In this day and age, the importance of a website to a business is undeniable, and the internet plays such a vital role in the everyday business that if it were to stop the world would come to an absolute standstill. Websites play such a crucial role, in fact, that according to a 2016 study conducted by a German firm, nearly 70% of people will at least look up a company online to determine if it’s genuine or not. More people are inclined to trust a company with a heavy online presence than one without.
Considering the importance it can have for a business, then, investing in a website, new or not, can be a pretty risky proposition if you don’t know what you are getting yourself into. It’s a mess you can easily avoid, however, if you know the right questions to ask and the right qualities to look out for in the firm you hire. Here are eight questions you should always ask before you finally decide who you should hire to design your next website.
1. How do they price their services?
This is one of the most important questions you could possibly ask. In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions asked regarding web services is ‘How much does it cost to build a website?’ This is a question without any single answer as the actual final cost is determined by a large number of varying factors.
The most important factor that determines the cost you’re going to be charged is what services come together with the design process. For instance, some firms offer both hosting and web design, or, when you’re looking to put a completely new site up, a domain name. Others also offer web design on its own, then it’s up to you to figure out the rest for yourself – meaning you’ll have to have your own hosting and domain name provider.
The most important questions you have to ask are:
How do you estimate your base pricing?
Do you charge per hour, or are your projects on a flat rate basis?
Is there a clear procedure for billing any extra features outside the project’s initial scope?
Do you have a payment policy and, if so, what does it entail?
Some web design providers also offer search engine optimisation, promise higher conversion rates and internet marketing of your site. The other major factor that will determine the cost of your website is the overall aesthetic quality (better user experience (UX) and interactivity mean higher prices) and the number of pages you’ll need for your website.
However, a user responsive site that looks good regardless of the screen size should be your top priority.
2. What Core Services Do They Offer?
Some web design companies aren’t completely in-house and outsource some parts of their web design services. A quality design company should offer design, development, and marketing all within a quality team of developers and designers. Outsourcing different components of the package end up making the cost more prohibitive than it needs to be.
A quality team that has worked together for a long time will not only give you a better turnaround time, but also produce better quality in a shorter period. The firm you end up choosing should preferably offer a full range of services:
Whereas outsourcing has its own advantages, the disadvantages by far outweigh them, so you generally want to avoid a firm that uses third parties to provide your design infrastructure, unless they are able to have direct contact with them.
3. How much experience do they have?
You’re going to want a design firm that’s experienced. There are different ways to judge experience. This can be the number of working hours each individual member of the team has, or the combined working hours of the whole team. You can also have a look at their client portfolio and the number of clients they’ve worked with (and how many of those were satisfied with the service).
A firm that relies heavily on a decentralised network of freelancers may have difficulty knowing enough about the product to be able to provide anything high quality and likely won’t be worthwhile since this makes it incredibly difficult to standardise the quality of their work. Additionally, should a minor hiccup occur somewhere along the road, you may find it hard to find someone to take responsibility, and fixing the problem also becomes incredibly hard.
Some of the key questions you should ask are:
Has the team or one of the individual members developed any special applications or groundbreaking projects?
How many clients have they worked with?
How impressive is their portfolio?
Are they fully staffed with professional designers and programmers or do they rely on freelancers or outsourcing for most of the heavy lifting?
As stated before, a team that has been working together for a long period of time has its own advantages over a more decentralised firm with outsourced freelancers, coders, and designers. Besides which, you can be sure the quality of your site is going to be standard throughout.
4. How accessible is the website going to be to you?
This is a question you want to ask to make sure the website’s content is going to be as easily accessible to you as possible. Most web design firms employ the use of Content Management Systems (CMS) that vary in accessibility according to requirements. The best ones available on the market are also open sourced so you can easily access their code base and tweak it to your requirements.
The CMS used should have a simple, intuitive dashboard for updating new content and customising your website to meet your needs. You could have the development team build your own CMS, but why reinvent the wheel? There are already plenty of them out there, all tested, approved and annually maintained.
5. How long will they spend on the project?
What is the average amount of time they typically spend on a normal project? The amount of time they propose to you greatly affects the quality and price of the website, making this the third most important factor to consider before you finally settle on who you’re going to hire to build your next website.
Some of the things you have to look out for are what timeline do they give the average client versus how long did it actually take to build the site. This is also greatly intertwined with one of the previous points regarding the amount of professionalism they apply in their work. Speed for development is greatly tied to the type of team that the firm has – a team that has worked together and endured the uphill task of trying to fix repetitive bugs together on the same technology can work more quickly and bring out a more satisfactory end product than a makeshift team of decentralised freelances. Third party developers aren’t ideal for strict deadlines and once the chain of command is broken, it becomes incredibly hard to fix, causing lots of headaches for you along the way.
6. Do you have a dedicated project manager that will be managing this project?
Building an easily navigable, aesthetically beautiful, and successful website takes a lot of skill to achieve, at the top of which is a great project manager and a professional team with concrete, realistic, and achievable objectives. A complete team consists of information architects whose job is to plan the site, web designers who design the user interface (UI) and craft the user experience (UX), web developers to code the site and bring it to life, quality assurance engineers who test it and send it back to the coders to fix issues, and online marketing specialists who develop and implement strategies to achieve an efficient marketing strategy. This team should work under a single, experienced, project manager whose sole job is to ensure a successful outcome.
Questions regarding the team that you should ask are:
How many of the team members will be working on your project?
How are the team member selected to work on the project?
How often are updates regarding progress sent?
Can you get support if you have an issue regarding the final product?
Ideally, you should be able to communicate with the person in charge of the project regarding your exact specifications. If they aren’t met, the complaints should be handled through the project manager and necessary corrections made to the codebase as soon as possible.
7. What is their track record?
Perhaps the only question more important than how much the site is going to cost to make is how reliable the company is or has been over the projects they have worked on in the past? Of course, 9 out of 10 companies will make their record look spotless, carefully picking who to include in the reviews posted on their site, so don’t be fooled.
Before finally settling on a firm to carry out the design and implementation process for you, try poking your nose around the internet and find out as much as you can about the firms that are on your shortlist. Look for a firm that has an uneven balance of positive and negative reviews, so long as the reviews aren’t too negative overall. A firm with all positive reviews paints a picture of suspicion.
8. Is the site going to be responsive?
It goes without saying that more and more internet users are on mobile and, according to a report conducted by Google, this number is only set to increase as the number of computers in production crawls to a halt over the next few years. It’s of absolute importance that your website is mobile friendly. Unresponsive sites offer a terrible user experience, making the screen look jagged and elements of the page misplaced and overlapping each other. Unresponsive sites take up too much data and, considering how valuable it is to most people, nobody will return to your site in this case.
9. Do they offer support or warranty?
This may seem completely utilitarian to some but it will spare you a lot of headaches along the way. In the event that you run into some trouble with your website, or perhaps you need a few details fixed or tweaked, you should be able to reach the team that worked on your project.
Alternatively, if the team is unable to fix the issues you raised at the moment, or if the final product doesn’t meet your specifications they should otherwise be able to issue you a complimentary or otherwise temporary replacement while they handle your concerns. All the more reason to be meticulous with the selection process of the firm you choose to handle your website.