Having a professional website for your business can be costly, especially when you provide dynamic services or products and you need to present these services on different web pages. This is why deciding on which web design company to contact for your web design should be carried out diligently, not in a haste.
So, it is imperative that you do thorough research on the web designer to build your website. There are a series of questions you must ask during your search. In this article, we have written down 44 questions you should ask before choosing a web design company.
This is perhaps the first question you should ask before choosing your web design company. Most of these companies usually offer an array of services in addition to web development, such as hosting, copywriting, e-commerce solutions, and digital marketing services such as social media, SEO, or PPC management. The fact that they offer all these services does not mean they know how to do them all. Never assume that they are specialists in everything. Almost all web development companies on earth now offer digital marketing services, but that shouldn’t convince you they know their stuff. Before hiring a web design company, pay close attention to what services they offer.
In the bid to satisfy their clients’ needs, web development companies offer both custom design websites and pre-made templates. It is the choice of the business owner to decide if they want their site to be coded from scratch or to be customised using a pre-made template. Oftentimes, brands who want a stronger brand identity on the internet usually request their site to be built from scratch because such sites provide a unique look and more functionalities than a simply customised template. So it is important to know if your web development company can build the website of your choice, whether customised or built from scratch.
Never hire a web development company without taking a look at their client portfolio. Which businesses have they built sites for? What was the outcome? Did it represent the company in a unique way or was it just a whole bundle of disorganised pages, dysfunctional links, no aesthetics, with general appearance seeming as though it was done in a hurry? When the web design company gives you their portfolio, make sure you visit the websites and pay close attention to the design style, performance of the site and see how well the design style matches the business style. Ask questions. Find out why things were done the way they were. You may think an example site looks too simple only to find out that was exactly what the client needed.
The reason for a website is not all about having a presence on the internet. It’s about getting a return on investment, since a website is an investment and not a cost for that matter. A website should fulfill the purpose for which it was built. This includes increase in traffic, leads and conversion. So ask for case studies. These case studies should provide specific results, such as increased online sales by a certain percentage, increased leads by a certain amount, or boosted the conversion rate by a certain percentage in a specific time period. Be keen to notice exaggerated or fictional results as they are usually just made up.
The company you select to develop your website should be as concerned as you are about generating revenue for your website. Ask for the list of proven strategies that they typically incorporate into a site design. These strategies should be in line with your business goals such as prominent placement of your business phone number for easy identification, an appealing slideshow on the home page that promotes your business in an appealing way, and calls to action that are prominently positioned to grab the visitors’ attention.
If you already have a website, it is possible that not all pages will need a redesign especially if they are accomplishing your goals with no reported glitches. Find out if the web design firm plans to analyze your current site’s metrics to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses before implementing any design changes.
If a company has designed websites in the past similar to yours, they may have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. That said, you don’t want a clear conflict of interest. This is a good question to ask and to use in your evaluation process, A website company may not be in good terms with their past clients (or they may still be in good terms), so whatever the state of their relationship is, your decision for hiring them should not be completely ruled out based on this reason.
Typically, when a web development agency takes over your project, a manager or contact person handles the whole communication process, a specific timeline for the completion of the project is set, and the manner in which the progress of the work will be communicated and delivered to you. Also, stages for the work are presented to you. This mostly includes four stages: strategy/research, design, site development, and launch and evaluation. However, not every company follows these stages nor are they very organised in their work process. Thus, for greater assurance and accountability, it is important to ask the web development company about the management process of their web design firm.
Take note of companies that carry out work without even suggesting to have a period to research and plan out your website. Companies like these are usually just after your money and care less about achieving your needs or not. Planning out your website is key to ensuring its success. Hence this requires researching your industry and performing a basic market analysis before planning the website’s overall functionality, content structure, elements, delivery, and other components.
Some web design companies may devote one person or a group of individuals who have different tasks to carry out each, to work on your project. For example, you could have a graphic designer, copywriter, programmer working on your website. Knowing who is working on your website is important so you can understand how the project is handled.
Although some clients disregard this part, you shouldn’t. Seek to know the level of experience of the person or group working on your website project. If you fail to appraise yourself of this part, you might end up with a poorly executed project and at that stage, you’ll have no choice but to pay since they used their time and efforts to deliver your work, after all.
Typically, the turnaround time for a website design is based on both parties- you the client and the web development company. The scope of work can be delayed or executed in time depending on how quickly you provide them with needed information such as text or pictures. But you should ask how much time the firm will be devoting to your project and its average turnaround time if they have all the content. It’s also worth discussing what happens if they don’t meet their target date.
The number of pages your website will have is dependent on the content. You should work out with the site design firm once content has been agreed upon. Search engines like websites with several pages of quality text and typically business websites have standard pages, such as About Us, FAQs, Contact Us, and Privacy and Terms of Conditions. Inclusion of other pages based on your business such as Products or Services, Resource Center, a Blog, Case Studies or Testimonials, Photo Gallery, etc will be discussed between you and your selected website company.
If you want your website to be designed just as you dreamt it, then, you should work hand in hand with the website development team. During your initial consultation, the web design firm should ask you questions to get a feel for your business, the tone and style you want to portray, and the types of web design styles you like. This will give you the assurance that the designer understands just what you are looking for in terms of site components and provide strategic information as to the purpose of your new site, your target audience and the content it should contain.
Before you agree to work with a website development firm, it’s important to review the process and the policy for changes with the design firm. Generally, initial project agreements call for either unlimited changes or a certain number of revisions. Others have multiple sign-offs on proposed colors, design layout, images, and type fonts so you have an idea of what the end design will look like.
Typically, you need to provide any images, text, or other content you want on your site. If you choose to have the text done by the firm’s copywriters, you’ll need to provide basic information. If you provide your own copy, it may need a few tweaks for better search engine optimization or design presentation. Whatever the case may be, you should be notified in advance of any revisions needed to your copy and why they are needed.
It’s critical that your website is built with room to grow, especially if your company may add new products or services in the future. Inquire about the scalability of the design and whether new navigation buttons can be added without having to pay for an entire site redesign.
Most website designers can create a logo for your business as part of your initial project quote or for an additional fee. Ask about experience in this area and look at other logos the firm has created, paying particular attention to graphic appeal, how well the style matches the focus of the business and how well the logo establishes brand identity.
Having actual photos pertaining to your business is always best for that unique factor, but oftentimes stock images are necessary. So there are no concerns over copyright infringement, ask designers whether they have access to a large selection of public domain images, or if you need to pay royalty fees based on usage.
For companies with an established brand, you want to be certain the website development firm creating your new website has experience in maintaining brand consistency. Ask how they approach such projects and what steps they will take to ensure the web design is in line with your current marketing strategies.
Some design companies use independent contractors for certain components of a project. This allows them to offer a wider range of services in a cost-effective manner. If outsourcing is done, ask for the credentials of all independent contractors who will be working on your website and how project coordination is handled in-house.
The pricing structure of web design varies among companies, so ask whether a flat project price or hourly rate is used. Keep in mind that price is based on experience, expertise and the scope of the project. The pricing should be in line with the quality of the firm’s work, which will reflect in how they value your brand and the importance of its online presence.
It’s important to know exactly what you’re paying for when given a project quote. Ask for an itemized list of deliverables that are included in the price and ask what isn’t included. For example, some firms offer hosting or maintenance that is not included in the initial project’s price.
As your project progresses, you might want additional services outside the original scope of the project. Find out how billing works if you decide to add other features or elements after work on your website has begun.
Mobile websites are a must for businesses with an online presence. Find out how the web design firm approaches the mobile component of web design. For instance, a responsive design may be used to accommodate all visitors, whether accessing it from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Or, a separate mobile site may be included as part of the initial website design. The important factor to determine is the breadth of experience the web design company has in developing mobile applications and the reasoning behind the approach it takes.
Nowadays, almost all websites should be coded with SEO in mind. There are all kinds of technical issues that a new website can introduce. If you’re having a new site designed, it’s a good idea to have a third party SEO firm conduct an SEO audit prior to launch to make sure there aren’t any major issues.
Having the right keywords on each page of your site is an essential SEO marketing component. That said, a full keyword study is completely outside the scope of most website designs. It’s important to consider how keywords will be used. If you are relying on organic search traffic to meet your goals it would be a good idea to have a third-party SEO company not only conduct a site audit, but also a keyword study.
If so, ask about the experience of those who will be providing these SEO and SEM services and the strategies used. Request examples of past projects that show results of their efforts. Also determine whether these services can be included in the scope of your project or if they must be billed separately.
Conversion and usability testing will allow you to see whether your Web pages are optimized to give the best results. A/B or multivariate testing involves creating two different Web pages and testing their performance against each other to determine which is garnering the most conversion rates. Ask if the website design company offers split A/B testing as a follow-up service and what the cost will be.
The content management system allows you to manage your website’s content without the need for coding. The most advantageous content management system offers the option of updating your website yourself or having the website firm integrate the content and do the updates for you. Ask whether the type of system used is a third-party system or a custom-built one of their own. You also want to find out if it’s a web-based interface, if it supports WordPress and e-commerce platforms, whether it works in all types of browsers, including new and previous versions, if it looks professional and unique, and whether you have access to all its functionalities. If you’re not familiar with using a live content management system, ask if training is offered.
In addition to web design and development, a comprehensive website design company offers e-commerce services for businesses conducting online sales. Ask for specifics when inquiring about e-commerce solutions because they vary among web design firms. Some commonly offered e-commerce services are shopping carts; the ability to add discounts; support for multi-currencies; a customer database that interacts with your online store; cross and up-sell features; inventory control; customization; reporting; and SEO integration.
A web design and development company should be current on all design trends and follow current web development standards so your website works on all operating platforms and in all browsers. Inquire as to whether the web design firm is current on CSS and HTML standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Be sure to ask if its conduct code validation to ensure site coding complies with W3C standards.
If the web design company is handling this for you, ask if you will receive a unique IP address rather than a static IP address. A unique IP address ranks higher on search engines and is not considered spam by most e-mail providers.
Before a website can go live, it needs a name. Most full-service web design firms will handle domain name registration. Ask the firm if it will check whether the name you want for your site is available, if they will register it for you, how many years the domain name registration is for and the cost for performing this service.
Reputable web design firms will make your in-progress website available for viewing during each phase so you can make suggestions, changes, or content edits. Inquire about the review and input process that you can expect.
Web design companies typically test new web design functionality prior to launching it live. As part of this testing phase, you should determine if it includes testing for syntax errors, cross-browser compatibility, correctly uploaded files, and functionality of forms, links, scripts and other elements on the website.
Once the redesigned site is ready to go live, it’s important to know how it may impact your current website. Ask what will be involved in the transfer process, if there are any risks and how any downtime can be minimized.
It’s important to find out whether you will own the domain name (registered in your name, not the web design company’s), website design and hosting account (registered in your name, not the design firm’s), or if the website design company requires your site to be hosted on their servers. Also find out if you will receive all source files for your site and access to your hosting account, backend administration platform and server. Also be sure to ask if you will be required to lock into an ongoing contract to keep your site live and functioning, or if the completed site will be delivered to you upon completion. You also need to know the name of the company where your website’s domain name is registered, all usernames and passwords and the name of the hosting company.
Some designers may copyright their original artwork. You need to know the firm’s policy and negotiate terms in advance so you own all original artwork and content on your site. Also ask whether you will be given the original graphic files.
As part of their website services, web design companies offer web hosting. This means your website will reside on its hosting server. Even if you already have a web hosting provider, it’s a good idea to ask what the web design firm offers in terms of hosting plans, whether the fee includes a unique IP address, how much bandwidth, processing power and disk space are included, its guaranteed uptime and speed of access, the type of control panel or user interface, methods of access to tech support, and if there are fees for sponsored links, pay-per-click, search engine submission or optimization, or any other additional fees. You might find a better deal than your current one.
Linking social networking sites to your website is now part of the norm in website design. Find out if the web designer will do this and at what cost. Some web design companies go a step further and offer social media integration services to help you generate more leads and turn them into sales. Ask about social media marketing plans, like setup and management, blogger outreach, and monitoring and measuring.
As technology and trends change, you may want to have an additional web design and development work done on your website. This could include updating content or updating compatibility with browser changes. Ask the web design firm if they offer maintenance services and if they are provided on an as-needed, on-going, or retainer arrangement. Find out what the prices are to update content, and make minor and major edits.
Your relationship with the web design company should not end once your site goes live. The firm should measure the results of its web design. You might hear terms like page views, unique visits, time on site, bounce rate, conversion rate, inbound links, search engine ranking, etc. Ask how this is done in terms of analytic tools and what numbers or benchmarks you should expect your website to produce. Find out how often you are provided with these statistics and the procedure for improving any that don’t meet performance marks.
Web design businesses use various analytics to monitor the performance of websites. They should be willing to provide you with access to this interface. Ask about obtaining a password so you can view your website statistics online at any time.
Your new website design should be a reflection of your strategic business goals. It’s important that the web design and development company you select is on board to help you achieve them. Taking the time to ask far-reaching questions before hiring a web design firm will ensure you retain a results-oriented partner that will help you achieve tangible results that translate into a measurable return on your website investment.
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So do not hesitate to start today by contacting us online or placing a call on the contacts below. We will discuss how you can earn more leads and turnover with online marketing!
Belle Linda Kouatchet is the Head of the Digital Marketing department at Digital Gong Technologies; a creative digital marketing agency based in Douala. She has put together her skills and knowledge in marketing, sales, communication and mastery of digital technologies to the benefit of the company.
Digital Gong Technologies is made up of a group of passionate technologists, marketing strategists, learners, and creatives, putting out efforts to increase customer satisfaction and retention by intersecting Marketing, Technology, and Design.