Evaluating Website Development Partners

Tips for Evaluating Website Development Partners

You have identified that you need a new website or a comprehensive redesign and you have a good understanding of what your business goals are with a new site. Now you are ready to find the right partner to bring your new website vision to life.

You can go about this in a few ways:

  • Solicit website proposals from a handful of agencies that you like or that work in your industry.
  • You may already have or know of an agency that understands your business and has a proven track record at developing high performance websites.
  • You can look up who made competitor or relevant industry websites that you really like and think are high performing across cyberspace.

We’ve put together these tips for evaluating website development partners effectively. We don’t suggest for the ole’ “hire your friend’s friend on the cheap”, because you will pretty much always get what you pay for. Your business is too important to shortchange it on the single most important digital marketing tool and channel in your entire marketing toolbox!

Do you need industry specific knowledge to gain a greater competitive edge?

  • Does the agency have that? Is it demonstrated in the proposal or in discussions with relevant work examples and results achieved?

Make sure you are clear on what’s in the proposal and what’s not.

  • For example, some website agencies just do design and development (i.e create all the page templates and branding design), but do not do any SEO or import any actual content. They also may not be able to support creating new content for your site. What do you need?
  • Are you comparing a design and development-only approach to a comprehensive development package that includes SEO and content optimization to rank high and to convert more visitors into customers?

Understand what’s actually included in the price.

  • This is key if the proposals are different in their scope of what’s included. Ask questions as needed. You want to understand how, and if, that total price achieves your business goals better than other proposals.

Is SEO “baked into” the website development project?

  • We know from experience that the highest ranking sites have their site structure, URL structure, menu design and on-page optimization layout developed from the very beginning into the new site design.
  • Adding SEO after your site is done often costs more> This is because it can involve significant rework to content and site structure, in order to fix ineffective elements that could have been done right the first time.
  • If the proposal mentions SEO, make sure to ask for data that shows how other sites the agency has built are ranking well. You want proof that they know what they are doing.
  • SEO is critical, and the components of strong SEO are not mysterious. Successful SEO requires research, focus, expertise, hard work, and consistency. See our blog post on the fundamentals of successful search engine optimization for more on this.

How is content importing and content creation handled in the website development project?

  • Is your site content already great? Or, do you need help creating powerful visitor and SEO optimized content on your site? If you need help, you will want a website development team that knows enough about your business to actually help. And more importantly, the team needs to understand your customer markets and SEO. They can help create this important new or updated content that engages and converts visitors, and wins high rankings for your “money” topics.
  • Does the proposal indicate if the development team will help you improve your existing content with recommendations or actual updates to create the strongest landing pages for content that engage and convert? Or are they order-takers that will put up whatever content you send them, without offering recommendations as to whether that content is as effective as it could be? Agencies who support at this level will typically spell it out in their proposal, or at minimum in your discussions with them!

How is conversion optimization and measurement presented in the website development project?

  • A strong understanding of how to structure your website to achieve the best customer journey experience, will impact the success of your project. Does the proposal discuss this at all? See the 7 Components of a Successful Website Build for why this is an important differentiating factor, especially if you don’t have this expertise in-house on your team.
  • Get examples of work that shows websites that deliver high organic rankings, are easy to navigate, deliver strong ecommerce sales, and are authentic to the brand and customer’s needs.
  • A good agency will be able to speak to these examples in your proposal discussions.

What is the development project timeframe?

  • What is a realistic timeframe from start to launch for a small, medium or large website project? A small, sustainable living website with 20 pages or less will have a much shorter schedule than an international tourism website with multiple destinations and a hundred tours. Not only do you need to account for the production schedule of your development agency, but you also want to build in the necessary time for your team’s internal reviews, edits, and approvals.
  • Most agencies will create their website development timeline based on having your content and media library done and available to them. Client-side delays with missing content can derail projects for weeks, months and more.
  • It’s easy to promise a super fast timeline, but delivering that depends on multiple pieces that are not actually in the control of the agency. Quality is key. Building a new website is a very big deal with critical consequences for your business success. A realistic timeline helps you achieve the best results.

PRO TIP:
Content creation and consolidation for your new website is essential to do prior to site development. Will your team be able to create finalized new or updated content to go on each page of your new site, in time to meet your site launch target? Or will you be best served by having expert, industry knowledgeable content creation resources available with your website development agency partner? This can make or break the project’s ability to meet your launch date. We probably all know companies who took 1 or 2 years to actually launch a new site, because, despite the best of intentions, they were unable to get all their content done while still operating their business!

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