choosing a web design agency

Wayne Ashley, Founder
Wayne Ashley
FOUNDER

Jun 2021 • 4 minute read


The benefits of using performance metrics

For this post I am going to be taking a look at one of the measures you should take into consideration when selecting a design agency to work with - specifically when looking to have a new website built.

I want that one

Over the years I have found that the client decision to go with Agency A vs. Agency B has come down to the following assessments:

  • Look of the agency website
  • History of building other sites for the same sector
  • The agency was one of the top hits on a Google Search

The first two bullets in this list are very much about branding - do you like the work this agency produces and are you confident that they have an understanding of what is/isn't appropriate within your sector. As a client, it is easy for you to assess the merits of a design team; you take a look at the body of work and form an opinion.

But what about ranking in Google? Clearly this is an attempt to assess the technical capabilities of the agency from a non-technical stance; but does this approach really hold up to scrutiny?

All that glitters...

Google ranking is the combination of many factors:

  • competition
  • location
  • longevity of business
  • inbound links to the site
  • performance (across desktop and mobile)
  • etc

One of the biggest factors for determining rank are the number of inbound links from quality sites, the more of those you have, the greater the confidence Google will have in the quality of your offerings (lots of people linking to it, therefore it must be good).

As web design agencies, we are able to game this to a degree - pick a site, scroll to the bottom and more than likely down in the footer you will find a web design by abc link. With even a modest turnover of jobs it is possible for an agency to gain credibility; but does that mean they know what they are doing and, if not, how do you without any technical knowledge assess this.

Shining a light on web development

Google Chrome is a browser used by around about 68% of the people around the world when browsing on a desktop computer/laptop, so there is a reasonable chance you are using Chrome right now or at least have it installed.

Using Google Chrome it is possible to analyse a website (any website) to help make informed judgements as to the technical competencies of the agency who built that site. Furthermore no technical knowledge is required on your part.

How are we doing

Before we get into how you can run these tests yourself, let's take a look at Kanso vs a handful of competitors. To avoid bias in the selection process, I searched Google for design agency Kent from a machine in West Malling and clicked on the first three links (ignoring paid adverts), which maybe just the type of approach you would employ yourself.

Below are the scores achieved.

The following Google Lighthouse scores were all taken on the 6th June 2021 for the homepage of each site.

The tests were repeated twice (once for mobile and once for desktop devices).

Kanso Agency

https://kanso.agency

Accessibility
Desktop 97%
Mobile 96%
Best Practices
Desktop 93%
Mobile 100%
Performance
Desktop 100%
Mobile 100%
SEO
Desktop 100%
Mobile 100%

The Hideout

https://thehideout.co.uk

Accessibility
Desktop 86%
Mobile 86%
Best Practices
Desktop 87%
Mobile 80%
Performance
Desktop 97%
Mobile 61%
SEO
Desktop 92%
Mobile 93%

Day One Design

https://dayonedesign.co.uk

Accessibility
Desktop 95%
Mobile 98%
Best Practices
Desktop 73%
Mobile 80%
Performance
Desktop 55%
Mobile 35%
SEO
Desktop 91%
Mobile 92%

Me And You

https://meandyou.co.uk

Accessibility
Desktop 91%
Mobile 92%
Best Practices
Desktop 80%
Mobile 80%
Performance
Desktop 70%
Mobile 38%
SEO
Desktop 100%
Mobile 98%

The Kanso site was last updated against these metrics around September 2020, at which time it was scoring 100% across the board, so you can see that over time and without ongoing maintenance in this area, scores do drop off as best practices in web development move forward.

However a healthy website (in my opinion) should be reaching 90% + across both desktop and mobile.

Mobile vs Desktop Browser market share

Across the globe the trend is for mobile browsing to out-weigh desktop browsing, therefore having a performant website on Mobile (especially in the UK where network signals are often weak 3G) should be considered business critical. Delivering such sites requires strong technical knowledge and, if the figures above are to be believed, this is not always present even amongst those agencies with prominent listings.

Conclusion

I picked three companies based on how they list for my locality, I performed no assessment in terms of what they charge for website development (as with everything, you get what you pay for). Regardless the scores were a surprise to me especially in consideration of mobile, I would've expected better from prominent businesses offering professional web development services, but clearly not everyone is operating to the same standards we set ourselves.

If you found the above interesting and are wondering how you can check your current website / that of a competitor / potential partner agency, the process is devilishly simple.

First make sure you have Chrome Browser installed, you can grab a copy from here https://www.google.co.uk/chrome/.

Once installed, fire it up and visit a website you wish to analyse. Right-click with your mouse on the page and select Inspect. This will open the developer tools pane.

Finally select the tab along the top of this pane called Lighthouse, choose between Mobile and Desktop then click to run the report.

Happy to help

If you are curious as to how your website rates compared to those of your competitors, or are looking for a skilled web development team, by all means drop us a line.

Keep yourself informed of the latest news from our design agency.