Web design firms come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be difficult to choose one to help get your idea for a website off the ground. Many prospective site owners may not even know where to begin looking, especially when dealing with highly competitive markets like Los Angeles.
The “about” page on any given firm’s website may provide you with some useful information, but it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when focusing on details about collective experience, past awards, and other common selling points. Experience doesn’t always translate into talent, and talent doesn’t always receive awards. A truly informed decision starts with a side-by-side comparison of multiple options, and it requires that you know where to look for those options in the first place.
Online review sites are one potential starting point, and they may indeed be useful for assembling a list of some of the established web design firms that are out there. However, you should not exclusively rely on them for the purposes of comparison. Since many web design firms double as digital marketing firms, they generally know how to boost their own rankings on review sites, even if their actual work doesn’t stand apart from the competition.
Before committing to any partnership, you need to examine that work on its own terms. Fortunately, this should be easy to do in most cases, since web design firms tend to include a portfolio of past work on their own sites. If they don’t, then you might be justified in viewing it as red flag, unless there’s something compelling on their “about” page or in their online reviews that makes you think they’re worth looking at more closely. In that case, you can contact them via e-mail or through their online forms to ask for references or links to pages they’ve designed which are currently live.
Once you have access to a range of portfolios, it’s time to start paging through the relevant sites and comparing essential elements. While there are various elements of that comparison that are objective, the fact is that you should also be paying attention to the overall feelings you develop toward the work of various web design firms. Sometimes, an informed decision involves hiring partners that are not only technically skilled but also compatible with your personal preferences and design philosophy.
Design Elements to Look For
Subjective compatibility will most likely become apparent to you as you examine the most essential elements of any web design project, namely the overall layout and user interface. It doesn’t take a great deal of objective expertise in order to recognize a website that is well-organized and aesthetically appealing. You may need to look a little deeper in order to assess whether the content is also laid out in a way that easily leads visitors toward whatever information they happen to be looking for.
As you follow multiple pathways away from a site’s first screen, you should get a sense of how streamlined the user interface is, and you should also develop a sense of how it feels to navigate it. This may also lead you directly to a closer assessment of the relevant web design firms’ aesthetics and understanding of user psychology.
This blog has previously discussed the unexpected importance of color, and hopefully that has prompted some website owners to develop a fuller appreciation of how their web design firms apply different palates to different projects.
Objectively, color schemes contribute to the overall readability of a site, and particularly its accessibility to different types of people, including those with light sensitivity and color-blindness. On a somewhat more subjective level, color schemes also allow web design firms to connect with a particular target audience or to trigger certain types of feelings which give visitors an added psychological push toward making a purchase or otherwise stepping up their interaction with the site.
In conjunction with fonts and other design elements, certain colors can connect websites to earlier eras in an effort to appeal to older visitors, or they can convey a sense of being modern and trendy in order to capture attention from a younger generation. The same elements can give visitors the impression that they’re in a comfortable online environment, or they can provoke feelings of excitement, depending on the nature of the experience that the site or its products are supposed to offer.
If you have a very specific design aesthetic in mind, and you don’t expect to change it, then you may be warranted in limiting your search to web design firms that use a certain set of elements exceptionally well. If, however, you want to be able to adapt your site over time to appeal to different demographics and different types of consumers, then your assessment of each firm’s portfolio should probably focus not just on how each project makes you feel, but also on the diversity of feelings that the entire portfolio manages to evoke.
Advantages of Due Diligence
Whether you end up selecting a web design company that is uniquely suited to your preexisting vision or one that can help you develop your brand identity over time, you should find that your partnership is improved by having examined their portfolio in advance.
That assessment provides the client with a level of familiarity that makes communication with the contractor easier at the outset. Simply by reading this blog post and developing a sense of which design elements you should be looking for, you have potentially expanded your vocabulary for speaking to web design firms about what you expect from them, and what they can do for you.
Clear expectation and a clear understanding of one’s capabilities are beneficial for all parties to a professional partnership. By aligning your websites needs with the unique strengths of your chosen web design firm, you minimize the risk of conflict and miscommunication down the line, and thus free up your contractors’ time and energy to deliver the best possible website and to begin marketing it in the right way.