Choosing a new digital agency for your website redesign project can be an exhausting process. It’s not one that you want to repeat every few years. Ideally, you want an agency that can deliver a great site and be there for the long term to support and continually enhance it moving forward. 

We regularly see companies embarking on this endeavor. Some do a great job with the beginning process while others really struggle. Those who struggle often seem to sit on one side of two extremes.

The first extreme is a “fly by the seat of your pants” approach. In this scenario, there’s a lack of structure and focus that is often characterized by:

  • Little to no specifications and details as to what they are looking to accomplish.
  • No dates in terms of initiation meeting, website launch, expected responses from potential vendors, and deadline for deciding on a partner/agency.
  • Little face time with the agency: asking for a  full proposal without giving the agency the benefit of getting to know you or your company. 

This approach is a roll of the dice; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but when you lose, you lose big-time.

The other approach we see tends to be too structured. This is often created by replicating very large companies and how they handle the process. Common characteristics include:

  • Sending an RFP to 15 or more agencies, most of which have not been researched beyond pulling up the site or contact via form or email.
  • An RFP that typically offers very little in terms of company vision and future goals. The RFPs tend to dictate the specifications and have very specific instructions for responding but offer very little interaction with the firm, e.g., “Have your questions by this date and we will have a conference call with all potential vendors to review the questions.”

The above approach certainly doesn’t do much to foster a relationship with or inspire the digital agencies that are being considered.

Often companies approach website redesigns in this way due to lack of time, job overwhelm or just not fully understanding what it takes to create an amazing website that helps a company grow. We do our best to guide all of our clients through this process, because we’ve learned that companies that navigate this process most effectively, often have the best outcomes. 

So what is the best way to go about choosing a partner for your website redesign? We’ve listed our best 8 steps below. They may not be the end all, but based on our experience we feel it’s a pretty good approach. These 8 steps are based on the assumption that your project involves a redesign of your website (and potentially your brand) with a budget of $40,000 or more, and that you are looking to for a partner who will stick with you beyond the build-out of the redesigned site.

Here’s a step-by-step process that can help you choose the right digital agency to handle your website redesign.

1. Define your agency criteria.

Start off by identifying what the most important characteristics are for the agency implementing your redesign. For example, if you are a B2B company, your agency should have solid B2B experience. What else is important? High-end design? Lead generation? E-commerce? Is there a technology stack that’s absolutely necessary to be used on this project? Are you looking for an agency with industry expertise? These are all good factors to take into consideration, however, I caution you not to put too much weight on whether the agency has specific industry experience. You can read more about my reasoning on that here. 

2. Research and select 10.

Collectively, you and your team should search for firms matching your criteria. Take a look at their sites, reviews, and the work they’ve done. Based on this search, select your top 10. Reach out to them via phone, contact form on their site, or email.

3. Talk to them.

If they respond to your inquiry, schedule a call. The response and the timing of the response will be very telling in itself. How long did it take to get back to you (if they got back to you at all)?  If only a few agencies get back to you, you can either reach out to more or just proceed with those who responded.

Have a call with each of them – no longer than 30 minutes each. Explain the high-level details of the project. Ask them a few questions. This should give you a sense of the firm and whether or not it’s a good fit. After each call, reflect on the conversation and see if they seem like people you’d like to work with.

4. Create & distribute the RFP to 5 firms.

Don’t make this a complicated, time-consuming process. The RFP should only be 2 or 3 pages. Keep it clear and concise – if the agency needs more information they will ask and you can provide it via a call or email. Your RFP should answer a number of questions. Here is a punchlist of what you should cover:

  • Why are you redesigning your site?
  • Who are you redesigning it for, explain your audiences.
  • What are your goals? What do you consider success?
  • List and provide links to your competition.
  • Pick 5 sites you like, that can be in your industry or not, along with what you like about them.
  • Find 3 sites you don’t like and list reasons why.
  • Include a few screenshots of important analytics, mobile vs. desktop usage and any other reports you see fit.
  • List any technical requirements such as integration, registration, etc.
  • Be sure to include key dates such as when the proposal is due, when you will make a decision, and when you expect to launch the new site.

Once you have the RFP together, send it to your top 5 choices.

5. Review the proposals and pick the top 3.

Now it is time to review the proposals and the firms themselves. Confirm that they can easily answer any questions you have and are highly responsive when doing so. Do the proposals make sense? Are they on point with your objectives? As a team, select the top 3 proposals and request these agencies come in and present if physically possible or schedule a call with screen share.

6. Meet face-to-face.

It’s best to schedule all agency meetings in the same day or as close to one another as possible. This allows for easier comparison between each firm at the end of the day.

Prove to each firm that you’ve done your homework. Check their websites, reviews, and past work. Formulate questions specific to each firm to see how they can uniquely improve your business.

The firm should bring the majority of the team, that will be managing your project, to the presentation. Get to know the entire team. Too often, firms will rely on one shining star salesman with great experience and charisma to land the deal, only to never be seen again. Instead of being left with an average team, get to know all or most of the members of your potential team and find out if all of them have the experience and knowledge your project requires.

The meeting itself should be conversational. Both you and the firm should ask questions, but it should be all about you – your digital needs and aspirations. Make sure you have good chemistry and that their emotional intelligence, experience, and technical abilities fit well with your company.

7. Check the references.

At this point, maybe you have one firm that shines above the rest, or maybe it’s not quite that clear. That’s a good thing. If two or more firms seem like they can get the job done well, there is no wrong decision, just a better one. This is where references come in. Hopefully the teams you pick are growing agencies, which means their best work is probably their most recent. At the same time, ask about company longevity? Have they supported and redesigned multiple versions of a website for the same company? If so, ask them to explain the process that website went through. Do they have any new projects that are currently in the works?

Be specific when you ask for references. Ask for their best work, a long-term client for whom they have done (hopefully multiple) revisions, and an active client. This will provide you with well-rounded references on each firm.

8. Pull the trigger.

At this point, you know what to do and who the right choice is for you. There’s nothing stopping you from getting the ball rolling on this redesign and it’s time to get started.

Easy, right? Not quite.

Either way you look at it, this will be a time consuming process. But one thing we know for sure: putting the time in early will result in a more successful redesign and it will be well worth it in the end. This is just a scratch on the surface, but it should get you started in the process of finding the best digital agency for your website redesign.