owner and founder of aperture digital
December 13, 2021

How To Choose A Cleveland Web Design Agency

Preparing to launch a new website may seem like a daunting task. You'll need to research digital agencies that provide web design in Cleveland, schedule interviews, and ultimately hire the right web development company.

There are many talented digital marketing firms in our region, so it can be a difficult task to determine out which one is right for your business. In this post, I will cover a list of topics that you can research prior to consulting with a digital marketing company. My goal is to give you an arsenal of questions to ask the marketing firm so that you make an informed decision that aligns with your business goals.

Pro-Tip: At the end of each section, we will label questions or topics you should discuss during a consultation. These important topics will be labeled with the marker "Pro-Tip".

A Disclaimer About Google Ads When Searching for "Cleveland Web Design"

If you perform a quick Google search for "Cleveland website design", you are going to be bombarded with advertisements right off the bat. The advertisements are at the top of the page and will have the label "Ad" next to each advertisement.  The businesses running the ad will probably offer cheap websites starting at $199 and promise a 24-hour turnaround time. I want to stress that a website that costs $199 will not be the right website for your business. Websites should be carefully thought out, professionally developed, and rigorously QC'd. Most ads come from firms outside the local Cleveland Ohio Market, and I guarantee they are not Browns fans!

image of google ads

Pro-Tip: Review advertisements carefully and try to find local businesses that share common values.

1. Make Sure Your website is developed with a Content Management System (CMS)

Content management systems are software platforms used to manage the creation and maintenance of websites and web pages. They enable you to create, organize, publish, and edit your website content in a simple and logical way. The most popular content management system in use today is called WordPress. The best part about WordPress is that it's completely free!

We develop all of our websites using WordPress and highly recommend it because:

  •     It is user friendly
  •     It has a huge library of plugins
  •     It powers 40% of all websites online (source)
  •     It can be used for businesses, blogs, and e-commerce stores

Here is an image of what the WordPress dashboard looks like. It is an intuitive CMS with lots of functionality.

image of WordPress dashboard

Pro-Tip: Make sure to ask what CMS system the marketing agency uses to develop the website. If the firm doesn't use WordPress, research the CMS they specialize in to see if it fits your business goals.

2. Have a Conversation About Graphic Design

Not every website needs a graphic designer to help produce artwork for the website. But, the graphic designer's expertise can turn a good website into a great one! In this section, I will list the pros and cons of contracting a graphics designer when developing your website.

Pros of hiring a graphic designer on your web design project

  1. Graphic designers have an artistic eye that can help balance the business side of your website with the fun, artistic side. Their work may help you to better communicate the "feel" or personality of your business to potential clients.
  2. Web designers are not always experts in applications like Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. I personally know enough to be"dangerous," but I prefer to leave the artwork up to the artists.
  3. Hiring graphic designers can speed up the overall web design process.
  4. Graphic designers will create imagery other than photographs. They also excel in creating icons, logos, shapes, color choices, and fonts.

Cons of hiring a graphic designer on your web design project

  1. They will increase the overall cost of the project. The cost depends on how many custom pieces of art and imagery you need. I think having the graphics designer help design the hero sections and icon is enough to really make your website stand out. The hero section is the very top section of each website page. It's the first thing people see when visiting your website
  2. Graphics design will add another level of approvals to the web design process. Sometimes it can take two or three iterations before the design is just right.
  3. Not every agency has a graphics designer on the team or offers graphics design as one of their core digital marketing services. It isn't a requirement to have a dedicated graphics designer inside the design firm. The project manager would need to research and find a good fit for your business.

Pro-Tip: Decide if you want your website to primarily include photographs or art/illustrations. If you are a local fence company, photos of your work will likely be sufficient, and you probably don't need graphic design. If you are a tax professional, infographics and artwork may help you to communicate information to potential clients in a more understandable manner.

Bonus Tip: Website with photos = NO graphics designer. Art and Illustrations = YES graphics designer

3. Discuss Project Management and Progress Tracking with the web design agency

Every top Cleveland website design agency needs a project management system. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it does need to work. Basecamp is the gold standard but costs $99/month!

The point is that the online marketing company you choose needs to have a clear set of milestones and a way to report them back to you.

Here is a list of 8 project management software tools that can help track your web development project:

  1. Basecamp
  2. Trello
  3. Whimsical
  4. Google Sheets
  5. Microsoft Excel (yes the spreadsheets!)
  6. Google Docs
  7. Asana
  8. Clickup

Here are a few items that top Cleveland web design agencies should be tracking on your website build:

  •     Templates
  •     Custom Post Types
  •     Unique web pages
  •     Client provided photographs
  •     Functionality (contact forms, payment processing, client portals, etc.)
  •     Launch day checklist

Pro-Tip: don't underestimate the power of Google Sheets. It's fast, easy, and convenient.

4. Does the Website Development Company show interest in your business?

If your website project is going to be a success, the web development company must take a vested interest in your business. The marketing agency succeeds when you succeed. That being said, the marketing agency should discuss these types of topics during the consultation:

  1.     Tell us a little bit about your business
  2.     What is your primary goal for your website?
  3.     What are some must-have features on the website?
  4.     Who are your top 5 competitors?
  5.     Who is your target customer?

It's a positive sign when the web development company talks about these topics during the consultation. This is a clear indication that the web design firm wants to build a website that will convert visitors into paying customers.

5. Does the Web Design firm know the basics of Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a topic that should be discussed during the discovery consultation. Most people might not think of search engine optimization as a web design service, but web designers should follow a few best practices when setting up the website. The expectation is not to run a full-fledged SEO campaign while building the website, but to get an idea of the designer's familiarity with SEO. You don't want to have to pay for SEO re-work that could have been completed during the initial website design project.

Images should be optimized

Images sizes shouldn't be too large. stick in the range of 50-100 kilobytes. if you need a high-resolution hero image, make sure to use srcset attributes to tell the browser agent to use a smaller image on mobile devices. There is no need to deliver a huge image to a tiny cell phone screen. We like to use an application called Squoosh for resizing and compressing images. It is fast, easy to use, and comes with many file formats when exporting images.

H-tags follow the proper hierarchy and rules

There should only be one h1 tag per page. Make sure h2-h6 tags are in order with the document flow. This means you don't put an h3 tag ahead of an h2 tag in a website section or you don't skip the h2 tag altogether and only use an h3 tag in a specific section.

The URL slug should contain the keyword for the specific page.

If you are an immigration lawyer, the URL slug for an asylum page might look something like /cleveland-asylum-law

The website must be mobile-friendly

In 2022, there is no excuse for a website to look bad on a mobile device. That doesn't mean mobile website design is easy. It is much easier to design a website for the desktop. It can be a challenge to make the site respond to smaller and smaller screen sizes. If you really want to know where all your budget is going, it going to the mobile responsive design. I will be the first to say that sometimes the mobile design can take twice as long to complete as the desktop version. It also requires the most patience and the most cups of coffee.

Pro-Tip: Ask the web design agency about their understanding of on-page SEO optimization. There are a few items like title tags that are easy to optimize while designing your website. It literally takes three seconds to pick the appropriate title tag for page headlines. This isn't something you should have to pay an SEO specialist to re-work for you.

6. Who provides web hosting?

A good web host plays an important role in the web design process. The host can make your life easy with nightly automated backup and great support. More expensive hosting solutions will make your website load faster and the user experience overall much better than a cheap host.

Here is the problem - good web hosting is expensive. If you want to host the website yourself, you will spend anywhere between $25 and $50 a month for a quality web host.

On the other hand, you can have your web design company host your website for you. They can get a better deal on hosting because they have many websites on their hosting plan.

Ongoing website maintenance

If you choose to let the marketing agency host your site, you will pay a monthly or yearly fee. These fees will run from around $50 to $100 a month. The difference is that you will get hosting, website software and security updates, and minor website changes each and every month. I think it is worth it to let the marketing agency run your website and update it from time to time on your behalf.

Pro-Tip: Hosting your own website can be expensive and take time away from your business. Most hosting providers offer a cheap first year and then raise prices the next year. The $4.99 per month hosting plan could double or triple the following year.

Conclusion to finding the best Cleveland web designer

Finding the right web designer can be tough. You can choose to hire a huge design agency, a smaller design firm, or even a solo freelancer. A larger company doesn't always mean better service. If you spend some time researching your shortlist of firms and have a solid list of questions ready, you can carefully vet the company building your next website. I personally think open communication and a good project management tracking system will help the project run as smoothly as possible.

Every single project that I have worked on had some sort of hiccup along the way. The way you communicate and adjust to unforeseen circumstances is what matters most. Communication really solves all problems. So, don't hesitate to pick up the phone or drop us a note if you have any questions about building your next web design project! Best of luck.

John

How do I hire the right web designer?

Schedule a consultation with the web design agency and have a normal conversation about your business. A top web design agency will build a website that fits your industry and will prioritize your business goals while developing the site. The agency will follow basic SEO best practices. Finally, the agency will have a clear project management system that will follow clear milestones and report back progress to you.

Should I host my website or let the design agency?

If the design agency offers a maintenance package that fits your budget, you should consider hosting through your web design agency. Make sure to ask who the hosting provider is. You can also ask if the hosting is on a shared server or on a dedicated server. If you plan on maintaining your own website, you can host it yourself. Any time spent managing your own website is time that could be used to grow your business.

John is the Managing Director of Aperture Digital. He helps manage website design projects, SEO campaigns, and PPC. He loves the Cleveland Browns and all things technology!

Table of Contents