Small Business Guide to Evaluating a Web Design Proposal Like a Pro

Choosing the right web design partner is critical for any small business. It directly impacts your online presence, brand image, and ultimately, your success. Well-designed websites serve as virtual storefronts for small businesses, often forming the first impression potential customers have of a brand. 

It enhances credibility and professionalism, instilling trust in visitors and increasing the likelihood of conversions. A user-friendly and visually appealing website can also differentiate a small business from its competitors, inviting more customer engagement and loyalty.

When building or redesigning your website, you’ll invariably come to a point where you’ll need to evaluate different proposals for that work. The web design proposal sets the foundation for the entire development process, outlining the scope of work, timeline, budget, and expected outcomes. 

A well-crafted proposal should align with your business’s goals, incorporate essential features, and establish how communication will happen between you and the web agency. Making the right choice here will give your small business the best opportunity to create a website that meets your current needs and supports your future growth. So, let’s show you how to effectively evaluate web design proposals. 

Understanding What Your Business Needs in a Website

To effectively evaluate website design partners and proposals, you need to do a little self-reflection. This means understanding where you are now and what your business needs in a website. These are three steps you should take:

1. Identify your business goals and objectives

Identifying a small business’s goals and objectives is crucial in shaping a website design project because this provides a clear direction and purpose for the website. Being able to convey these goals allows a web agency to include essential features and functionalities in its proposal that will effectively support and promote your business’s objectives. 

For example, if one of your main goals is increasing online sales, your proposal may prioritize user-friendly navigation, intuitive product displays, and seamless checkout processes. Alternatively, if your business needs to establish thought leadership within an industry, proposals should focus on showcasing informative content or blogs, testimonials, and case studies. 

When your incoming website design proposals are aligned with your business’s goals and objectives, the resulting website will become a strategic tool that not only complements your company’s identity but also drives desired outcomes.

2. Define target audiences

Defining your target audience and understanding their preferences is crucial for creating a website that effectively engages visitors and drives desired actions. Here’s how a small business can define its target audiences:

Customer Profiling: Create detailed customer profiles specifically for your website audiences. Who are they? Why do they come to your site? What are they trying to accomplish or solve? 

Consider factors such as demographics (age, gender, location, income), interests (values, lifestyle), and behaviors (online habits, browsing preferences). This helps in understanding who the website will cater to and what resonates with them.

Website Analytics: Utilize website analytics tools, like Google’s GA4, to gather data on your current users. Analyze metrics such as demographics, geography, devices used, and referral sources to gain a better understanding of the characteristics and preferences of your website audience. 

Pay attention to which pages are popular, time spent on your site, and bounce rates to understand what content and features are most engaging – and which might need some work.

Competitor Analysis: You should also review your competitors’ websites. Look at their design elements, content strategy, usability of features, and interactive functionalities. 

Try to Identify what aspects of your competitors’ websites resonate and consider how you can differentiate your brand while meeting similar preferences.

Customer Feedback and Surveys: Gather feedback from existing customers or website visitors through surveys, interviews, or feedback forms. Ask a few questions about their browsing experience, their layout and content preferences, the ease of navigation, and what features they most desire. You can use this information to make sure your design meets demand.

By combining these approaches, any small business can effectively define its website target audience and uncover their preferences. This information can then be used to tailor your website proposal request and achieve better engagement, drive conversions, and achieve objectives.

3. Determine the essential features and functions your website needs

With your business goals defined, your target audience identified, and some competitor research done, you’ll want to think about outcomes and how your new website might propel your business forward. Here’s how a small business owner should approach this process:

Research Industry Standards: This applies to both your distinct industry as well as the web design business. Research your industry’s best practices and standards for website design and functionality within your niche. Look at competitor websites and similar businesses to identify common features and functionalities.

Consult with Stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders, such as employees, customers, and industry experts, in the review process. Get some feedback and insights from these different perspectives to ensure that your preferred features and functionalities align with your overall business strategy and customer expectations.

Prioritize Features: Organize the features and functionalities you need based on their impact. Focus on core features that directly contribute to your objectives or that differentiate your website from competitors.

Consider Technical Requirements: The technical requirements and capabilities needed to implement the desired features and functionalities can vary dramatically. But you don’t have to be an expert to assess factors such as website platform (e.g., WordPress, Shopify), hosting requirements, integration with other systems (e.g., CRM, payment gateways), and scalability for future growth. 

Technologies advance and change quickly, so you need to be prepared to ask the right questions early in the process. Once you get your answers, do a little digging into them and get an idea of how these different technologies are being used today. 

This is probably the most important, and difficult, component to manage, but poorly researched or rushed decisions can negatively impact your business for years. 

By following these critical steps, a small business owner can better determine the essential features and functionalities required for an effective website, and ensure that it aligns with business goals, meets user needs, and supports sustainable success.

Key Components of a Web Design Proposal

When requesting a website design proposal, you can expect to receive a wide variety of offers with a wide range of costs. This is because the web development industry is expansive with a ton of different platforms and technologies, and there are lots of options for design and development. 

But regardless of the disparities, there are key elements in a proposal that should help you decide on a quality partner for your website project:

The web agency – who are they?

Somewhere in the proposal, the agency should provide you with detailed information about who they are, how long they’ve been in business, and some idea for why they’re a good fit for your project. Like any self-promotion, this section will highlight the best the company has to offer, so it’s up to you to do a little due diligence. 

Review the agency’s website to see who they are, what they’ve done, and what past clients think of their work. Look at their website, who are they catering to and what image are they portraying? Ask questions throughout the evaluation process, and look for a partner that you confidently feel can provide both the level of service and expertise you need. 

Summary of the project by the agency

Each proposal you evaluate should include a project summary or overview where the responding agency explains the project back to you as they understand it. This should include a review of any RFP or project document you may have provided, or a bulleted list of goals and objectives to be achieved based on discussions with you as the client. 

Experience and talent

Along with company information, you should also get to know who will be assigned to your project. Your working relationship will be critical to the success of the project and your comfort level with the project team should be a factor in your decision. 

While it’s quite possible that the project team might not be assigned until you sign a contract, it shouldn’t be an issue to ask whom you’ll be working with and request a chat with a project manager before any agreement is reached. 

Scope of work

For any project to be successful, you need a plan – a strategy and process for accomplishing your goals. Website design projects, even simple ones, typically have phases, so any agency working to secure your business should outline, in detail, how they will meet your goals. This should include a timeline and a breakdown of the deliverables or milestones as well as what might be expected from you or your staff to move the project forward.

Portfolio and case studies

Any agency worth its salt will have a number of previous projects and successes that demonstrate their compatibility with your project. Within the proposal, there should be two or three good examples of quality work, along with descriptions of why and how those projects were successful for those clients. 


The proposal should include a clear breakdown of costs. A review of the above elements for each proposal will guide your analysis of the pricing. With a wide range of recommendations likely within any website project request, comparing deliverables with costs allows you to sort and align your business needs with the incoming proposals. 

If you manage the process well, you’ll find yourself reviewing 3 or 5 or maybe 10, different project proposals. There will be low-cost options, but those proposals will likely include more narrow project parameters such as off the shelf templates with no custom design work, very little strategy development, or even fewer features. You will also see higher-cost options as well, and these could include an assortment of perks and functionalities that might be nice but not necessary for your site. 

Terms and conditions

Any good proposal will outline terms and conditions as well as the proposed payment schedule. Smaller projects may require payment upfront or very early in the process in one lump sum. Larger projects could have multiple payments associated with specific milestones, like completion of the strategy or approval of key page designs. 

If it’s not spelled out in the proposal, you should ask as this provides your company with some measure of control over the process. It’s also an important check and balance between you and the chosen agency. There should also be some contractual agreement language as well that spells out delivery and ownership of the end product. Make to review this language or have your attorney review to ensure you’re entering into a contract that provides your business the flexibility it needs. 

Post-launch services and support

Many design agencies are just that – design and development experts. They may not provide any ongoing hosting or support services for your new website. 

Be sure to get clarity from every agency submitting a proposal as to whether they’re including ongoing post-project support. Even if a company does provide post-launch services, this is a supplemental service and you should be free to choose your own hosting and maintenance provider

One thing to be sure of before making any decision is whether the proposed deliverable requires proprietary secondary services like hosting. Some recommended platforms require you to host, and stay, within that platform while others are portable, meaning an agency can deliver the finished site to you and you would have the option of launching the site on whatever hosting service you prefer. 

Secondary services and support

Many agencies also provide a wide variety of digital marketing services that could be very helpful to your business as you launch your new site. Companies that provide SEO or content marketing services can provide a broader perspective on how a website is created so that usability and growth opportunities are amplified.

Request an agency’s capabilities sheet along with the proposal and review this as an added evaluation component. As with other service options, be sure the agency outlines whether these services are managed in-house, or through partners and outsourcing.

Throughout the entire website project, it’s important that you and your chosen agency maintain stable, open lines of communication, which will ensure both parties are actively engaged in creating a fantastic new online platform for your company.

Let Ironistic Earn Your Website Business

Why do we know so much about what makes a successful web design proposal? We’ve been doing them for decades. We know what works, but we also know what works for one company might not work for another. 

We take care to thoroughly understand our client’s industry  and their objectives, build quality relationships, and create personalized, comprehensive project proposals as a foundation for a well-designed website and/or digital marketing plan.

Visit our site to see our capabilities and past work, or contact us today to start the conversation.


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