Top Website Design & Development Companies - 2018 Ratings & Reviews

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Professional web design and development firms manage a website's information architecture, design, development, technical search engine optimization tasks, and user experience.

They create digital strategies to solve business growth problems, such as increasing revenue, seamless eCommerce checkout, mobile optimization, and functionality customization.

View the listing below to discover the best web design and development companies who create custom websites that generate results.

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How A Website Design & Development Agency Can Grow Your Business

Brand Identity

The best web design and development agencies know that a web design is built on a strong visual identity. Small branding elements, including logos, fonts, colors, and copy tone of voice, will create a consistent environment that is trustworthy and familiar to users -- and great web designers will strategically place these elements throughout a site to ensure it represents a brand well and fosters conversions.

Plus, 70 percent of brand managers claim that building a reliable audience is more important than creating immediate sales. This is because a dedicated audience of returning customers will create more long-term revenue growth than many one-time purchases. What’s more? A well-branded website also improves your overall brand recognition. A signature color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent and brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than regular text. Therefore, an attractive web design that is strategically branded has a much higher chance of catching the eye of new consumers and ensuring they remember your company at a later date.  

SEO Ranking

Reliable web design agencies know that every modern site should be optimized for SEO. By placing an emphasis on search engine rankings, users will gain consumer trust, populate high in searches, and ultimately gain more website visitors and conversions.

At its core, search engine optimization is the act of improving your website to ensure you get the highest number of free visitors as possible -- and who doesn’t like free? A great web design company has a separate team of search engine optimization experts who know how to many tiny adjustments. These can include minimizing image file size without any noticeable differences to the naked eye, adding H1 and H2 tags, and increasing site speed.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget mobile! Google now places a stronger emphasis on mobile-friendly sites when ranking online destinations -- which makes sense considering nearly 64 percent of all Internet users access sites from their smartphones. Ensure you work with a web design partner that is able to prioritize the technical elements that will help your business grow. 

User Experience

You probably hear a lot about user experience, but you may not know exactly what that means. User experience refers to a visitor’s interaction with a site and their subsequent response to the website. Top website design and development companies help their clients achieve strong, positive user experiences throughout their entire websites.

A good user experience is created by blending beautiful design, trendy elements and intuitive features that truly work. A web design partner should pay special attention to overall navigation, proper branding, simple product pages, fast loading animations and videos, and -- most importantly -- quick and easy checkout within e-commerce web design. Without a strong user experience and a responsive web design, consumers may develop interstitial anxiety, lose confidence in your site, and never return.

Click-Through Rates

One key performance indicator (KPI) that excellent web design firms measure to determine success is the click-through rate (CTR). This refers to the number of people clicking on a link or call to action button to complete the desired action. Great web designers know that these links, CTAs and landing pages should be properly designed to communicate clearly, ensuring customers know what they desired action is and what will happen if they complete it.

Click-through rates traditionally refer to the number of people clicking on your search listing (or another external source, such as social media campaigns) and landing on your site. This is a direct reflection of the SEO optimization that top designers should be aware of. However, click rates could also measure on-site actions, like the number of user profiles created or how many people sign up for a newsletter subscription, for example.    

Conversions & Revenue

Not to be confused with click rates, conversion rates signify the number of people who complete an online purchase from your website, thus directly increasing your revenue. The best website design firms and web developers have all the pieces that make up the conversion rate puzzle. They can execute design, branding, user experience, and SEO initiatives well (along with other strategies) and help you reach target objectives.

Studies show that websites with high conversions adhere to a few simple commandments to secure their advancement. These include:

  • Strong branding.
  • Fast loading time.
  • Many landing pages and calls to action.
  • An apparent unique value proposition.
  • Customer assistance.

Questions To Ask A Top Web Design & Development Company

Experts

The best website design and development agencies have strong teams of in-house experts to complete every aspect of a project from start to finish. It is imperative you find a web design firm that has key industry players in-office -- outsourcing a project to a web design company that then outsources their work only complicates a project. Ask the questions below to determine each person’s skill set, what expertise they will bring to the design, and if they have any professional certificates or a great user satisfaction rating.

  • Who will be working on the website design project?
  • What is their experience?
  • Do they have direct knowledge or experience in our industry or solving a similar problem?
  • How much time will each team member dedicate to our project?
  • What are some website projects they have worked on? What were the results o the projects and what was their exact contribution?
  • Who will our point of contact and/or project manager be?
  • Does the agency or any team members have any professional certifications?

Services

Businesses need to look for agencies that specialize in the functions, features, and services that they actually need to bring a website to life. After all, you could find yourself wowed by an amazing web design company, but if you need development services that they just don’t provide, hiring them will be a waste of time and money. The following questions will help you understand every one of an agency’s offerings and help you decide if they are the right fit to grow your business online.

  • What services do you offer?
  • How do you stay in-the-know about the latest trends?
  • How do you maintain high industry standards for all projects?
  • Do you incorporate SEO optimization in website projects? Do you have an in-house expert?
  • Do you have any additional departments at your agency to help with branding, digital marketing, etc.?
  • How do you coordinate and collaborate between departments?

Objectives

The best web designers and developers have access to leading industry programs and professionals that can create a project timeline, set achievable goals, measure data, and deliver real results. This organized process is imperative for completing a web project in a timeline manner, producing deliverables, and securing successful results. Ask the below questions to discover exactly how the best web designers set goals that will help you crush the digital competition.

  • How will you set goals?
  • How will you formulate a strategy to achieve our business goals?
  • What metrics will you use to measure results?
  • How often will you measure results?
  • What programs and platforms do you use to track objectives, data, and results?
  • What will qualify as a successful project?
  • What return on investment do you predict we will have?  

Examples

You know the saying: Talk is cheap. Although you should ask web designers and website developers about their expertise and success stories, actually looking at their creations will likely give you the biggest insight into the work they can produce. Research any web design company that you are considering to see their portfolio, then ask the professionals themselves about their designs, the conversions and revenue they produced, and what their role in that project was.  

  • Can you share some of your recent projects?
  • What business-related problem did you set out to solve? Did you achieve it?
  • What were the most difficult aspects of them?
  • Tell us about projects you have worked on that are similar to our objectives and/or industry. How did you determine the goals and achieve them?
  • What clients have you worked with? Are any of those clients ongoing partnerships?
  • Will any clients be willing to speak with us about their experience working with you?

Pricing

Professional websites are expensive to build, usually falling within a few thousand dollars at a minimum. Plus, the more complex the business or project, the steeper the price climbs. Before you sign a legally-binding document or start working on the project, speak with a potential web design company and learn exactly how much everything will cost and what your ROI will be.

Pro Tip: It is important to stay within budget, but don’t forget that higher upfront costs can bring better long-term results. Don’t completely rule out reputable website design and development agencies that can drastically increase your bottom line for years to come if they have a slightly bigger initial fee.

  • How are your fees structured? By the hour, project, or results?
  • Will we need any additional services to complement this project and make it successful? How much will those cost?
  • Which team members are we paying for?
  • How many meetings and drafts do we get at this cost? Are they capped?
  • What will the cost look like if we want to make changes or improvements down the road?
  • How much will additional features cost during the project?
  • Will we have a detailed contract that outlines all aspects of the project and corresponding costs?

How To Choose The Best Web Designers To Grow Your Brand Online

Creative Collaboration

Great website design agencies know every major design trend, top program, and online solution that can achieve business growth. Because they are so in tune with their industry, they will be able to pitch you a myriad of ideas that will improve your visual identity.

However, creating the perfect online portal is a process, and working with a web design and development company is a partnership that needs an equal balance of work from the agency (them) and the client (you). No one knows your business better than you, so don’t just hand the keys to your business to an outsider and let outsourced team members run wild. Instead, do your own homework, brainstorm your own ideas, and require your design agency to do the same. Then, when you put your heads together, you’ll be sure to create the best version of your website.

Strategic Branding

Great web design agencies can assess a company’s brand identity and strategically brand their new website design with recognizable elements that make the digital destination identifiable and easy to navigate. Find the website design firm that has experience executing a well-branded website with a cohesive color scheme, typography, logo, and graphics that help achieve specific objectives -- then discover how the best web designers plan to replicate that for you.

A consistent brand identity makes customers feel comfortable, communicates information, increases click-through rates and, ultimately, secures conversions. For example, an iconic logo design can feature a responsive symbol that acts as a navigational North Star, guiding the user to the homepage for an intuitive journey. And studies support an emphasis on visual identities, too. Brands that are shown consistently across every platform and medium are three to four times more likely to see brand visibility. Plus, 90 percent of customers expect a consistent branding experience when they interact with businesses.

Great Expertise

Top website design and development agencies have access to top talent with exceptional experience in every avenue of web design. As you search for the perfect company to elevate your online presence, learn exactly who will be working on your project, in what capacity, and what skills they bring to the table.

It is imperative that you understand the success stories of both the agency and the experts. Plus, discover what other departments an agency has that could improve the project -- and your business -- further. For example, if you need a total brand identity overhaul, a full-scale digital agency could manage your logo design, branding, website design AND digital marketing efforts. This ensures every aspect of the project is consistent and cohesive, creating a stronger user experience overall.

Organized Process

Look for the best web design agencies that provide a detailed timeline and customized process for your business’s personal project. Each project is different and should be organized in a manner that suits the individual client’s needs while also reaching business goals.

Discover how a web design company plans to determine a timeline, who your project manager will be, how will merge their creative brainstorming with your business goals, and more. Web design trends are great, top experts are necessary, but a detailed process to complete a web design and development project is key. Without streamlines coordination throughout every step of the way, your project risks falling behind, getting off schedule, and missing deadlines.  

Complete Contract

A solid and binding contract is the final box you should check when you hire a web design and development agency. Once you outline your expectations, timelines, deliverables, and cost, both the client and the agency will know exactly what their tasks are and how to secure the desired outcome.

Plus, contracts protect the intellectual and creative property and sensitive business information that you’d rather stay, well, private. A comprehensive contract or non-disclosure agreement adds an extra layer of insurance to the project while simultaneously protecting larger business interests. Finally, don’t just take a designer or web developer at their word -- make sure your company’s legal team looks over the fine print before you sign any contract, even if you drafted it yourself.

Top Value Propositions And Differentiating Factors Of The Best Web Design Firms

Identifying the best web design company for your project is a major undertaking for any brand. It takes time, patience, and no small amount of persistence to find the right one. The key is in evaluating how each agency defines and differentiates itself. The differentiating factors the agency chooses to highlight are indicative of their core values and their guiding methodology for approaching client projects. Choosing an agency whose values align with your own can be the difference between a successful relationship and one that quickly becomes a trainwreck.

Below are some of the key value propositions and differentiating factors of some of the world’s best web design agencies.

Respected Web Design Agencies Value Transparency

When entering a partnership with a new agency, it’s important to have trust that your company and your business are in good hands. That’s why many top web design agencies make transparency a core tenet of their operating philosophy. There are tons of shady operators out there who will promise you the moon but fail to meet your high expectations when it comes time to deliver. Respected design companies, on the other hand, are upfront in documenting measurable, achievable goals and they’re clear about the investment of time and money required to make those goals a reality.

Transparency is part of what makes long-term partnerships between agencies and clients possible. Being prepared to admit a mistake or change course when something isn’t working is what sets trustworthy agencies apart from less reputable competitors. Top agency Isadora says, “The power between agency and client comes from a close collaboration and a deep understanding of the brand developed over time.”

Top Web Design Agencies Are Human-Centric

When we design websites, we are doing so in the hopes that people will actually want to interact with them. Though this idea may sound simple, it’s a crucial one for web design agencies to remember. When focus on the user is lost in favor of what the client or stakeholder wants, web experiences suffer. When agencies fail to value the people who power the creative engine of their company, the work product will be lacking.

Top web agencies put humans at the center of everything they do. The value they place on people, and their understanding of real human user needs is a strength that is often cited as a differentiating factor. Human-centric means putting the focus on hiring the right people and making sure they’re fulfilled in their roles at the company, investing in resilient client relationships, and bringing attention to the needs of web users as a core focus of any project strategy.

New York-based agency, Firstborn, is among many that position themselves as people-centric, saying “We value people first.” Another top agency, KBS, says: “Great work is possible when you have great people bringing their own unique perspectives and talents to the table. Between Toronto and Montreal, with the support of our network in Europe, Asia and the U.S., we’ve built a team capable of handling the most challenging matters.”

The Best Web Design Agencies Are Flexible & Agile

When it comes to web development, nothing is set in stone. Needs change, priorities shift, and technologies can quickly become obsolete. That’s why working with an agency that is flexible in their approach to client projects is a key priority for many businesses. For example, content management needs will vary from client to client, and agencies with experience in multiple CMS platforms (eg; Wordpress, Drupal, Magento, and so on) will be better positioned to take on a range of projects.

While some clients may benefit from a monthly retainer, others will need specific projects done at a fixed cost. An agency that is able to work flexibly to meet the varying demands of their clients is one that will stand out from the competition.

Agility means being able to adapt quickly to the shifting sands of the digital landscape. Many top agencies, like Phoenix Design Studio, pride themselves on this quality, using it to define their ethos and signify the extent of their expertise and acuity.

Leading Web Design Agencies Are Forward-Thinking

Trends and norms are ever-changing in the web and graphic design industries. Rapidly advancing technology means that consumer expectations of web experiences are always evolving. The top web design agencies often seek to differentiate themselves based on their ability to foresee changes in the future digital landscape and to adapt their approach and methodology to get ahead of the curve. The alternative is to be perpetually one step behind, struggling to regain market share after the competition had already leaped forward into the future.

The Massachusetts-based agency altr uses their future-thinking approach to client work as a way to demonstrate their value. As they say on their website," We Design The Future Every Day. It’s not just a tagline, it’s how we’re wired and it’s what we deliver."

The Most Effective Web Design Agencies Are Committed To The Process

Web design and mobile app builds are complex projects comprised of many moving parts. It’s unlikely the final product will be completed on time and to specification unless there is a clear and consistent process in place from the beginning. The most effective web design agencies have years of experience under their belts, and this experience means they likely have a set of proven processes in place that help ensure projects run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Top agencies usually begin with a discovery and research phase which allows them to create a strategy that will guide the project’s development.

Big Drop, a digital agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles, emphasizes their commitment to thorough planning: “Our award-winning creative services team uses research and planning to create custom web designs that visually reflect your company and deliver real results.”

Service Offerings Of Top Web Design Agencies

The term “web design agency” can be deceiving, because in fact, most top web design agencies have the skills in-house to provide a range of digital services from strategy, to design, technical development, and even marketing services like search engine optimization and social media marketing.

Some of the most common services you can expect to find on offer at the web design agencies you are considering are listed below:

  • Brand identity - Strategy for and creation of branding assets and materials. May include naming, logo design, typography, custom illustration, color strategy, and other graphic design services.
  • Strategy - The first step of many a design project, the strategy phase is designed to define the client’s needs and take a full assessment of the client’s current digital standing and understand the competitive landscape.
  • Site design and development - Start to finish custom website design, including user experience design, visual design, development, and quality assurance.
  • Mobile app design and development - Start to finish custom mobile app design through a process of strategy, prototyping, development, testing, and iteration.
  • Messaging and content - The development of the site and/or campaign messaging and associated copy. May also include the development of other site content such as landing page copy.
  • Maintenance, support, and measurement - Ongoing site maintenance and client support to cover small site changes and updates. Analytics setup, management, web hosting management, and reporting are also usually available.

How The Best Web Design Agencies Market Themselves

When you’re looking for a web design company, one way to get a sense of which ones are worthy of your business is to check whether they put their money where their mouth is. These companies design web properties for a living, so their websites are some of the most important marketing tools they have. You should expect that any top agency you consider will have an exceptional website that is engaging and functional across all devices (ie; responsive design). Look at the effectiveness of their messaging and the innovation of their user experience and design.

Content marketing in the form of press mentions, blog posts, and case studies will also likely be a key aspect of the way any of the top agencies market themselves. If they’re industry experts, and the best agencies always are, they’ll promote themselves as thought leaders and contribute meaningfully to the broader conversation.

You can also expect that most web design agencies will be active and engaged with their community on social media. They may run paid search and display ads to capture search engine traffic, as well as retargeting campaigns to entice previous site visitors to return. Many top-tier agencies may also execute targeted print campaigns.

Takeaways

In order to stand out in the crowded web design agency market, and distinguish themselves from cheaper agencies that do lower quality or template work, top web design agencies seek to define their brands as cutting edge and high value.

Some important attributes to look for when evaluating a partnership with a web design firm include:

  • Transparency as an operating principle - Is transparency important to the agency? Are they clear, honest, and specific about the challenges, budgets, and expected outcomes of the projects they work on?
  • Focus on people - Does the agency emphasize the needs of the user and commit themselves to do the requisite research to determine how to speak effectively to your audience? What types of people do they hire, and what level of talent can you expect to have dedicated to your account? Does their portfolio of work demonstrate a high level of expertise?
  • Forward-thinking - Is the agency on the cutting edge of trends in the industry? Do they promote education and development within the company to ensure the skills of the team are razor sharp?
  • Flexible and agile - Can the agency be flexible in meeting the unique needs of your business? Do they have experience in different industries (e-commerce and B2B, for example)? Will they lock you into a retainer agreement you don’t need, or can they design a scope and agreement tailor-made for you?
  • Committed to process - Does the agency take a process-oriented approach to their projects? Is the process clearly explained and documented ahead of time to keep both their team and yours aligned to timing and goals?

Each web design agency will inevitably approach their work according to their unique methodology and process. Awareness of how each agency chooses to differentiate itself can help your company better evaluate which one will be the most comfortable fit.

Top Qualities Of The Best Website Design Companies

Goal-Oriented Methods

The best web design agencies should thoroughly understand the goals and objectives of each business they work with. Whatever the brand’s objectives may be, the website design company should use them as the foundation of the strategy that’s ultimately created. Decisions and recommendations about design features and website elements should never be arbitrary, rather they should be based on solid reasoning, contributing to the bottom line in a clear and distinct way.

Beautiful & Functional Design

A top web design agency will understand the importance of a website that is both beautiful and functional. When it comes to aesthetics, you want to offer visitors an exceptional onsite experience, complete with beautiful visuals and compelling imagery. However, a website whose only objective is visual appeal will likely fail in terms of functionality. The best web designers and developers will explain that the most effective websites are not only beautiful but practical as well.

User Experience Focused

The very best web design agencies understand the importance of user experience and have experts that specialize in optimizing websites in accordance with UX best practices. Outstanding user experience has quickly become an essential standard for all websites. The right agency will be focused on putting the needs of the user first, and on designing a website that will be easy, intuitive, and enjoyable to use. 

Strategic Insights

Top website design agencies begin any web design project with a cohesive strategy that outlines the entire plan for the website, including recommendations for elements like messaging, content, navigation, and other key components. The right strategic insights should inform every step of the website design and development process and ensure that everyone working on the project is aligned with the same objectives and goals. A comprehensive strategy is the foundation of any successful online business, and qualified digital experts will always advocate for a strategy and discovery phase as the first step of any project.

Teamwork

Successful web design calls for a team of experts with diverse skillsets and specialties to work on the project. Aside from designers themselves, the web design team should include experts from various departments within the agency, all working collaboratively to complete the project. Website design projects can benefit from the inclusion of insights from user experience experts, account directors, search engine optimization specialists, and content strategists to bring a more holistic, comprehensive approach to the client account.