Web design guide: What to consider before you engage a web design agency

web design

As a marketing professional or business owner you are certain that a new website design is what’s needed. It needs to be data-driven, fast and to generate revenue.

Ok, Great.

But are you ready to start calling agencies to help with web design and build? Will you be ready to judge the agencies you call? Do you have the internal team in place to help you? What budget should you be considering?


  • Introduction: Do you need a new web design?
  • Reasons to build a new site
  • Time, Money, and ROI
  • Cost Factors
  • Your ideal agency partners
  • Key questions to ask your prospective agency
  • Start your content plan now
  • Conclusion

Do you really need a new web design and if so, why ?

There are lots of good reasons to go for a new website design. Here are some of the not so good ones:

‘ I don’t like it’

It’s natural to get bored with a web design that you see every day. Of course to your site visitors your web design is brand new so they won’t share your boredom. If you don’t like it because you’ve recently reassessed your brand and realised it doesn’t match up then you’re probably on the right track. Read on!

‘Our competition have got a new website’

Doing what you see rivals do is really just copying their thinking from 18 months ago. They may have a shiny new web design on their site which might be terrible for the business. Most websites are incredibly disappointing for the owners. They look great but don’t deliver anything for the business.

Good Reasons to redesign your website:

Website is built on outdated technology – e.g. Poor mobile web experience, old tech in the background etc.

Website is slow – i.e. sees a speed rating below 50 on Google Speed test

Your user data shows a high bounce rate – visitors are leaving without interacting.

You’re launching a new division, product or service – usually a good point to refresh

Our sales funnel shows the website isn’t delivering value to users – people are calling us but they’re the wrong ones!

The web design doesn’t amplify your brand values – if you’ve codified your brand then it’s an easy matter to assess your site

> Do this now

Make sure you have analytics running on your website now. You’ll want a few  months’ evidence for comparables after a new site is launched.

Make sure you have access and understand what the data is telling you.

Time, money and ROI for a website design

Any business expense comes with an expected return. Website Design projects can sometimes be started with a ‘finger in the air’ approach to budgeting though and there’s really no need.

With a clear picture of what a great new web design can do for the business you can build a picture of the likely returns. Understanding the likely cost will be based on understanding how the content will be created, what the technology needs are and what resources you have available internally.

>> Be realistic about what your web design can do for you. The worst thing to do is to involve an agency in a project where you have champagne taste and only a beer budget set aside<<

Return on Investment

A correctly planned and designed new website will:

  • Mean more site visitors
  • Reduce Google Ad Spend
  • Increase Conversion rates on the site
  • Better amplify your brand

Which means:

[More people visiting] X [more of them converting] = big cumulative effect

Cost Factors

What is your wish list, your absolute dream web design and website?

Now’s the time to speak to everyone in the business. Not when the site is half built! Find out what would help them, what would make sales easier, client retention higher etc.

How much of the content for the current site is usable?

Content creation is key for a website. Do you have a good amount ? Do you have up to date photography? Someone on site who can write well?

How will you generate the new content ?

Great websites with a great web design constantly evolve and update so apart from new content required at build stage, how will you create that flow of updates?

What time and help do you have available?

Working in collaboration with your web design agency should take a good deal of time. Reflecting on web design ideas, working with their UX experts to define the ideal user experience and being on hand for any photography shoots all takes time. Who will run the project and who will help?

What kind of web design & build process are you happy with ?

For websites that cost less than £3500 you are likely to have very little to do with the process.

Technology: What does the website have to link up with ?

Integrating your website with systems in the business is one great way to transform business processes – it may be a stock control system, eCommerce, a booking diary or some other system. These integrations can be a huge drain on agency developer time so surface the need early and make sure it is understood.

>> Avoid the temptation to skip over the true challenges at the planning stage to try to achieve a lower build cost<<

Your ideal web design agency partner

We’ll start by assuming that your business doesn’t have the right people already to build a new website. These would be: Project Manager, Designer, User Experience Specialist, Digital Marketing Expert, Copywriter and Developers. You probably wouldn’t be here if you had them so let’s move on.

Types of web design agency you will come across:

AD AGENCY – big steel and glass office in the city centre

These agencies have their heart in the big above-the-line work that will make them famous. Their focus is on brand building across the board. They will have good, talented teams but bringing their team to bear will come with a hefty price tag. Projects less than £150,000 don’t appeal to them. Not because they’re greedy but they simply can’t make any money otherwise given the hueg number of salaries involved.

Good for: Large companies where synergy across all touchpoints will be useful


We share our office with one such agency. They have a great skill-set around building shopping websites and will be able to create a website that nurtures a prospect through from landing on site to clicking ‘pay now’.  A specialist team needs a meaty project so they’re probably not keen on start-ups ( you can build your own website anyway to test a market).

Good for: Established online brands where T/ O is £1m plus with significant site traffic

MARKETING AGENCY – focussed on building sales

A marketing agency will have a broader skillset than pure web design. They can support a business with not only the purely web aspects of a web design but also understand how the website fits into the wider business.

We, for example, are a full-funnel inbound marketing agency. We focus on strategy first and then create design to help customers on their journey by answering their questions. This is sometimes referred to as CRO or Conversion rate Optimisation.

Good for: Medium sized businesses looking for a website that is an efficient sales machine and where ongoing marketing support is ideal.

DESIGN AGENCY – emphasis on creating online beauty

An agency with a soul in design will be great at creating very pure online beauty. So, for example, a brochure website for an artist where really the prime motivation is to emphasise artistic talent.

Good for: A business where look and feel are all and there is no huge requirement for the site to fit into a marketing plan or sales funnel.

TECHNICAL SPECIALIST AGENCY – solving tough digital challenges

These agencies exist where a really chunky technical challenge exists. It may be that a very scientific company needs to provide some complex tools online for it’s clients. A technical agency will be ideally placed to not only build the site buta also all the connections into the native tech. Someone like https://www.coreblue.co.uk/

Would be a good example of such a company.

Good for: Custom Software design needs.


Before you embark on calling agencies it will be good to work out the factors that are important for you. Assuming you’ve established the type of agency here are some further areas.


Is a face to face relationship important to you? If so then local will be ideal.


We’ve looked at pricing and clearly it will be hard to tell from a website how much an agency is likely to charge for a web design but certainly it will be essential to be able to share your budget early on.


Does their team look like it has the right spread of skills to do the best for your project? Does your team like interacting with a large bureaucracy or would you rather just have one point of contact?


A glance through their portfolio should give you an idea of whether or not their aesthetic matches your ambitions. If you sell beauty products, then an agency that works primarily with agricultural clients probably won’t be a great fit.

Key questions to ask your prospective agency

1. Help me understand your planning process for websites.

Ideally an agency will be able to share their web design process in written form. It should make sense to you and include a solid alignment stage at the front so that you can be sure that the final site will match your requirement. A skimpy briefing stage or jumping straight into web design and build is probably going to result in some painful circling back later.

2. What is your approach to web builds ?

This is a tricky area but really you want to understand where they sit in terms of using data to drive web design and builds. At one extreme every page can be designed and refined against available data points. At the other end you rely on experts having a view on what will work best for you. There is no right and wrong and certainly much of this will be driven by the data you have available. Certainly a good conversation to have though.

3. What is your copywriting process?

Content is king and queen on a website so do take time to make sure you will have solid support in this area. It may well be an additional cost element because it is both vital and time-consuming. Be clear about how much you can support – often a good process involves you writing a rough copy and then an expert at the agency polishes and structures the content. Great copy drives and supports great web design.

4. Will photography, copywriting and illustrations be an extra cost ?

It is unlikely that any agency will quote initially with such items included so it is worth thinking ahead on this one. Illustrations can be a great way to build a unique and powerful brand but stock ones are nowhere near as good as ones you commission. Likewise photos will bring your web design to life in a way that absolutely reflects your brand but a photographer could be £500 or £50,000 ! Certainly the agency should be your ally in sorting out such matters and able to offer guidance and support but they are unlikely to keep the skills in-house.

5. How could you support a live website?

Building a new website should be viewed as the beginning of a process, not the end and really the build process should lead into a fruitful relationship with an agency where you can get a support package tailored to suit your ambitions for your business.

6. Technical Support – ‘ I’d like to sleep at night’

Websites must have regular work done to keep all the various underlying technology up to date and keep your web design looking perfect. If you don’t have this skill set in house then make sure the agency can offer a support programme that will keep the site safe and secure and to be there on the end of the phone should something  such as hacking occur.

7. Ongoing Marketing

It can be really good to have the same company provide ongoing digital marketing services for your website as it means they will already be familiar with all the underlying technology.

Start your content plan now.

Your website content is absolutely vital if your website will be an important part of your sales funnel. For some companies the web design is simply an online presence that allows their brand to be communicated and to keep their clients informed of developments.

For the rest of us, the website is the key business driver. If you fall into this category or at least would like to see your site drive a ton of business then we can do no more than say that a clear content strategy is vital and we can not recommend anything other than reading ‘ They Ask, You Answer’ by Marcus Sheridan.

At the simplest level, following this book’s framework will mean that your business comes to be viewed as the most trusted organisation in your sector, the first port of call. It’s a proven method and best of all, it makes content creation fun rather than a chore. Find out more>


With your Content Strategy in hand, key questions written down and your Google Analytics all set up, you’re ready to start to hunt down the right agency partner.

Good luck !

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