Navigating the Web Design Landscape: Choosing the Right Partner

March 29, 2024

If your organization is in the market for a new digital presence, you’ll find that there are countless vendors who can create a fully serviceable website for you. They have the technical chops, they’re experienced, and they check many of the boxes when it comes to answering the question, “Can they handle creating our new site?”

But there are several equally important factors to consider that don’t fall into this “web design IQ” category. Rather, they land squarely in the realm of “web design EQ.” At a high level, we’re talking about professionals who treat your project as if it were their own. They are web design and development partners who are looking out for your best interests — even in cases where you can’t define them yourself — and they’re committed to doing the right thing even when no one is watching over their shoulders.

These factors matter significantly when it comes to your overall experience as well as the future outlook of your digital presence.

Not sure how to vet and select the right web design partner in a sea of otherwise qualified prospects? Let’s take a look at 6 important questions you should be asking them.

1. What is your general philosophy when it comes to partnering on a website redesign?

In short, you shouldn’t feel like your agency partner is creating “just another website.” Instead, you should get the sense that your project is prioritized squarely at the center of their attention, and that they’re making decisions that match the needs of your team and your audiences, with an understanding of where you are now and where you’re looking to go in the future.

2. What is your team’s communication style?

Look for vendors who explain their processes clearly and transparently. From the outset, their proposal and contract should directly define the project scope, key team members, timelines, deliverables, and costs, with a focus on compliance for vital elements like accessibility and data protection.

Moving forward, your team should clearly understand:

  • Who the main points of contact are — and how to reach them
  • How their workflows are defined
  • Which communication channels they will use
  • When to expect updates on project progress and key milestones
  • How they plan to keep you actively involved throughout the process, to obtain your input and feedback, and keep the project on track in terms of timeline and budget

3. What factors will go into making decisions about our project?

Look for partners who look at your project holistically to make big-picture decisions. They should have a discovery process in place that helps them understand your organization, mission, history, brand, audiences, peers & competitors. If you have a legacy site, they should conduct a thorough walk-through with the multidisciplinary members of your team to understand which elements are performing well and which need to be reworked. And they should dive into your analytics or at least ask you to summarize them to ensure that the decisions they make are driven by data that reflects actual audience behaviors and key performance indicators (KPIs).

4. Will our new site have the ability to grow with us?

Looking at your long-term goals, the partner you select should look at your new digital presence through the lens of how your organization expects to evolve in the future. Are you planning new product launches, new service introductions, or forays into new audiences or markets? All of these should be factored into your project from the outset whenever possible so the solutions you choose can be adapted affordably without having to recreate the wheel when the time comes.

In some cases, you may need a phased approach that fits your current budget and achieves what needs to be done immediately, while laying the groundwork for budget-friendly future site enhancements, including:

  • A flexible design system with components that can fit a variety of future content needs
  • Visual updates to make your current site more brand-appropriate in the interim while awaiting a ground-up redesign
  • A plan to evaluate your iterative site update needs at regular intervals instead of needing a full redesign every 3-5 years

Left: The legacy homepage hero and main navigation for the Penn State Student Affairs website. Right: The reskinned homepage we created now reflects the university’s updated brand elements.

5. How can we be sure our new site will help us reach our goals?

Spoiler alert: This requires a partner who doesn’t cut corners. The partner you select should make project decisions that push your organization toward your established goals rather than what’s quickest or easiest for them to execute — and they should avoid solutions that have a short shelf life or feel like lateral moves or band-aids for existing challenges. While you may be tempted to accept cheaper or quicker solutions to launch your site at the earliest possible date, if you’re being led toward solutions that compromise your ability to maximize your return on investment (ROI) or the conversion rates you’re looking to achieve, you won’t be saving time or money (and you may end up actually spending more in the long run trying to fix those issues later).

Don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel like your agency partner is promising deliverables they can’t produce with excellence or timelines they can’t realistically meet. In a case where you need to meet quick deadlines, a reputable web design partner can work with you to create a minimum viable product (MVP) version of your site to meet that launch date, and then plan to make subsequent needed improvements over time.


Left: The legacy homepage hero and main navigation for the Penn State Student Affairs website. Right: The reskinned homepage we created now reflects the university’s updated brand elements.

6. How are you able to support our site long-term?

Ensure that your prospective vendor isn’t planning to just hand off your project & say “good luck.” By using an agency partner that offers ongoing website support and maintenance services, you can ensure that the team who created your site will continue to help it operate smoothly and that your post-launch needs will be met through vital feature enhancements, updates, security patches, troubleshooting, and more.

Have other questions about your next digital project? Let’s talk.