Choosing the right web design agency is critical for you future online marketing success, so it pays to get it right. What they offer and how they offer it can either help your business grow or leave it lost to the digital wind.
With your list of contenders in hand, it’s time to work out who makes the cut. To help you do this, here are the top ten questions you should be asking before you make that hire.
1. What services do you offer?
It’s important to establish first off whether they do exactly what you’re looking for. Obviously they design websites but how far does their expertise extend? Are they limited to template designs or do they do custom-built? Are they skilled in e-Commerce? Do they offer responsive sites as standard?
In addition, find out what services they offer besides fundamental web design – from copywriting to SEO optimisation, logo design and web hosting. Having it all done by the same company will certainly make life easier, but be sure to check the level of skill in each area.
2. How do you price your services?
Knowing how much your website will cost all up and how you’ll be billed is vital. Many web design agencies offer a total price for the finished project whilst others may charge by the hour.
If you’re offered a set price, ask for a breakdown so you know exactly how it’s calculated and what’s included. Many agencies offer packages which include a range of additional services. Ultimately, you want to be clear that no hidden costs will pop up along the way or once the site is completed.
3. Can I see your portfolio/case studies/references?
You’d be crazy to start working with an agency without concrete evidence that they can deliver what they say they can. Any agency of substance should have a portfolio of work they’re more than happy to share with you – including live websites you can explore.
But while a portfolio can prove design and development ability, you need more than this to make a decision. Ask for case studies of projects they have worked on, and look for statistical information on how their websites perform. And don’t forget to ask for references so you can get a feel not only for the quality of their work but also a sense of what they’re like to work with.
4. What’s your process and turnaround time?
It’s likely you’ll already have an idea about how soon you would like your website to be up and running, therefore it’s important to find out the approximate turnaround time of your project. Four to six weeks is average for a build, but this can vary considerably depending on the agency, plus you should factor in more time for planning.
Being clear on the process is also important. As well as requesting a rundown of the basic workflow, be sure to prompt for further information about the initial consultation, the level of research carried out, who will be involved at each stage and how much involvement will be required from you.
5. What do I need to provide before you get started?
As well as stating your needs and requirements, it’s likely you’ll have to provide a number of other items before your web design can get underway. This can include things such as background information on your business, existing marketing material, logo files, copy, images etc.
The reason you need to ask this question is so you know how much time you will need to allocate to the project and, more importantly, to help establish expectations from the start.
6. What happens if I don’t like the initial design?
If an agency has sufficiently consulted with you throughout the process, there should be little discrepancy between what you had hoped for and the final website design you receive. However, it pays to know upfront what the process would be if this situation occurred.
Most agencies will include a number of rounds of revision within their initial pricing, so minor tweaks and changes should be fine. If, however, the whole concept and delivery is not as expected you should be well within your rights to question why it isn’t.
7. Who will own my website once completed?
There are three main elements to getting a website up and running: creating a design, registering a domain and setting up hosting. Importantly, ownership of each of these elements is not a given just because you have paid an agency to create your site so find out from the start what the status quo is.
Often you will own the HTML/CCS/Javacript – the building blocks of your site – as well as the visual design. However, some agencies may choose to retain ownership and simply hand the licence over to you. Your domain is either registered to you or the agency and they may or may not manage your hosting.
8. How will I update the content on my site?
Once you’ve got to the bottom of everything that is involved in getting your website up and running, you need to focus on what happens after it goes live. As any half-decent online marketer knows, creating a website and then leaving it to do its magic just won’t do. Instead you need to be constantly checking, updating and adding new content.
In some cases changes may have to go through the agency at a cost – unless you have the technical knowhow to revise the coding. Alternatively, a content management system (CCS) enables you to easily make changes via a select and click interface. Ask whether this is something they can provide.
9. Do you offer ongoing maintenance?
As well as keeping your content fresh, your website should be regularly monitored and updated to ensure all the technical aspects are working efficiently. Carrying out plug-ins checks; doing backups; fixing errors with hosting and servers; making enhancements to useability; performing upgrades; these are all things you need to consider.
Knowing whether or not the agency you are speaking with offers these services is important as if they don’t you’ll need to start thinking how you plan to do it.
10. Who will be my primary source of contact?
Last but not least, it’s important you know who you need to contact if you have a question, suggestion or issue at any stage of the process. Depending on the agency, you could be dealing predominately with the designer, or you might be given a project manager who will be responsible for communicating your message to the relevant person.
Whoever it is, be sure you have a name, relevant contact details and know when the best times are to contact them.
When asking these questions, remember there’s no right or wrong. You’re just trying to establish whether or not this particular web design agency is a credible, working fit for your business.