A high-quality website is a vital piece of your overall marketing puzzle and one that should be left in the hands of a capable web professional, be it an experienced freelance designer, or a digital agency, depending on your needs.
However, when it comes to having a website designed and developed, the internet is a vast place full of all sorts of firms of all shapes and sizes offering to make you a website for anything from a couple of hundred pounds to a few hundred thousand!
So how can you be sure that you will get the best website for your budget and ultimately that the company you choose to deliver your website will create something that inspires trust in your customers?
Here are our top ten questions to ask a web developer
1. What is included in the cost of my website?
Websites are difficult things to price without first having a discussion about what it is that you want it to do, how it should look, and what features you’d like to see included. However, once a project quote is produced, you should be able to see an itemised list of deliverables, which should also give you an opportunity to negotiate the price by removing some items if they aren’t needed at this stage.
A good quote should include everything - even if it is an optional extra - but be sure to ask about things that aren’t included. For example, some firms offer hosting or maintenance that isn’t included in the initial price.
2. Do you have any experience with other clients in a similar business field to me?
If the firm has experience with another business in the same field as yours this can be a good thing. It’s likely they will have an understanding of your business’ goals, challenges, needs and target market. Even if they created a website for your direct competitors, this shouldn’t be a show-stopper, but it will depend on what sort of relationship they have with them.
If, for example, they provide on-going search engine optimisation (SEO) services to help them rank higher on search engines, then this will be detrimental to your marketing efforts and result in a conflict of interests.
3. How will I be able to measure the success of my website?
A good website should have a point, a goal, some action that it drives your customers toward performing. If it’s an online shop this would be purchasing products; for a brochure-style site this might be to have your customers contact you for a quote or to engage your services. Being able to measure how your site is performing is vital, allowing you to tweak things that aren’t working and promote things that are.
Most designers will include some sort of analytics software in the website development that allows you to monitor how many visitors your website is experiencing and what they are doing on your site.
4. What do I need to supply you to get started?
The first point of call for any reputable company should be to arrange a meeting to discuss your requirements in detail to be able to provide you with an accurate proposal, or project quote. Alternatively, some companies will provide you with an extensive questionnaire, or scoping document, that helps them to understand more about you, your company and its needs, and gets you thinking about things that, up until now, you might not have.
5. What happens after my website is launched?
Once a website is launched, that is really the start of the journey. What happens next is what matters. It’s important to have confidence in your design firm that they will support you and your website going forward, especially in its infancy. This might include any support and training, content editing services, or simply answering any questions you may have.
6. Who owns the site design when it’s done?
Essentially you should always own the intellectual property rights to your site and content. Depending on the firm you use, and the agreements they have, it could be that they own the copyright to the original artwork, or at least retain some free usage rights to be able to showcase your designs in their portfolio or other marketing activities.
However, if there are any proprietary software systems involved (like content management systems, analytical apps, etc.) then you won’t have access to, nor own, the code or design involved with these.
7. Can I add to the site in the future?
Any website that is produced for you should be scalable. There are many reasons why you might want to add to your website later down the line, but the important thing to be concerned with here is ‘can my website be added to in the future?’, ‘will it be able to grow with me and my business?’. Your website should be flexible enough to accommodate steady growth or support new features and content.
8. Will I get original designs from scratch or do you use pre-made templates?
Pre-made templates have their uses and can be a good way to keep costs to a minimum. However, what you save in monetary terms, you may sacrifice in brand identity. Surely, wouldn’t want your business’ website to accurately reflect the uniqueness of your company, or the services you’re trying to provide? Well the only way to truly do this is by having a custom design created for you.
9. Who will I deal at the various stages of my project?
This might depend on the size of the company you end up working with and their processes, but it is hugely useful to be able to speak with your designer or developer directly at some stage to discuss any concerns you have or changes you’d like, as the job is likely to get done much faster than, say, working through a project manager.
Either way you should be sure that there is a reliable point of contact at the other end of the line who can help you out.
10. Who produces the content for my website?
The short answer is ‘you do’, after all it’s your website! However, there are a lot of people who aren’t confident when it comes to putting their company’s products and services into words, or at least choosing the best words to make everything shine. This is especially true when talking about a website’s imagery - most people don’t have access to a library of images and might need some help finding some for their website.
Ask your design firm if they can help you with the copy (text) and images for your site. They should have contacts in the copywriting field who will be able to put some pizzazz into your words. They should also be able to source some great images to bring the site to life. It is likely that these services will cost extra though, so make sure you know the costs upfront.
One more thing…
You might notice that the list of questions doesn’t include one about seeing examples of previous work. Ideally, you should be able to see a good range of existing work for a prospective design firm before you initiate contact with them. It might help to contact the owners of those sites to see what they think about their website and how happy they were with the process and the service they received.