Finding the right web design company can be tricky. Most of the time the person doing the hiring doesn’t have any background in programming or design. This puts him or her in a situation to be taken advantage of. That’s why we’ve created a list of fifteen questions that you should ask anyone you are considering to build your website.
- Do you create custom designs or use pre-built templates?
Many web design companies can and will use both. However, you want to ensure that you are aware of what to expect. For example, if the company says they only modify templates to fit your needs, then you need to verify the following:
- Does this template cover everything you need on your website? If not, you’ll probably have to pay more to add in those features.
- Can they take care of these changes or will you have to find another party to do add any additional features?
- Are they charging you appropriately? If they are just modifying a template, they shouldn’t be charging you the same price as someone who is building a custom site to fit your needs.
Our Answer: We typically create custom designs for clients, but will do what makes most sense for the client. If, for example, the client wants an exact look, and that look is a template with some adjustments, we will use the template. And of course their project cost will be lower to reflect the fact that a bulk of the design was provided by the template.
- Can you provide examples of websites that your company designed?
Unless you are giving someone the opportunity to cut their teeth in the industry on your website, they should be able to provide samples of other sites they have worked on. You will want to double check these sites to ensure they meet your standards.
Our Answer: You can always view our portfolio here.
- What content management system (CMS) do you use?
A CMS is a way for you to be able to edit and manage the content of your website. If you just want to edit your ‘About Us’ page to reflect more current information, you probably don’t want to pay your web design company a fee. A CMS provides you the ability to make these quick edits with user friendly tools that you don’t need any programming experience to use.
There are a lot of free, open source systems out there, but some people prefer to use their own proprietary systems. You’ll want to know what to expect to ensure it will meet your needs. If they are using a proprietary CMS, we would recommend asking for a demo before you sign anything.
Our Answer: Our selection of CMS depends on the particular project, but open source systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) are used for the majority of projects. We do this because it allows you, as the user, to find extensive documentation, additional plugins, and help just by searching your question on Google. However, if the project calls for it, we will build a custom CMS rather than “hack” our way through an open source CMS.
Pro Tip: Although a CMS is great to make small changes, you should not expect to be able to completely redesign your site and make large structure changes without some web design and programming expertise. It’s very easy to break functionality on your website just by clicking the wrong buttons.
- Are your websites responsive? If not, how do you handle mobile visitors?
If you don’t know what a responsive website is, you should read our post, What Is Responsive Design? Designers who don’t build for mobile are rather rare now, but this is a question you still need to ask. If they aren’t building your website to be useable on the numerous devices out there, you run the risk of losing potential customers.
Some web design companies still prefer to build specific mobile versions rather than a responsive site. In these cases you need to get a list of the devices they build for. There are constantly new devices being introduced, so make sure to double check that they are covering any and all widely used devices.
Our Answer: 9 out of 10 times we will build a responsive website. We believe this provides a way to allow your site to grow with the new technology being introduced since it’s not device specific, but rather display size specific. On occasion, however, there needs to be a completely different version for mobile. In these situations we build mobile sites rather than make sacrifices to make it responsive.
- Do you provide and set up any analytics so I can monitor my website’s traffic?
The whole purpose of having a website is to help grow your business. You’re going to need a way to monitor how many people are visiting your site and how they use it. Having access to these analytics is the only way to help make sure you are getting a return on your website. There are free options out there like Google Analytics, so there should be no reason that your web design company can’t install this for you.
Our Answer: Our preferred tool is Google Analytics. It’s free and very powerful. Unless you ask us to use a different system that you choose, we will provide this as part of our service. Even if you don’t use it immediately, we want it to begin collecting data in case you change your mind down the road.
- How will my website perform on search engines?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is extremely important in ensuring your website ranks in search engine results. Although no one can guarantee where you will rank in these search results, they can ensure that your site is optimized to rank as easily as possible. Bad design and programming can actually make it harder for you to rank.
Our Answer: Every site we build is optimized for search engines. We know how vital it is for your business to be found.
- How quickly do you respond to my questions?
One of the worst experiences you can have as a customer is when you have paid good money to someone for a job and then you can’t ever seem to get a hold of them. We’re all busy, but your web designer should be able to give you response deadlines. If they can’t do that, you may experience long periods of silence.
Our Answer: Our guaranteed response time is 1 business day, but if you ask anyone we have worked with, they’ll let you know that it’s always much quicker than that.
- Will there be a dedicated manager for my project?
This is really only a concern when you’re dealing with larger firms. You just want to make sure that you have a direct form of contact with someone rather than their general line or inbox. It’s never fun to have to explain to someone who you are when you have been working with their company for a month.
Our Answer: Yes, you will always have dedicated project manager that you have direct access to. We like getting to know our customers and their business so we can become a part of the team. You can only do that when you actually build a relationship!
- Will I be able to see the website as you create it?
There’s no reason that you should be in the dark until the project is complete. Really, your web designer should be contacting you throughout the process to have you review it. This doesn’t mean that you are going to necessarily be able to see every little edit they make, but there should at least be somewhere they can let you view different versions.
Our Answer: Yes. We always provide a test environment so you can view your site as we build it.
- What do you need from me to get started?
This is a very important question to ask. Not only does it let you know what you need to prepare before they get started, but it lets you know what isn’t covered in their scope. For example, if they are asking you for photos, you know they aren’t going to be sending a photographer out as part of their service. This may seem pretty obvious to some people, but not others. Asking this question can avoid a lot of headaches down the road.
Our Answer: This will depend on the project, but common items we ask for are hi-res photos, logos and biographies. Of course, we may actually be providing this as part of our service, but these are vital components of any website.
- Who owns the artwork and source files after the project is complete?
Sometimes web design companies will keep ownership of everything so that you can’t move your site to a different server or use another designer for edits in the future. Although there are good reasons they could be doing this, you need to know this ahead of time. You don’t want to be held hostage by your current web design company.
Our Answer: You do! We are confident that you will be so happy with our service that you will always choose to use us for future projects and edits. However, we don’t want you to be limited by anything, so you own the rights to anything you pay for.
- Do you offer web hosting?
Whether or not a web design company offers hosting is really up to them. There are a lot of arguments for and against it. Whatever the case, you need to know if it is included in your price. Hosting isn’t free, so if they aren’t providing it, you will have to pay someone else to. For most small websites, hosting shouldn’t be too expensive, but it’s still another bill you have to account for. If you haven’t already, you should read our post How Much Does A Website Cost?, to find out what type of expenses you should be budgeting for.
Our Answer: Yes! As a matter of fact we provide up to a year of free hosting with your build. After your free period, we’ll make sure you can’t find a better price anywhere!
- Do you offer domain name registration?
Our post How Much Does A Website Cost? will come in handy here as well. Domains don’t cost that much considering how important they are, but you still need to know if this is an additional expense you have to account for.
Our Answer: Sort of. We can help you register the domain (in fact we’ll even find you the best price, but we are firm believers that you should always have complete control over your domain. Any time someone else owns your domain, they have the ability to shut down your site or emails using that domain. That’s a lot of power! You should always be the one in control.
- Do you offer a warranty?
Like most things in life, websites can break. Even the most rigorous testing can’t catch every potential problem, so a warranty should never be out of the question.
Our Answer: Yes, if something is broken because we didn’t catch it, we’ll fix it for you free of charge.
- Do you offer on-going maintenance after my site goes live?
Websites are meant to grow and evolve. Eventually you will need some form of maintenance or changes. You’ll need to know if you can go back to them or if you need to have someone else make any necessary changes.
Our Answer: Yes, we love being your go-to for any and all maintenance and changes.
From a web design company perspective, none of these questions give any reason to cause concern. As you can see, we are freely volunteering our answers, so if the firm you are talking to can’t answer these or gives very vague answers, you may want to pass on them.