So you’ve decided to commission a new website, and you’re shopping around for a supplier. But how do you know who will deliver what you need to boost your digital presence?

Following on from our Top 7 Signs You Need a New Website, here are our top 8 red flags to watch out for when looking for a digital partner.

1. You don’t feel inspired

Your website needs to represent your company and stand out from the crowd. More often than not, you’ll be presented with a fairly stylish homepage, some additional pages and a basic contact page with an enquiry form. Your chosen digital partner should find ways to differentiate you from the competition by adding interactive elements, dynamic content and video wherever possible.

2. Too many middle-men

Communication with your digital partner needs to be as easy as possible. If they’re relaying your requests down a long chain, the end product might not meet your expectations.
Make sure that your point of contact isn’t too far removed from the people actually doing the design, development or SEO work.

3. Use the right tool for the job

Often, digital marketing agencies will be very qualified in delivering websites built in a certain platform (such as WordPress), and will offer it as a solution for all new website projects. However, such platforms were created with a particular kind of website in mind, and once the website begins to grow beyond a few pages of information, they can begin to struggle.

Things like quote tools, interactive widgets, advanced web forms, user logins, calendars and integrations with other websites are better handled by other platforms or a bespoke project. This often implies more cost, but the right agency will find an affordable solution for you, while still using the right tool for the job.

4. “It’s okay, we test everything in house”

No matter how much testing is done on something in-house, there is nothing better than getting impartial every-day users to review your site. If your agency pushes back on this, it may indicate a lack of confidence in the usability of what they’re delivering.

5. Your website looks very text heavy

When carrying out search engine optimisation (SEO) on a website (particularly a brand new website) agencies will need to include keywords or phrases so that sites like Google can recognise what the website is about, and show it in relevant search results. There can be a temptation here to include a lot of keywords to increase chances of appearing in results. However, once users find your website and begin to look around, the majority won’t stick around to read long content. It may even deter them from your site, particularly if the writing style is clearly for the benefit of search engines.

Users like quick information written in a jargon-free and accessible style. We can’t afford to assume they will read 3 paragraphs of keyword-optimised text to find out what you do and how they can get in touch.

Your agency should balance SEO keywords with the needs of typical web users.

6. The scope is too ambitious

In trying to secure a larger deal, agencies are often guilty of trying to do too much in one go. Rather than trying to figure out exactly what is needed for your website upfront and then send it ‘into the shop’ to be built, a more agile approach might suit you better.

This involves starting with the absolute essentials for your website, then building and delivering on those. Once that’s live, you can then look at adding additional features one by one. Besides spreading the cost out, this also has the benefit of allowing you to change your mind and reprioritise things later.

7. Don’t compromise simplicity for flash

It’s easy to get carried away with all of the new technologies available on the web. Animations, custom fonts, scroll effects, 3D rendering, embedded videos, full width high resolution background photos… There are many ways to be creative when designing websites.

However, make sure your agency appreciates how these things will impact on the core fundamentals like load times and usability. Users won’t be impressed by your high budget video if they can’t find the button to contact you, or if the site takes too long to load.

8. Enquiry forms are too in-depth

If your website aims to generate leads, it can be tempting to ask for lots of information from users enquiring on the site. However, having more fields on a contact form is a sure fire way to deter people from filling it out.

Consider the absolute essentials – do you need to know a user’s company name? Or even their name? The fewer fields you include, the more likely users are to fill the form out. After you find a partner you’re happy with and your new website is live, your digital presence requires ongoing care and attention for it to flourish and deliver what you want it to.

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Top 8 Red Flags When Commissioning a New Website first appeared in 53 Degrees Magazine’s October 2016 issue.