Choosing a website design firm is a very important decision for today’s entrepreneur, so before signing on the dotted line with a web design company, you should research the company thoroughly and get answers to several questions. Here are 10 questions you should ask…
1. May I see your portfolio?
They’re expecting this, and will usually be happy to provide you with examples of the sites they have designed for clients. Many will provide you with references, and you should check up on them. Ask long-term clients if they continue to be satisfied with their web design.
2. How long have you been in business?
Website design isn’t exactly an ancient art, but there are firms that have been around for a decade or more. While that’s not a guarantee of quality, competition is strong enough that web design firms that have been around for several years are probably doing things right.
3. Do you offer web hosting?
Many website design firms offer web hosting, and having your design firm provide hosting as well is something worth consideration. Sometimes package deals with both design and hosting are more cost effective. If a company does provide hosting, make sure their hosting packages meet your needs as far as tech support, number of email accounts, and general customer service.
4. What kind of tech support do you offer, and for how long?
Expect your designer to fix any coding or layout issues discovered within the first 90 days without charge. They will charge for additional coding or site development, however. After that initial period, find out what they offer in terms of maintenance and web development for the long term.
5. Can you develop a version of my site for mobile devices?
Mobile versions of sites are becoming more of an expected service now that so many people stay connected through smart phones and tablets. Find out if a mobile site is part of their basic design package, or if it costs extra.
6. Will I own the images, content, and code when you’re done?
You want to buy website design, not rent it. It is generally better to hire a firm that will build your site and deliver it to you as a complete package when it’s done, rather than one that locks you into an ongoing hosting contract that you may not want. When they’re done, you should own the domain name and hosting account. You should also have access to your hosting account, server, and back end administration. If you want to transfer to another host, your designer should provide you with both the design and programming code so you can do so.
7. What content management system do you use?
The content management system, or CMS, lets an administrator (you) update and manage your site without having to access source code. WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are three popular ones. If a firm wants you to use their custom-made CMS, be aware that this can limit you in the future by making you dependent on the company to manage changes to your site.
8. Do your designs conform to W3C standards?
W3C standards are highly recommended industry standard practices, and your design firm should conform to these. Your designer should know how to test for browser compatibility, and should know how to check for errors and validate your site before it goes live.
9. Is SEO a consideration in the design process?
Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a consideration in every phase of web development. After all, even the most beautiful website isn’t worth much to you if nobody finds it. Even if you’re not starting out with a big SEO push, a site designed with SEO in mind will be easier to market down the line than one in which SEO is ignored during the design phase.
10. How do you price your services?
Not every company has the same web design needs, and budgets vary greatly. If you run a small nonprofit and are considering a website design firm that mostly designs for Fortune 500 companies, make sure they understand your particular needs as a small business. Most firms offer a handful of design packages based on budget and technical needs, so make sure you choose a firm that takes each individual client into account in terms of business size, budget, and industry.
Source: Resource Nation, 2012