Web Design Agency Advice For SME’s

Over the last ten years, I’ve been involved in every step of getting a website project from an idea to a concept, to a published product.

While building a website may seem fairly cut and dry, it’s exactly the opposite. The number of projects I have seen crash and burn over the years is astonishing. Which is why I ‘m excited to be writing this guide.

I ‘ll start with the most common pitfalls you want to avoid when selecting an agency, and leave you with some golden rules that when followed will set your project up for success.

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Who’s this guide for? Anyone looking to hire a web design agency to build your website.

Why is choosing the right website design agency important?

Choosing the right web design agency is essential to the success of your project. You are making an important investment in your business, so you need to protect that by selecting an agency that can deliver the product you need. Can your business function without a website? I know that mine can ‘t. When hiring a web design agency, you are putting that power into someone else ‘s hands. You need to make sure the agency has your best interests in mind and that they will treat your business as if it were their own.

Always perform due diligence when hiring any digital partner, particularly with web design.

The different types of web design agencies for SME’s

Web design used to be a straight forward job.  You were effectively someone that could build a website using code. You were a computer geek that had the technical skills to understand how to move elements across a page and appear on the ever so impressive world wide web.

Today web design can mean many things and finding the right web designer is increasingly challenging.

Here is a list of type of web design agencies you are likely to choose from;


The freelance web designer

A freelancer is a self-employed person offering services, usually to multiple clients at a time.  They have flexible hours and work similarly to an independent contractor.

They are fundamentally more affordable and are used by a number of larger agencies to carry out specific tasks for their clients.


  • Very affordable hourly pricing
  • Can perform tasks quickly based on their work schedule
  • Can provide great value for skilled specialised work
  • Can normally view their portfolio through freelancer websites


  • Work independently
  • Have little or no marketing experience
  • Limited skill set
  • Need a lot of guidance
  • The initial price is never the price you end up having to pay

The freelance market has been growing and is one of the main reasons why there are so many web designers available with a much lower “perceived value” as in recent years.

Freelancers are considered great value because they have no overheads and some may have worked in previous web design positions so already have corporate agency experience.


The small digital marketing agency

A digital marketing agency is a company that promotes clients online using digital technologies such as SEO, social media, PPC and video.

They live and die by their ability to improve client ‘s sales and normally have a high client turnaround.

They will generally have a number of different departments for each digital technology, or may outsource; and will also have a design team which creates websites, graphics and design elements that can be used in online promotions.


  • Your design will be focused on improving leads, conversions and sales
  • Your website will be properly SEO ‘d
  • They are nutty about data
  • You will have properly installed tracking
  • You’re immediately able to start marketing your website


  • The website may lack graphic design elements
  • They are nutty about data
  • Can be expensive
  • They will try to sell you more stuff because they are marketers

The small web design agency (in-house staff)

A small web design agency would normally consist of a company of 2-5 employees.  They normally specialise working with SME ‘s and come from a heavy design background.

Although they may have experience in digital marketing, it is not a strong skill set for them so they will more often than not hire in marketing freelancers to perform such tasks.

None of their web design work is likely to be geared towards digital marketing and they will have limited abilities to enable you to start marketing your business online straight away, other than trying to move up in the rankings.


  • Normally the prettiest looking websites
  • You will receive other services like brochures & logos to a good standard
  • Their price is likely to be fair
  • They will be very personable and friendly


  • The website will not be built to improve conversions
  • Marketing online will therefore cost more than it should
  • The website may be difficult to manage yourself

The graphic design agency

A graphic design agency is a company focused around creating brands.  Their main focus is to understand your business and design a creative logo, brochure and packaging that you can use for your product/service.

Although they may have limited experience in web design, this is not their primary skill. They will not be up to date with all the latest web design advancements and have hardly a clue about digital marketing.


  • Best for branding
  • Will take the time to understand your vision
  • Normally just a bit more expensive than a small web design agency


  • The team are not web designers
  • The website will not be built with digital marketing in mind
  • The website will not be built to increase conversions

Why is having a website so important for an SME?

We live in a digital world. You need to ask yourself: would you be comfortable doing business with a company that didn’t have a website? Probably not. But why is that? It’s because websites have become the expectation. For the most part, legitimate businesses have websites. It’s that simple.

If you ‘re serious about growing your business, having a website will be a major asset to you. You can use it to reach new customers, answer their questions and give them the valuable and relevant content they are searching for. You can use it to advertise your business and sell your products or services online.

The way consumers shop and obtain their information has changed drastically over the last decade. Many people today will never even leave the house when making important purchases, so without an online presence, your business is instantly at a disadvantage.

Shoppers do their research and make their purchases in their own time when it’s convenient for them. They may be reading online reviews at 9 am on a Monday, but ultimately make that purchase online at 11 pm two weeks later. If you don’t give them the information they want, when they want it, you will lose that opportunity to a competitor who does.

Another thing worth mentioning here is the rise of mobile shopping. Many consumers today do everything on their smartphones or tablets and businesses who aren ‘t providing their customers with a positive mobile shopping experience are losing customers fast. Having a mobile-friendly site, or a responsive design (works on any screen) is an absolute must.

The Main Pitfalls And Problems – Before You Hire A Web Design Agency


(oneclickmedia) – Web Agency London

The agency doesn’t invest the time in getting to know you, and your brand

This is a big one, and something you will encounter, particularly with the larger agencies. The entire point of developing a new website is to have an online storefront that is oozing with personality. It needs to capture your voice somehow and convey that to your ideal clients.

If the only “get to know you” efforts from an agency are a short questionnaire about what products you sell and what colours you like, they ‘re not truly getting to know you, your brand and your customers. If the agency isn’t spending the time upfront to really get you, it is unlikely they will be able to deliver a website that truly meets the needs of your customers.


The agency only ever tells you what you want to hear

Wait — what? Now, this may seem completely backwards. But the reality is that if an agency is asking you what YOU want, they ‘re not doing their job. For example, I love pink. Should that be the main colour on my website? Obviously not. Website design and development isn’t about our preferences, but about being in line with your brand and meeting the needs of your customers.

The end-goal should be to deliver a website that meets your objectives and gives your clients what they want. If the designer is more concerned with saying yes to you, rather than telling you what you really need to hear, you ‘re not going to achieve the results you were hoping for. When dealing with experts, it’s their job to tell you what you need — some people shy away from this, as they ‘re scared of losing your business.


(Forty eight creates) – Web Agency London

The agency gives you a quote without gathering key pieces of information

In my experience, this is often the main issue that derails a website project. For an agency to provide you with a realistic time-frame and budget, there are key questions that must be answered. If you get a quote that doesn’t include the fine details, there’s a big chance it won ‘t be accurate.

Here are some of the questions you want to ensure they ‘ve asked you before providing a quote:

  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What is the main objective of your website?
  • Will you be creating the written content, or will they?
  • What is your timeline?
  • Where will the images come from?
  • Do you need e-commerce?
  • How many email addresses do you need?
  • Who will manage the updates and maintenance?
  • Do you own the website, or do they?
  • How many revisions are included in the price?
  • Is the on-page search engine optimisation (SEO) included?
  • Is the site responsive, or mobile-friendly?

They insist on 100% upfront payment

If an agency is making these type of financial demands, run the opposite way. Once they have all your money, you ‘re at a huge disadvantage. They could disappear into the night, or take an entire year to deliver your first draft. The normal routine is to request 50% upfront and the remainder upon completion. You should not have to give any money before getting your quote, and they should have invested the time with you to ensure their quote is accurate and comprehensive.


Every web design agency seems to have an award

If you are choosing a web design agency based on them being ‘award winning ‘ then you are in for a shock because seemingly all web design agencies have awards.  In fact, if you type “award winning web design agency” into the Google search bar you get 4,400,000 search results.  Ouch!  That doesn’t exactly help filter down your choice, does it?


There is no web design agency governing body

Unlike many other professions, there is no governing body to tell you which web designers are the best to use and indeed which one are just darn right dangerous.  The companies that recommend web design agencies may or may not be doing it for the right reasons, so it is always difficult to know who to trust.


They all have generic USP ‘s

Unless your web designer can miraculously make your website pick up the laundry in the morning or do the dishes, it’s very difficult for a web design agency to translate effectively their USP ‘s.

From a business owner ‘s perspective, this can be incredibly frustrating as you filter through 10 ‘s of web design proposals, all saying pretty much the same thing but in a different way.

Given the sheer scale of the competition, web design agencies have been reluctant to truly specialise at the risk of alienating customers.

Unfortunately, this standpoint leaves you having to decide which proposal to accept based largely on the agencies promotional statements such as “we are freaking awesome”, “we ‘re all about talent” or “good design works”.


(Clever Marketing) – Web Design Surrey

Case studies don’t show the whole picture

We all love (possibly) routeing through case studies to see what a web design company has done in the past.  However, unless you have experience in digital marketing it is difficult to understand the technical side of the web design and to appreciate whether the design, however pretty, has been honed to improves sales and to improve conversions.


Duplicate blog content

One of the great ironies in web design and digital marketing is that even though we can ‘t recommend enough the importance of having a blog of your website, running a worthwhile, unique blog from a small/medium sized web design business can be a spectacular waste of time in terms of SEO.

Web design & digital marketing IS one of the most competitive industries online with literally hundreds of web design magazines, blogs and journals to compete with, it can be seen in the industry as ‘fool ‘s gold ‘.

Unfortunately, you the customer might very well choose your web design agency based on their blog and social presence, so some agencies use cheap methods to cut down their cost by regurgitating content they previously found on other websites.

How To Save Money, How Much To Spend And How To Save Time

What are the best ways to save money?

When you ‘re hiring an agency to design a professional website, it isn’t going to be cheap. You must be prepared to make an investment in your business, but there are certainly ways you can lower the cost. Copywriting, SEO services and images are areas where you may be able to do some of the work yourself. For example, if you are confident with your writing abilities, you may want to provide them with the written content. Or, perhaps you have a family member who is a professional photographer and would offer to create the images you need, rather than paying for them through the agency.

Which areas should I be aware of that take the most amount of time?

In my experience, the initial stages take the most time. Taking your website from an idea to an actual concept you can see takes a huge amount of work. To get to that first draft, you are working through the initial stages of negotiating, brainstorming, gathering information and putting all that into something tangible.

What should I do first to make sure I pick the right agency?

There are two main things you need to do. Firstly, get clear on what you need out of your website. Take the time to think about the big picture, and what you need your website to achieve. This comes back to the things I have already mentioned above. You want to identify what your needs are so that you can find an agency that can meet them. Ensure the agency is credible, reliable, and secure. Do your research, ask for referrals, read reviews and make sure you

Golden Rules – Before You Hire Your Perfect Web Design Agency


It’s all in the contract

Make sure you have a contract that clearly states every single item, along with the timelines and expectations from both sides. All the things I mentioned above should be included and accounted for. Ensure there is a clause for dissolution if the agency is not meeting deadlines or delivering a suitable product.


Research the agency

Make sure you’ve seen plenty of their current and live websites and read customer testimonials. Due diligence is key here.


Let your agency understand your business from the beginning

Make sure the agency is getting to know you, your brand and your business from the very beginning. If they don’t seem to understand how important this is to the success of the project, that’s a red flag.


Be patient, it takes time

Understand that website projects take time. The agency should clearly outline the pace at which things will move along. Take that into account when waiting for revisions or the first draft.


Don’t forget about the big picture

When designing a new website, it’s easy to focus on your immediate needs only, but it’s critical you ask questions about what’s going to happen down the road. Who will manage updates and how much will that cost? What happens if the agency shuts down? How can you renew your domain?

These are all things that can become a problem further down the road, so try to anticipate what your future needs might be. Ensure there’s a plan in place to protect your site long term.