Skip to main content

Selecting your next Web Development Agency

·5 mins

I have written and read many website proposals over the years, and it can be hard to distinguish one from another. If you are in the process of reviewing proposals, here are a few tips that you might find helpful.

Start with a clear RFP #

Clearly defining the project is the first step to finding the right person or agency to build it. That means defining your goals, listing the requirements, and laying out clear expectations that will describe what you’re looking for. A good RFP should include a clear overview of the purpose of the project, current pain points that you want to solve, and goals that will define what makes this project a success. From this RFP, you’ll have the standard that will help create the decision matrix that will guide you through the rest of the project.

Rule out the obvious “No’s” #

Some proposals will miss the mark. If you received a lot of proposals, don’t waste your time on a deep dive into ones that you already know you’re not interested in. The first wave of elimination should be removing the ones that are not a fit.

Here’s a list of potential deal breakers

  1. Doesn’t address the pain points, goals, and objectives outlined in the RFP
  2. Has typos and spelling errors (Grammarly, spellcheck)
  3. Looks sloppy and unprofessional (This is a design project, the proposal should look good)
  4. Doesn’t include a contract (it speaks to professionalism, and defines the terms of the relationship)
  5. Feels like it was written by ChatGPT, or just feels off for any reason… listen to your gut

If the proposal reflects what was in the RFP, and you’re feeling good about it, they move to the next round. Bonus points if they asked clarifying questions in the process to make sure they were meeting all of your needs.

Rate the rest and start the research #

You can do this digitally, but if you can, print the proposals and lay them out on a long conference room table from best to worst and start going through each one making sure they address each item in the RFP. Did they come within budget? Do they provide a sample timeline? Does their approach seem like a good fit?

Quality of their work #

Next, you’ll want to review the quality of their work. They should have provided work samples that you can review. Don’t forget to look at their website as well.

Do you like what you see? Have they worked with others in your industry? Go the the websites and navigate around, do they load quickly? Is it easy to navigate? Do all of their sites look the same, or do they each feel unique?

Quality of the experience #

Often agencies will have a published process for how they approach their work. Review that and see if it feels like something you can get on board with. For example, some will allow for multiple designs you can select from, and some have limits to the rounds of revisions. There are different ways to approach the web development process. Exploring those differences may give you some insights into what they will be like to work with.

Look at online review sites or client testimonials. The ones that they provide will be glowing, so find their Google Business Profile, BBB, or Clutch review which will be more objective.

Company size and years in business #

Larger companies can be more stable, there’s an escalation path to go up if there are issues, and they may have more longevity to support you in the future. A website is generally a dynamic thing that needs maintenance and updating, so having the team that built it also maintains it can be nice.

Price and Terms #

Make sure you understand the cost, and what you’re getting for your money, as well as the payment terms, and how they split them up through the project. I typically see splits of 50% upfront, and 50% on completion, but progress payments inserted partway into the project are also common. It may be tempting to go with the least expensive option, but start with all of the other criteria first, and judge based on price last. I’m assuming if they’ve made it to this round, they didn’t completely blow the budget that was defined in the RFP. Go with the best agency you can afford. You always get what you pay for.

Vet your shortlist with clarifying questions #

By now you should have the selection narrowed down to no more than 3 options. If you’ve narrowed it down to 1 already, this step will just be for clarification and will just serve to solidify your choice assuming nothing unexpected is uncovered in the process.

With the shortlist, you’ll want to go back to the RFP and ask any questions that may have come up in this process. Sometimes, seeing another agency’s approach will uncover new questions.

Here are a few more that you’ll want to have addressed upfront.

  1. What is the process if the project scope changes or we need to go back and change something that had been previously approved?
  2. What if we need more rounds of revisions?
  3. How do you handle maintenance after launch? What does that entail?
  4. Do you provide training and documentation for our team?
  5. What is your warranty period and what is covered?
  6. What browsers and devices will be supported?

Reach out to your shortlist with these questions, and one will most likely rise to the surface. All else being equal, go with the one that responded to your email the fastest with the best answers, or just go with the most expensive one.

Good luck!

Jeremy Ross
Jeremy Ross
After a decade of building websites, I’m now turning my sights on making them work better. I’m out to reduce the friction between awareness and action and create trusting and loyal customers and clients for B2B and B2C ecommerce websites.