The Trouble With Web Agencies – Pulling The Wool Over Your Eyes

I’m likely to get into trouble for this article, but, I think [this] needs to be said… agencies, for the most part, don’t truly help their clients. There, I’ve said it.

Quickly qualifying this statement I am speaking of how smaller SME’s and Charities struggle with how their website has been put together.? Here’s a typical example of a web project… a client approaches a web agency and is convinced to work with them, plans are made… the client goes off and creates content while the web agency designs a home page, a few category pages, and some others, like the about us page.? The design is signed-off and the project is brought to completion.? Problem… the project is brought to completion for the web agency and NOT the client.? In fact, the client is often then approached to take-up an SEO and Google AdWords campaign, all while trying to add the content into the shiny new website templates.

Now, of course, there will be exceptions to this, but, this process is repeated up and down the country, and the problem is this… the client is left trying to make the website work with absolutely no idea as to whether it is going to achieve any business goals.

Think of this… how many website design?agencies claim to “listen to you” and to “work with your goals”… when in actuality they turn over a website that may look great, but will prove useless to the client unless they do spend further on SEO, CRO, and Digital Marketing.


Surely, a far better process is to first learn what the client is attempting to achieve: without this, the website will likely fail. The website design agency will get their money and increase their portfolio, but, the client will be left with something about as useful as a Manchester United front line (I can finally say this after all these years!!!).

Recently, I’ve been privileged to lead some SME mentoring for the Nottingham Trent University Business School: what has become abundantly clear is that this pattern is repeating itself here in Nottingham. A client worked with a recommended web agency only to end up spending a lot of money on an ‘average’ website that meets no business objectives for the client. Here’s the rub, often our web agencies are full of young techies and designers rather than those who understand business.


The process should look something like this…

  • Discuss with the client their objectives
  • Perform market research on competitors
  • Perform keyword and content analysis – discover what exactly people are searching for and let this inform key areas of content (before the content is written not after – otherwise SEO and AdWords costs more and isn’t finely tuned to the audience)
  • Then discuss with the client a plan for content including Calls to Action, and, what is it they want their visitors to do
  • Create content that will encourage engagement and enable the collection of customer information (create informative AND fulfil a humanitarian need… i.e. answer your visitors needs)
  • Then start to intertwine this content into a site plan… wireframes, User Experiences to and from the website (social media, email marketing)
  • Design the key pages and add the key content
  • Assess whether this first design meets the goals
  • Then add ALL of the content to the website – don’t leave it for the client to do… they are not normally the experts in User Experience
  • Then test with the client and let the client test with their friends, relatives, and customers
  • Then move into the final stages of prepping for launch.

This all sounds so simple… but believe me, most website design agencies will simply hand over an ’empty’ website and await their client to add the content.? It’s like this… if we employ an architect to build for us a school, we wouldn’t just ask them to go away and come back with a school building, would we?? Each floor, corridor, and room, would be carefully planned for its use.? Why is it not the same for websites?? I’ll tell you why, because, web agencies have come about through the development of technology and not through business development… it’s still a relative ‘newby’ on the block and even now most agencies haven’t a clue about marketing (instead, taking cues from Google or merely repeating the mass marketing hyperbole of the marketing world… which if you ask me, much of which exists to feed itself rather than serve clients).

I started ACTISmedia simple because of one thing… I saw successful web agencies not help their clients achieve their goals and I’ve seen awful agencies (who couldn’t drive a car of a cliff even if you ruined the handbrake) who left SME’s shelling out money without truly reaping the benefit of the web.

Let’s face it… done well, the web presents opportunities to SME’s that only the big boys can often enjoy… email marketing can be effective and relatively low in costs – much cheaper than getting another salesperson, Adwords (if done well) with excellent Landing Pages combined with automated email marketing can strengthen the reach, engagement, and customer retention for most businesses.

The thing is, even with my own business, it has taken a few years to fine tune this, with a few mistakes along the way.? We now though, I believe, have an offering which is truly beneficial to a small SME.? If you’re looking for a Nottingham Website Design agency, then please do get in touch.? We can sit with you to see how your plans can best be used on the web, to drive more enquiries, more sales, or to share more information.

Thanks for reading.


Andrew M. Elliott. MD for ACTISmedia

THINKdifferent DESIGNdifferent

ACTISmedia - Nottingham based website, eCommerce, and, digital marketing specialists.

Websites, e-commerce and digital marketing since 1996


Website Design in Nottingham

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