When you look at an agency’s site, what do you look for?

We recently redesigned our website at MojoTech, and we spent a lot of time looking at other agency sites to help us think about how to move forward with ours.

This exercise made something painfully clear: most agency websites aren’t particularly helpful to potential clients.

They’re built with the agency in mind, rather than the client.

For example, many sites spend countless words going on about the various programming languages that they use; a valuable recruiting pitch, perhaps, but not all that interesting to someone who merely wants their idea turned into a working, thriving product.

There’s a lot that you can tell about an agency from its website, and not all of it obvious. Take your time and read through every page on the agency’s site.

After looking at hundreds of sites, I’ve come up with five elements that, if you know what to look for, can help you come up with a confident evaluation of the agency you’re considering.

Headline

The very first thing that you see when you hit an agency’s site, the headline tells you a lot. It’s the agency’s best chance to sum up their value proposition in a single sentence.

Whatever the agency is promising in their headline should align with what you’re looking for.

If an agency’s headline focuses on “beautiful products,” then the agency is signaling that beauty is their top priority. Some clients want that (and that agency might be the right fit for them), while others are more concerned with business results, price or speed (in which case the headline of the agency you choose should reflect that).

Language

What kind of language do they use? Does it sound like they’re talking to a fellow developer or designer? (i.e., lots of technical language and industry jargon.) Or does it sound like they’re speaking your language? (i.e., framing their message around the results that you want and the concerns that you have.)

This is important because the language that an agency uses on their site can give you clues about what working with them will be like. If they don’t use language that you understand or can relate to, that might demonstrate a lack of appreciation for client-focused project management, where the client is a key partner, and the agency communicates in a way that makes it easy for the client to understand.

Client Work

Look at the projects that the agency has chosen to showcase. This is like a resume; you wouldn’t put anything on there that you didn’t think was important, so it can give you insight into the type of work the agency considers its best.

Are any of the projects recent? If everything is a year old or older, I’d ask to see more recent work.

Are the projects actually successful? Look up the products that the agency showcases and see if they’re still around, and if so, what kind of reviews and buzz those products get.

Are there clients that represent your industry, even tangentially? The hardest part of starting to build a product is gaining a deep understanding of the audience, so starting with a team that is already experienced in your field can be a huge advantage when it comes to the timeline of the project.

Blog

Some agency sites don’t have blogs, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

But if the site does have a blog, then the agency should take pride in it. If the team values good work, then their blog will reflect that.

Has the blog been updated recently?

What kind of content do they publish? Is it interesting and valuable to you? Do they understand what their audience cares about? Empathy is hugely important in product development, just as it is in content development.

Team

Don’t ignore the Team page.

What kind of experience do the people on their team have?

How much of the team is the agency willing to show you?

If the team page shows off executives and project managers but doesn’t include many developers or designers, this raises a red flag and an important question to ask the agency: who’s actually doing the work? Is the talent in-house or outsourced?

More on this in, 5 Non-Technical Questions To Ask When Hiring A Development Firm.

Picking the Right Agency

There are a lot of factors to consider when picking an agency, and the agency’s website often offers more clues about whether they’re the right fit or not than meets the eye.

Next time you’re on an agency’s site, look carefully at these five elements to determine what their business is really about.