Never let an ad agency near your web site

I sat here thinking about web design, print design, and how the two mix and don’t mix. While reading some articles online, I ran across an article titled “Web design: never let an ad agency near your website” written by Gerry McGovern.

I started thinking that in order to get the job done correctly, you would need to work with someone who does either or and not both. Would you go to a fast food joint if you were looking for a top sirloin steak? Of course not, you may say to yourself, but then why are people using ad agencies whose primary function is print design, to design their web site?

How many times have we seen a site put together by an agency that simply caters to the art director on staff? Does being “pretty” mean anything when it comes to websites? Does making something look “cool” really mean it’s better for the client or more importantly, for the client’s customers?

Does working in an “a la carte” mode for your company’s design needs mean that you have to sacrifice design for usability? Do you have to wonder about the direction of your company’s brand or style is going? I don’t think so.

I think that getting the right person do the job is the most important part of creating an online persona. If your site doesn’t work, or is slow, or just built to look “cool”, you are doing your customers a disservice and they will most likely think so too.

So what do you do? You should stay with an agency if that is who you already have doing for your print work, but if you are looking to add web design, e-mail campaigns, and other online marketing solutions to your company’s offerings, then get someone who knows what they are doing in that arena. Don’t settle for a one-stop-shop just because they promise that they can make your site “cool”. You will be more satisfied with the end result and again, most importantly, so will your customer.

Today, using standards based design principles to design sites, allows the developer to easily adapt the site’s look/feel to a particular client’s branding. This means that sites can be built correctly from start to finish with backwards compatibility and growth for the future, all without sacrificing the brand that your company has worked so hard to obtain.

This site illustrates how standards based design offers the capability to change your content’s look/feel without have to actually alter the content. There is only one actual copy of the content on this site, but by using the “theme” switcher you can see just how powerful it is to have your content seperated from the display functions of your website. This site can be altered dramatically with changing just one page of code. No massive re-designs, pulling the site down, going through every single last page of a site and removing all of the code that makes your logo red, or your contact information white.

Make a few changes to a stylesheet, and you have a whole new look for your website, in very little time. Also, because your content is separated from the display characteristics, it makes it much more transportable, meaning you can move your site, change platforms, etc… all without having to worry.

This is where most agencies fall down. Very few agencies are all encompassing, and capable of offering true dedicated web services and not just and an add-on feature set of capabilities designed to get the client to spend more money with them.

Ask yourself what you want your website to be, and then ask yourself if your agency is actually helping you to accomplish it.