When you recognize that your company needs a web developer to create a compelling website, the first step is finding a team capable of achieving your goals. While some might want a website just to provide information, others use it to attract new customers.
As the owner of an Internet marketing company that works with web design, I’ve found that the following questions are good to ask potential web design companies before deciding if you should hire them.
What are examples of sites you’ve designed, built and maintained?
Like any hiring process, it’s wise to look at the candidate’s portfolio. Find out what types of content management systems and software the candidate is familiar with. While many web design companies have impressive examples in their portfolios, you don’t know how long those took to develop, what elements they personally did or how much they cost, so ask questions in addition to reviewing the work.
Will you help me select plugins and third-party systems, including hosting providers?
You want to make sure that the firm is knowledgeable and capable of selecting the right web hosting provider and other systems. When it comes to e-commerce websites, this can include SSL certificates for credit card security, as well as a range of additional services to help the shopping and checkout process. Most clients are not aware of the variety available within the world of web hosting. The programming language, the quality of the processor and the amounts of RAM and space used are all direct contributors to the loading time of your site.
What portion of your work is done in-house and what portion is outsourced?
Size shouldn’t be the biggest factor in choosing a professional in the service industry. Sometimes the best businesses have a relatively small footprint but are a perfect match for your needs and tastes. In some cases, firms that are too big can lose the personal touch, and some prefer to work with a non-distributed team that might be more accessible.
You’ll also want to know if there’s a dedicated account manager, project manager or both. If the potential web design firm is local, consider meeting them in person. If they’re not, find out if they can meet virtually so that you can review designs together and they can train you to update your website.
We find that most web design companies have a local presence but still outsource the work, whether locally or internationally. Be aware of this in case you want to work with in-house designers and developers.
How will we communicate?
Do they exclusively communicate via email, or are they easy to reach by phone or schedule meetings with? It’s important to know if there’s a dedicated person taking the lead or if you’ll talk to a different person each time. Also, find out if you’ll be speaking directly to a designer or programmer.
In terms of sharing documents, images and other attachments, we find that email is our preferred method, but phone support is also crucial (which is why we provide it to our own clients).
What are the costs, and how are they calculated?
Even though you’re still shopping for the right vendor, learn cost estimates and whether they’re based on production hours or other metrics. You should also learn how and when payments are accepted, including any long-term fees after project completion. For those costs, make sure you understand who owns the intellectual property, including the site and all its components.
What happens if I change scope mid-project?
We’ve all seen construction projects that changed after the contractor had broken ground. Sometimes blueprints need to be adjusted due to changes in business needs or to keep up with competitors. It’s important to know what will happen if you start requesting changes to your overall scope or after giving approvals.
We’ve found that projects without a defined scope of work or that have multiple decision-makers frequently see mid-project changes. If possible, clearly state in advance what sort of approvals will be needed if there’s a change.
Will you provide me with training throughout the process?
Most modern websites are built on a content management system such as WordPress or an e-commerce platform such as Magento. If you haven’t worked with this software before and aren’t big on reading technical manuals, you’ll want to ask how the developers can help. They may offer training as well as ongoing support to answer questions and help when you get stuck on a task. Having the ability to make updates yourself is valuable but only if you know how to do it. If you’re unfamiliar with the system you’re getting, ask for a training session along with the work.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a web design and development vendor. But by asking these questions ahead of time, you can be confident that you’re choosing the best firm for your company’s needs.
Seth Rand is the Founder and CEO of Rand Internet Marketing. He is also an Internet marketing speaker and author and consultant specializing in Search Engine Marketing and Social Media Marketing. Follow him @sethrand.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.