A professional and appealing website is essential for any business. It’s a common practice for people to instantly search for the website of a business when they hear about it through advertisements or word of mouth. Simply the absence of a website can leave customers with a bad impression, but a poorly made website can make matters even worse. Luckily, there are many professional, reliable and high-quality web design companies out there to help you create a website that matches your company’s style, vision and message. However, there are just as many web design companies out there that may produce shoddy work. Since websites are such a substantial investment, it’s important to know the most important questions to ask when hiring a web design company.
Ask About the Specifics of the Design Team
Professional web design companies use diverse teams of developers to ensure that there is always at least one person in each of the various facets of web design. For example, one person might be geared more towards graphic design while another may be more focused on content creation and another in coding. Together, they can make a website that looks, performs and feels professionally made and high quality.
The first question to ask in this regard is whether they use an in-house development team. When it comes to web design, having to work with middlemen and third-parties makes the process muddled, slow and it could cause various problems with your website such as creating content that you don’t want or never asked for.
If they have an in-house development team, the next question to ask is how big the team is. You don’t generally need an army of people to develop a website, but a solid team of five or more is generally needed to cover all of the vital aspects of the website and to ensure the product gets created in a decent amount of time.
Finally, ask how long everyone on the team has been working together. Longstanding relationships of about three years or more show that the team has loyalty to the company and each other. In addition, it shows that they have experience and a decent reputation.
Ensure They Have Good References
Just as you would do if you were hiring someone for your business or for a job in your home, ensure that the company has reliable references to check out. If they can’t provide any references that could be a sign that they have various problems with their previous clients and may even be a scam. New companies may not be able to provide many references due to lack of previous clients, but they can always provide at least a few references to people that they have done work for in the past as well as examples of their work.
How Long Has the Company Been in Business?
New companies can be great, but if you’re looking to start a long relationship with a web development company you’ll be in better hands with a company that has withstood the test of time. In addition, ask about how large their business actually is. The building that a specific team is stationed in could just be one of many in a larger company’s chain. Larger companies may cost more money, but they may also be more reliable in terms of customer service as there are more people available to provide assistance. In addition, bigger businesses are also more established in the town, state or nation. This gives them more staying power and reliability.
Ask About Their Content Management Systems
Content management technology can make a website extremely efficient or a complete disaster. Ask about the specific content management systems that the company uses for their websites. How long have they been using this technology? If the company hasn’t been using the system for long, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s of poor quality. However, lack of experience and knowledge of the system may cause development issues and problems for the site administrator. A year or more of experience with the system is generally a good amount to truly get accustomed to it and to learn of its various quirks and features.
Have they run into any problems using the system? No system is perfect, but learning of the flaws in the system can help prevent future issues and rectify problems more easily when they do occur.
Ask if they’ll allow you to see the back-end of similar websites that they’ve developed to get a good understanding of the interface and the setup. The sooner that you get familiar with the system; the better you’ll understand it later.
Finally, ask if the system’s software is open-source or if it is proprietary. Generally, you’ll want to go for open-source software for your content management system. Open-source software is usually free to use with some fees for implementation. It is also open for anyone to modify and customize for various purposes. Since it is free to use and open for modification, many people will likely know the system inside and out. This allows you to more easily resolve problems and improve your own system over time. Proprietary software may seem appealing, but it is usually expensive to implement and use, and there is a much smaller amount of people who are very familiar with the software that can help you with issues. In addition, proprietary software may not be open for modifications that could improve your website.
If there are fees involved with the CMS software, ask how much the fees are and if it is a one-time fee or recurring. In addition, ask if the payment goes through them or directly to the company that provides the software.
Will the Website Be Mobile-Friendly and Responsive?
With more and more people accessing websites through their smartphones and tablets, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and responsive. Not only does the website have to be designed to work properly on mobile devices, but it also has to be responsive to dimension changes in regards to the various screen dimensions available in smartphones and tablets. If possible, ask to see some of the company’s previous work that has been optimized for mobile use on your mobile phone or theirs to get a good idea of how it will behave.
What is the Step-By-Step Process?
Never trust a company that doesn’t adhere to any sort of development plan or process. It only leads to unreliable estimates in terms of time frames and pricing and possibly a disappointing end product. A professional company should be familiar enough with their own processes to walk you through the entire procedure step-by-step. It may take a while to cover everything, but detailed plans and processes show that the company knows what they’re doing and is very organized and professional.
How Do They Track the Success Rates of Their Websites?
In order to properly ensure that your website is effective and well received, you’ll need to have options of monitoring the statistics of the website. View count, sales, conversions, ad revenue and more can all help you gauge and monitor your website’s success rate. Keeping an eye on these aspects will also allow you to determine which marketing strategies and techniques work best for your website and company. All of these aspects should be included in your proposal and added to the website before launch.
Is There A Project Manager to Oversee the Development?
Project managers give you a direct line to getting quick and accurate answers concerning the various aspects of the website. A project manager also helps ensure that everyone and everything is organized, on schedule, following proper procedure, creating quality content and more. They’re the ones who schedule meetings, create proposals, organize timelines and ensure efficiency and communication between the various developers. Without a professional project manager on the job, numerous problems between the various developers and in regards to the client can be created, which can delay the project and cause a lot of frustration.
Concerns About Warranties and Ongoing Support
A professionally made website is a big investment, and it’s vital to ensure that your investment is protected through warranties. In addition, ongoing services such as hosting, maintenance and possibly content creation for SEO and system administration should be addressed.
First, ask if there is a warranty at all. Most professional services offer at least some form of warranty with their product. If they don’t, that’s an instant red flag. Not offering a warranty not only means that your website won’t be protected against threats such as viruses or severe errors in the future but it also means that there is possibly something shady going on about your website deal.
If they do offer a warranty, ask what the warranty covers. Regular maintenance, updates, virus protection, security patches and any other forms of ongoing protection that you can think of should be discussed.
Next, ask how long the warranty will be in effect. The longer the warranty goes on for, the better. If the warranty is limited, remember to find alternative means of updating, protecting, maintaining and repairing the website in the future.
Hosting is another issue that should be discussed. Many website owners choose to purchase their own hosting methods once the website is created, but many web development companies also offer their own hosting services. What type of hosting services do they offer? How long have they used those services? Do they have experience working with other hosting services?
Finally, ask about the cost of the warranties, hosting and service plans. The warranties may be limited in how many choices you have for ongoing support and protection, but there are usually different service plans and options for hosting that change depending on what kind of services and hosting packages you want.
Tackling the Issues of Pricing
When it gets down to it, the biggest issue to confront is the matter of the various costs involved with developing and maintaining a website. You may get one quote upfront, but it may end up being entirely different once the development plan is solidified and your proposal is complete. If you have a really good idea of what you want and need in your website as well as the intended plans in regards to service, warranties and hosting, sit down with the developer and go through everything that you have agreed on to get as accurate of a quote as possible. Even if the proposal does come out higher due to unforeseen charges, the quote may allow more elbow room for negotiation.
Ask how about their pricing methods. What is the base price for certain aspects and features? How is the actual price determined? Will minor changes affect the price? Do they work on hourly rates or flat fees? Both types of pricing are okay, but hourly rates can turn into huge unforeseen costs.
It may be difficult to get an honest answer for this, but ask how frequently they go over budget. Problems in development happen, but frequently going over budget could indicate poor planning skills, lack of expertise and possibly scamming.
Solidifying the Billing Process
Discuss the payment process involved in the website’s development. Is there a down payment? Will it need to be incremental as the project goes on? When are payments expected? How should the payments be made to the company?
To prepare for possible additional charges, ask about how extra features or services are typically billed during development or after the project has been completed.
What is the Estimated Time Frame for Completion?
An experienced company can typically determine an accurate time frame of completion for a website while taking into consideration the various features and services that you requested. Problems can always arise, but experienced and professional companies can usually address these issues immediately and resolve them as soon as possible without losing too much time on the project.
It’s also a good idea to ask if the company is reliable in terms of keeping you up to date with the progress of the website. You don’t need to be contacted every single day, but a nice update every few days or every week can ensure that you know what’s currently done, how far along they are and if any issues are currently impeding production.
A well made, professional and appealing website can impress your current customers and draw in a lot of business. Finding a high-quality and reliable web design company and determining an outline for a website that would fit your company perfectly is a long process, but it’s well worth the work, money and waiting if the product is as great as you imagined. As long as you follow this guide, you’ll be sure to find a web design company that is right for you as well as a website that fits your needs.