Both these positions are now taken. Thank you to everyone that responded and good luck to the two new ‘housers’.
We currently have two new exciting roles available at Hutchhouse and welcome applications from candidates directly with relevant CVs to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be organising interviews based on your applications so be sure to let us know which position you are applying for.
No agencies please.
When you first set out employing an agency to design and build your website, there are many factors which come into play. We have tried to come up with a few pointers on choosing a web design agency and some warning signs to look out for.
Like most industries there are varying levels of competency and skill and – like much of the IT industry – web design and especially web development is scattered with jargon. There are definite pitfalls and signals which you should take heed of and certain traits that should be expected and applauded.
Good web design agency traits
- The project management team can answer your questions clearly
- Jargon and technical detail are kept to minimum and non-technical explanations
- The agency are upfront and transparent about their costs (both project costs and any ongoing costs)
- The web design process is clearly explained
- Clear milestones are provided with regard to the overall web design and development process
- The agency can quickly produce examples of work which is relevant to your project
- Any third party technology or input (if any) to the project is made clear
- The ongoing website support process is explained
- Hosting requirements are considered and options are discussed
- Clear points of contact are established
Poor web design agency behaviour to look out for
- Points made by the agency are littered with technical details and jargon and don’t make sense to you
- There are elements of the approach which lock you into using the web design agency (such as hosting agreements)
- Questions are not answered sufficiently or are skirted over
- The agency’s approach and processes are not explained
- The agency mask costs in technical jargon and do not explain the reasoning for them sufficiently (this can be especially true with regards to Search Engine Optimisation – there another blog post in the making on that one)
- You get the sense that the agency don’t understand your requirements. Each project is different and a ‘boiler plate’ (one size fits all) approach by the agency will make them money but won’t produce a site inline with your expectations.
What you should ask a web design agency
- Ask for examples of previous work including demonstrations if required
- Ballpark figures (or hunches) are easy enough to give with small amounts of information. These can easily rule out (or in) whether an agency will fit your budget and save time on both accounts
- Find out what the company recommends with regard to content management platforms (if applicable) and search engine marketing (social media, web copywriting, web page optimisation)
- Ask about the level of web accessibility the agency adhere to by default
- Discover the processes the agency will follow
- How much contact does the agency need from you?
- Find out about the key project milestones and what they mean in relation to any proposed timescales
Most of us will end up working with people we like, but that won’t guarantee a successful project. You should never be afraid to ask a question, even if your questions seem trivial. Any agency worth their salt will take their time to explain their proposal and make sure you fully understand their processes and approach, without using over complicated technical jargon. Just like any other industry, you are employing experts, so you need to trust their judgement, but beforehand, they need to earn your trust.
Communicating with clients during a web project is the most important part of the production cycle. That’s why we use web applications to make our projects as accessible to our clients as we can.
The design and development phase of projects can be hard to communicate to clients using the traditional routes. Whilst emails, meetings and telephone conversations are important it’s also necessary to provide access to the project at every stage of it’s development. This is how we overcome that particular problem and how we keep our clients in touch with progress at every step.
Web design communication
We have taken this so seriously that we’ve developed our own web application to handle it. Allworkedup is a design project management tool which neatly displays flat web design iterations (as they would appear in the browser) as well as providing a forum for comment and feedback. Once our designers have finished a web design iteration they upload it and notify the project stakeholders who are then invited to comment on the design and open up the discussion with others.
It really works for us and bypasses the completely unworkable situation where feedback is via email and iterations are presented over email. The main thing is that whenever is convenient our clients can log in and leave their suggestions and feedback in one place.
Keeping our clients in touch with (web) developments
The web development phase of any project can leave clients feeling like nothing’s happening with periods of ‘quiet time’, but only if we’re not managing it properly. We choose to give the client access to the project progression at every stage of the process so as a task is ticked off – the client is alerted of it.
We use a fantastic web development management tool called Pivotal Tracker which logs all the tasks as User Stories and shows which ones are queued for immediate development, which ones have been started, finished and delivered and which ones are coming up later on. This way our clients are always in-touch with progress and have a real handle on where we are and when we might be finished.