Launching a new website or revamping an existing one can initially seem daunting, but choosing the right web design company for your needs will make the process smoother and ensure you get the results you want. Here are ten key questions to ask when comparing proposals for the work.
1. Who will be on your design and development team?
Most agencies will give bios of the people working on your new web project. Review their backgrounds carefully, looking for experience in brand management, search engine optimization (SEO), storytelling, programming, and design. Ask if they handle most of the work in-house or outsource it. A team with diverse skills lets you know they have the marketing heft to help you build a website that aligns with your overall strategic business goals.
2. What is their experience and comfort level with your “must-have” features?
Most organizations have certain website features or functionality that are “must-haves.” For example, nonprofits may need a blog to promote events and charity updates or a donation button for one-time and recurring donations. Also, a small business could require a robust e-commerce shopping cart to sell physical and digital products. Take time to think through your “must-haves” and make sure the agency you choose has expertise in those areas.
3. How do they handle hosting, security, and maintenance?
No matter how your site is built, make sure your needs for hosting, security, and maintenance can be handled by your web agency, especially if internal IT staff are not web development experts In our experience, IT typically does not feel it is their job to update hosting PHP, website themes, or WordPress versions, for example. In addition, technical glitches that will occur on your site dues to changes outside such as computer operating system updates, browser updates, and social media platform changes should be handled by your web agency or other outside web development expert.
Most web design agencies want to continue to care for the sites they create and provide technical maintenance packages based on the scope and size of the individual site. Agencies may also provide ongoing content updating service for clients who do not have staff or interest in adding, updating and deleting content themselves.
4. What work will be done related to search engine optimization?
Website development firms often list search engine optimization (SEO) as a part of website scope. Be sure to ask them what types of SEO work is included. It’s essential to design your site from the outset with search engine optimization in mind – from how the site content is organized to the use of headlines and subheads on individual pages, as well as the backend creation of SEO titles and meta descriptions. Need a quick primer on SEO? Check out SEO basics from Semrush.com.
5. What is their website design and development process?
Each agency will have a slightly different process for website design and development. A quality firm will include discovery, content strategy, design, programming, production, debugging, and launch stages. Once you clarify the project’s scope, ask for a timeline, what is expected of you and your team, who will be your point person, and how you will collaborate and share files.
Tip: If a relaunch, confirm they will handle redirects, which are URLs from your old site that will need to point to a new page on your new site. You want to avoid anyone coming to your site getting a 404 Not Found error. Redirects can be a significant amount of work depending on the size of your site, especially if it has e-commerce.
6. Will you be able to easily edit the site yourself if that is desired by in-house staff?
If you or your team needs to make regular content updates, request a content management system that is easy to use, along with a certain number of hours for training. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your site looks beautiful, but every time you want to make basic updates, it’s challenging. If you have a web maintenance agreement, your agency can also provide ongoing consulting for the times when you want to do something a little out of the ordinary on your site.
7. How will the agency address web accessibility?
Making your site more ADA accessible helps people who are blind, deaf, or need screen or voice readers easily navigate and understand the content on your site. Simultaneously, you’re improving the user experience for others with multi-sensory options beyond the typical point-and-click. Why wouldn’t you want to be inclusive and make your site helpful to as many people as possible? That said, if your organization receives federal funds, your website is required to be ADA-compliant. Ask agencies if they use one of the many software products available that adjust a website’s design and UI to meet the needs of the disabled community.
8. What platform will they use to build your site and why?
Know what platform and technologies they will use to build your site and how their strategy will help you meet your goals. This is particularly important if you’re on a tight budget. A custom build may not be necessary if your website only requires typical functionality. You can ask an agency if they are open to customizing an existing template on an open-source platform. If your requirements are more extensive and you will need a custom site, make sure they break down what they plan to do, what technology they’ll use, and if there are any limitations and why.
9. How much will the site cost?
You may include a budget for how much you want to spend in your request for proposals (RFP), but an agency may look at your list of requirements and propose a different amount based on the anticipated work involved. If the new proposed amount is way more than you expected, re-consider your “must-haves.” Also, keep in mind that small fees can creep into the budget if you want to make changes after the project’s scope is agreed upon or you’ll need creative assistance beyond the site’s overall design. Find out their rates and process for any changes beyond the initial scope.
10. Do they have a portfolio of work you can review with references?
Not only do you want to see their work, but you also want to talk to previous clients who have worked with them. They can give you valuable insight into how trustworthy the design firm is, how they work, and if they are a good fit for you.