-first web design agency comes at a cost. And that cost may be quite significant, based on your requirements. And the more services your mobile-first web design agency has to provide the more it will cost. Here are some basic website cost considerations to help you understand better. Or you can play around with our interactive website cost estimating tool.
Of course we all want the best possible deal, but when it comes to mobile-first web design, the old “you get what your pay for” saying is true. There are a number of DIY low-cost options, but for a mobile-first site expect to pay somewhere around $4000 and up. When investing this type of money into a site, you can expect better design and functionality that is just not available in a free or low-cost theme or template. Once again, the cheapest quote is rarely the best.
Process and Timeline
All web design or other creative projects have a deadline or at least some preferred time range in which you would like it to be completed. But be aware of impossible delivery times. Many inexperienced service providers promise unrealistic delivery deadlines to gain business. No matter how simple your mobile-first website design or redesign is, it is almost impossible for the design process (from concept to completion) to take less than three to four weeks because there will always be revisions, waiting for content, and a slew of other unforeseen things.
Knowing up front what the time line and process will be saves you a lot of stress, delays, and potential extra costs later. Ask a mobile-first web design agency what the timeline and expectations for your project are. Be sure that you can hold up your end of the bargain; we have seen many projects take longer because the client was busy with other priorities.
Customer Service Expectations
As you select your mobile-first web design agency make sure the level of customer service and communication style match your expectations. Sometimes it is less important to get a perfect product than great support from your service provider. So make sure you understand how your mobile-first web design agency works with clients. Can you meet with them in person, or will communication be online only? Do they communicate by phone or email? What kind of response time can you expect?
No matter how awesome a mobile-first web design agency is, if they cannot respond to your calls or emails in a timely manner during business hours, they most likely cannot meet your deadline. This can cause big problems for your business if your project is time critical due to something like a product launch.
This is basically an extension of customer service. Communication skills are just as important as web design and coding skills. You may find the most awesome mobile-first web design agency ever, but if they don’t communicate well in the beginning your project is headed for trouble. You can easily evaluate their communication skills through your initial calls, emails and project proposal.
If your mobile-first web design agency uses bad grammar or has spelling mistakes in their emails to you it is very likely your website will contain them as well. Do they articulate issues well? Can they translate complicated technical jargon into laymen terms? Are they responsive to your needs, and do they respond to your messages in a timely fashion?
Once again, communication is a two-way street. If you want your mobile-first web design agency to communicate effectively you must be willing to do the same. We have seen many projects linger and fall behind schedule because the client did not respond in a timely fashion. Therefore it helps to establish some sort of communication guidelines and expectations at the beginning of a project.
Respect for The Client
As the business owner you know your business better than anyone else. Sharing your insights is extremely valuable for the overall design and development process. So when you interview designers make sure they actually listen to your ideas and respect you as the client. Sure, they are the “creatives”, but you are paying the bill! So your voice needs to be heard. But remember, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need the input of your mobile-first web design agency.
Willing to Provide Suggestions
On the other hand, your mobile-first web design agency should be able and willing to share their ideas. You are hiring them as professionals to design and build a critical part of your business success, your online presence! You don’t want a “yes man”, you want a creative partner to bring your company’s online presence alive. If your agency blindly agrees to everything you say they are not interested in your business success; they are interested in your check.
Once again, these things tend to go both ways. Remember, you are engaging a mobile-first web design agency for professional advice. At the very least you should listen to their advice and recommendations. Of course you don’t have to follow every last bit of it. None of us really follow every last thing our doctor recommends either, do we? But if your standard response to any suggestion from your mobile-first web design agency is “That won’t work for me!” why are you talking to one in the first place?
Social Media Presence
Make sure to check your mobile-first web design agency’s social presence. The ones we recommend you look at are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. If you are interested in more samples of an agency’s work you may also want to check their Instagram and Pinterest profiles.
While this is not an indication of design skills social media profiles can reveal how trustworthy and authoritative a mobile-first web design agency is. Check to make sure they update relevant content on a regular basis, their profiles are complete with all info, and their followers or likes count seems reasonable.
Final Thoughts on Finding a Mobile-First Web Design Agency
And there you have it, our basic recommendations and evaluating process for finding your ideal mobile-first web design agency. Once again, these are pretty basic. You may have some very specific requirements for your project that we have not covered in this post. But for most of you the above should be a good basis for finding a suitable mobile-first web design agency for your next project.
Of course, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble and just have our team design an effective mobile-first website for you. We are experts at mobile-first website design and development. From highly customized corporate sites, to responsive e-Commerce websites to small business websites and personal blogs and complete or partial website re-design projects we work directly with the client to prepare them for the ever increasingly social, mobile and local consumer. Why not get started by requesting your mobile-first web design estimate?
And if you are still not sure how to find the perfect mobile-first web design agency for your next project, don’t worry! Simply reach out and contact us. Our expert team will listen to you, answer your questions, and determine if we are a good fit for your mobile-first web design needs, or if we should help you find a better fit!
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