Making the decision to approach a web design agency is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to choosing one. Think of it like a video game where you (the hero/heroine) have to find the treasure (the perfect web design agency).
The first thing you need to do is research. You could think of it as choosing between two awesome games, when you can afford only one.
A few years ago there were only a handful of web designers out there. Now, there are hundreds, if not thousands claiming to be excellent web design agencies. Obviously, not all of them are trustworthy, and none can be taken upon face-value. You need to create a list of prospective web designers and web design agencies.
Referrals and Testimonials:
Try referrals – ask around. It’s what you do when you get stuck at a difficult level. You ask your friend how to get through. It’s like Super Mario and the Lava level. It takes ages to get through, but totally worth it in the end.
Similarly, ask your friends or co-workers if they know of any good agencies. You need to be able to verify that the names you are given are truly good ones. Ask for contact information of their former customers. Of course, these can be friends or family pretending to be customers. Make sure that you do a thorough check. You can ask to see samples of their work. This is like going online and checking for tutorials to get through that annoyingly difficult level.
Some would recommend looking for a web design agency which has done work for a public institution, public institutions, apparently, hire only the best.
Ask Questions- Intelligent Ones:
This will arise when you are in a gaming message board. You do not want to interact with amateurs who know nothing. You want the hard-core, die-hard fans to tell you how to succeed in the Legendary level of Halo. You want quick-fix cheat codes.
So, question them; make sure they know their stuff. You do not want to enter into a contract with someone who only claims to know stuff without much in the way of experience. After all, theoretical knowledge is a little different than actual hands-on work experience. Pitch your idea. Ask them for a timeline, a quote and so on. Tell them your expectations. If you seem to be gelling well together, then you’re good to go.
Online message boards can be creepy as heck. You never know who is going to IM you with what proposition. Just like that, if you think there is something shady about the web design agency, then go with your gut and get out while you can.