What does a portfolio tell you about a web strategy firm?

PortfolioI had an interesting conversation a couple of weeks ago with a Spring Insight client prospect. I was calling her to see if she was ready to move on a proposal I sent her the prior week.  She responded by saying the price was fair and the services described were what she expected but having reviewed my website, she wasn’t sure if we were a great fit. Her concern was that none of the sites illustrated on our portfolio “sung” to her.  She told me that when she saw the portfolio of her last designer, “she just knew.”

That conversation has remained etched in my mind. Of course I was sad that our designs didn’t sing to this particular client but more so, it struck me just how hard it is to judge a web firm by their portfolio. What can a portfolio tell you about a firm? How should you as a client view a portfolio to make decisions about who to hire?

What you can tell from a design portfolio?

  • Typical project scope – A portfolio section should give you a peak into what kinds of projects the firm handles.  Were they responsible for the full site design and development or just the business cards?
  • Typical business verticals – Does the firm have experience working in the sector of your business?  Are you an ecommerce firm looking at a firm that has only done professional services sites?
  • Design competence – Do the designs look professional? Is the contrast legible?  Do the colors “work” together? Can you easily tell the point of the pieces they created?
  • Project commonality – Do the designs have a consistent look?  Do they carry “signature” elements or are they unique to the specific audience?
  • Design suitability – Can you guess at the target audience for the site?  Do you think the design works for that audience?

So, how can you tell if the design they create for you will “sing” for you? 

  • Careful interviewing – Make sure you ask the firm you are considering pointed questions about how they will create a design for your site. Listen to their approach for clues as to how they will get to really KNOW your customer and your product and design for that audience.
  • Check references – Ask the firm to share names of their past clients and ask them.  Was the design that was created for their site what they were looking for?  Did it impress the target audience?  How has it performed?

Want more information on how to hire a web strategy team?  You are in luck.  Over the coming weeks, I will be creating all sorts of posts about how to pick the right firm to redesign your website.  That is, if you don’t want to just hire Spring Insight immediately.  🙂