Why Are There So Many Types of Web Design Agencies?

Helping You Navigate the Web Design Landscape


One of the things I love about owning a website design agency is that it’s one area of marketing my business I don’t have to worry about. For those who need help with establishing their presence online, your web design choices are endless, but which choice is the right one?

If you are a little tech savvy, you can buy some software and build your own website or use one of the many online website builders out there. Or maybe you’re too busy actually growing your business and decide to just hire an agency to build one for you.  Great!  It’s great until you see their quote for $30,000. Yikes! Now what?  This is where is pays to do a little homework and learn the types of website design options out there, what they typically charge and what you can expect working with them.


This market is growing year after year and these applications offer a lot of potential. You have probably seen Wix, SquareSpace, even GoDaddy offers an online website building tool now. You pay a nominal monthly fee and you can start building to your heart’s content. Wix even offers a free version, but you have to display their ads on your website. Who wants that?

There are a couple of inherent challenges that come with online website builders. That beautiful design you’ve come up with in your head will be limited to the application’s template system. If you’re opening up that hip, trendy coffee/ hookah/ tea bar or developing the most ultimate spa ever known to mankind, you’ll want your website design to reflect that.  You’ll have to figure how to make that logo work,  crop the images just the right size, apply any necessary filters to make them stand out and determine if you should put your life story on the home page.

Not only are you on your own for trying to figure how to make your design work but what about those applications that could really make your website standout? Would you like to offer an online calendar of events, integrate your Twitter feed or even provide a sales form that offers conditional logic based on a user’s selections? Good luck integrating that! Online website builders can be a good option if you have a very limited budget and want to spread your website design cost out on a monthly basis, but they only offer so much.


You can’t get too far without coming across a publishing company pushing its website options on you while you are doing your research. There are thousands of publishing companies who have all decided that they are now “digital”. Everyone from the YellowPages, AutoTrader, ThomasNet to the local newspaper has realized they need to move over to the website design space because their advertisers want to spend their advertising dollars on the internet, not in a directory that nobody looks at anymore. The problem is that they aren’t very good at it.

Publishing companies are sales organizations. They’re not designers, developers or even online innovators, they sell whatever keeps them afloat. We have taken on many frustrated clients who could never get a straight answer on anything regarding their website.  After their contract was signed, they were given an 800 number and they were on their own. Websites rarely got completed, and if they did, they hardly met their satisfaction.   The problem is that you are working with a sales rep who just doesn’t know what to tell you. They’re sales people, they don’t know why a redesign is taking so long, why a form doesn’t work or what happened to their FaceBook feed.  Publishing companies offer monthly payment options much like paying for your ads in the phonebook, but should you decide you no longer want to pay for it for one reason or another, the website comes down.  The publishing company owns your website, the content, the images, even the domain name.


Now we getting to the group of individuals who know what they are doing! Well, we hope. This group offers many options and if you do your due diligence, you can find the gem who can provide your business with exactly what you are looking for, within your budget and hopefully build a business relationship that lasts for years to come. Let’s see the differences.


Freelancers come in a variety of breeds and use titles such as “consultant”, “developer”, or even “Marketing Guru”. They work for themselves and set their own hours and most of them like their life the way it is. You’ll find a number of freelancers on sites such as UpWork, eLance, Thumbtack or even Craigslist. They work wherever and whenever they want, have decent skill-set and market themselves just enough the keep paying the bills. Life is good for them.

There are advantages when dealing with Freelancers. They are usually a whole lot less expensive than a full blown agency and companies like getting one person to crank out a project in a few short weeks. You can find freelancers in other countries such as India to build websites for pennies on the dollar! However, the challenge comes when your freelancer works hours that only suit him which may not be in your time zone.  Or if you are outsourcing to another country, you’ll encounter language barriers and even more time zone challenges. Another thing to consider is that a lot of freelancers are in between jobs, which is why they are freelancing. If you have support concerns after the site has been launched, there is a possibility he’s gotten a job and is no longer available.  Freelancing can be a great way to go to save some money on building a site, but unless you really know this person I would only use them for small projects that won’t require a ton of their time.


Agencies fall into a BIG category. You can find firms that tout themselves as Ad Agencies, Design Houses, PR Firms, Publishers, even Printing Companies. The good thing is that most of these businesses have “design” as one of their core competencies so they understand how workflows and design processes work. However, a lot of these agencies don’t have “web design” as a core skill set so they outsource any website work that comes their way to the freelancers mentioned above.

Some of the time, these types of partnerships can work well because the agency has already developed the logo, gathered the images, and created a color scheme the website would need. They just need a developer to take what they have created and build the site. The freelancer quickly builds the site based on the agency’s specs and the agency looks like a hero to the client. The challenge comes in when there are technical support issues needed to maintain the site. Then it becomes a who pays for what scenario. A monthly maintenance contract sounds attractive to the client but if the contract is only a nominal fee each month, the freelancer or the agency won’t see the contract as worth their time and client is left with a site that needs things fixed.


Web Design Agencies are a spin-off from the agency concept where they specialize in just website design. Some website design agencies offer just website design while others offer a full array of services that all revolve designing and marketing websites. You could even say that website design agencies do the opposite of what agencies do. Some agencies are actually website design firms at its core, but offer a complete line of advertising services – but they partner with companies that make them a full-service agency offering other marketing services such as photography, PR, social media or even printing to their website design clients.

The advantage in dealing with a website design agency is you are working with a group that their main focus is website design. They build websites for a living and that’s all they do.  They have built so many websites, that they have processes in place and know exactly how long certain aspects of a project should take.  This is the clear difference in working with a website design shop versus an agency. They have the designers and developers on hand to manage the complete website design process internally. From the domain name, site development, to website hosting and maintenance. Another thing to consider is when your website is completed and paid for, the website is yours to keep.

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