If you are looking for a new web design agency, it is likely to be one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your business. The website is the face of your business and conveys what you can offer at first glance. So, you’ll need it done right the first time.
But here comes the problem.
Selecting an agency to design your new website is no easy task. There are thousands of web design companies out there and each one has a different process, skillset, and portfolio. As if that’s not enough, any number of things can go wrong when you hire the wrong company.
From design ideas not being implemented to receiving wrong estimates, there’s no end to how underqualified web design companies can harm your business.
Luckily, there is hope.
Finding the right fit for your business can seem like an overwhelming process, but it doesn’t have to be. This guide helps you ask all the right questions when hiring a web design company to ensure they are the best fit for you and your business. We’ve written them based on questions and problems we saw other business owners hitting time and time again. Use them alongside your own experience to choose the best option for your business.
1. How long have you been in business?
Experience is important in any business relationship, especially when it comes to technology. You need to know that your web design company has the experience and expertise to get the job done right and on time. This question also gives you insight into the experience level of the designers.
A designer with several years of experience will know all of the current trends, and what it takes to make a website successful. They will also know the mistakes to avoid so that your site doesn’t become outdated in a few months. A designer that is just starting out may offer lower prices, but if they don’t have any references or a portfolio, you should probably steer clear of them.
2. Can I talk with your current and past clients?
A good web design company should have a portfolio of previous clients on their website or at request. The portfolio can give you a good idea of what type of quality the designer produces. If you see something you like in their portfolio, you’ll likely want to have it on your website as well.
Talk with the references the web designer gives you and ask if they would work with them again. If possible, call references who had similar needs as yours.
3. What is the timeframe for creating my website?
It’s important to know when the website will be finished. This can drastically affect your business. If you have a new business, you might be depending on this website to get clients and customers. You need to know how long it will take to build your site so you can plan ahead.
However, the timeframe for building your site depends on what kind of website it is going to be, how many pages it will have, and how much input you want in the process. The more complex your needs are, the longer it will take to design your site.
The bottom line is, if they can’t give you an accurate timeframe, they aren’t very good at what they do. A reliable web design company should be able to give you a rough idea of how long it will take and be able to tell you why certain tasks may take longer than others.
4. Do you have any examples of your work that I can see?
Having a good-looking website is not going to do you much good. People who see your website need to be able to easily find the information that they are looking for or find a way of contacting you. If they can’t, they will quickly go elsewhere.
So it is important to ask potential web design companies if they have any examples of their work that you can see. Not just screenshots, but the actual websites. You need to be able to test them out and see how they work.
5. Do you work in-house or outsource your projects?
Most web design companies work in one of two ways: they either outsource the work to freelancers or hire in-house designers. An in-house company has a team of dedicated designers who are all located under one roof. An outsourcing company contracts with freelancers around the world to complete their client’s projects.
It is important to know this upfront because it will affect how your project is handled and how much control you will have over the process.
In our opinion, you should only work with companies that work in-house. It will save you from any miscommunication or problems down the road. Plus, if something goes wrong or breaks, they can fix it themselves instead of having to contact someone else and wait on a response.
6. How many people will be involved?
This question is important but also varies depending on the scope of your project. For example, if you want a small informational website, it might be designed and built by one person. However, if you want an e-commerce site with a database back end, you will probably need a team of specialists to make it happen.
Knowing the exact number of people involved is a good way to understand what exactly you’re paying for. A small firm may have very talented designers but not have the resources to give your project the personal attention it requires; likewise, a larger agency may have a lot of people on hand but few skilled designers on staff. It’s important to know upfront what kind of team you’ll be working with.
7. How does communication work during the project?
This question helps establish the appropriate lines of communication during the process. Some web design companies believe in having a single point of contact, while others prefer to work directly with the client throughout the project. The more information you have about how your project will be handled, the better you’ll be able to communicate your needs and concerns.
A good answer will include information about who will be contacting you, when they’ll be available and what channels they’d prefer to use. Be sure that all of this is in writing so there’s no confusion later on if your expectations aren’t met.
8. What are your rates, and how do you bill?
Like any service, web design costs depend on what you need. A small informational website may cost only a few hundred dollars to set up, but if you want to include features like social networking, e-commerce, and email, you will be looking at a larger investment.
Many web designers charge hundreds of dollars for a website and thousands for more complicated sites. Some designers charge by the hour (expect to pay $50 – $200/hour). Others charge a flat fee for each stage of development (designing and programming are usually broken down into separate stages). If you are shopping around for quotes, make sure you know what’s included in the quote. For example, some designers may not include “extras” like search engine optimization (SEO), while others do.
Also, find out how and when they bill you. Some web design companies will ask for a down payment before starting work, then bill you monthly over the life of the project. Others will wait until the project is complete before sending an invoice. Still, others may require payment in full before starting any work. Make sure the agreement matches what you want and expect.
If a web design company doesn’t have a set rate, or their rate is significantly higher than their competitors, ask them why.
9. How do I get updates made?
The answer to this question is important because having an outdated website can lead to it being vulnerable to security threats and exploits.
Your website will likely need updates from time to time. You want these updates to be handled promptly and not cost a fortune. Make sure you know what process will be used for updating your website and what their rates are for making changes after the initial design has been completed.
10. How much does your maintenance plan cost, and what does that include?
One of the most important things to know before you begin is what kind of maintenance plan you will need. You’ll want to determine whether you have the resources and funds to have a dedicated IT person or team on call. If not, then you’ll need to make sure that your web design company offers adequate support.
When searching for a web design company, make sure they offer the appropriate level of support for your business’ needs. You’ll also want to ask about the costs associated with their services.
There are many web design companies that offer free or very low initial costs but charge significant amounts for hosting, maintenance, and updates. Be sure that you get an estimate for all services before signing any contracts.
11. What is your process for designing and building websites?
A web design company should never take on a client without an in-depth discovery and strategy period before beginning work. This is the foundation of their process and will define the scope, budget, timeline, and deliverables for the project.
Make sure the web designer’s process will work well with your business model. It’s important that they capture all of your business requirements and incorporate them into their design approach.
You want someone who will do a lot of prep work and ask lots of questions before they start building anything. If they don’t ask lots of questions and spend time understanding your business and its customers before they start building something, they’re probably not very good at what they do.
12. Do you specialize in any specific technologies or areas?
The answer to this question will help you determine whether a particular company has the specific skill set and expertise needed to build your website. If a company does not specialize in the technology that you want for your website, it doesn’t mean you should discount them.
However, the answer can help you determine which companies to consider and which ones to cross off your list.
13. Do you offer any other services (SEO, content creation, social media marketing)?
A good website is only part of the equation; search engine optimization and other services can help attract new customers to your site. Having to outsource additional services can lead to delays and extra costs. If a web design company offers a range of services including web design, development, SEO, and content creation, you may be able to bundle them together for a discount and greater efficiencies.
If they don’t offer any other services in-house, they should at least be able to refer you to someone who can help you with whatever else you may need.
14. Have you worked with my type of business before?
This question is important because every industry has its own unique characteristics and needs. The design needs and goals of a small Internet startup are much different than those of a Fortune 500 company or a local bookstore.
If a web design firm has experience working in your industry, they may be able to offer better insight into what will work best for your business. Also, ask the company if they have worked with businesses that are similar in size to yours.
You are looking for a firm that has relevant experience with businesses that are comparable to yours in terms of size, products or services, budget, and target audience.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot of money involved in web design and development, so asking the right questions is extremely important. It is your responsibility to know what you are getting in return for paying all that cash.
And now that you’re armed with a list of questions to ask, why not give it a go? Who knows? You might just find your web design partner for life.