I’ve never wanted to rant about other businesses, it’s not really my place to tell other design businesses how to portray themselves, but a couple of pointers for people who are thinking about selecting a design agency.

Firstly, never trust a company that doesn’t actually display any of their work. As a design agency, your work should speak volumes about the standard that you work at. It’s easier than ever to showcase your work, with a variety of platforms to promote and explain your work. Over the past year we have worked with a couple of businesses who have previously worked with someone ‘they were told were good’. Word of mouth referrals are a powerful way to gain new business but you need to have something to back it up with. I had a look at the companies these businesses had previously worked with. Their websites are full of ‘partnership’ and ‘affiliate’ logos for big tech companies. That might mean they can work a computer but design is a lot more than that. When we start a project we look at capturing our client’s message and communicate it to their target audiences in a creative way. Design is a visual discipline. It’s a creative process. At the end of a project you should be able to look at the piece of work with pride, you then want to show this work to your peers and prospective customers. If an agency doesn’t do that ask yourself why? It’s great if a couple of big tech companies think they are great guys but no matter how many logos they stick on their site, they will never be able to hide the fact that their work isn’t up to standard!

Secondly, if you speak to someone that seems to speak in riddles, buzzwords galore and huge promises, ask them to break it down in layman’s terms. You are spending YOUR money and they are offering you a service. I recently spent an hour with one business owner who had worked with a web design company and they had no idea what they were being signed up for. They had no idea how much involvement they would need to have in the project and they had no way of gauging the success of the project.

One phrase that has tripped up a couple of business owners is ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. One company had guaranteed this business ‘first page Google results’. Sounds great… but not necessarily achievable with a small budget. That’s not to say a business can’t make an impact in search engines with a small budget but one thing you can’t do is offer ‘guarantees’. They don’t own Google! They don’t develop the search engine algorithms. What should happen is that there should be a frank discussion between the design agency and their client about what they want to achieve and the budget and resources they have in making this a reality. They should then work on a plan that they can measure over a period of time. The more hits on a website doesn’t necessarily mean that the website is being successful, you need to make sure it’s the right type of people who are viewing the site.

When it comes to working with a design agency you should feel looked after. They should get what you are trying to achieve and offer solutions. If you are unsure about something you should feel comfortable enough to flag this up. You obviously want to maintain a good working relationship with your design agency but you also need to remember that you are the client and they work for you!

End of rant!