5 questions you should ask your web design company before you hire them

Finding a decent web designer is a tricky business.

A new website is a huge investment of your time and money, and getting a site that delivers for you can make a massive impact on your business. There are thousands of companies out there offering to create your new website for you, so how do you work out which one to pick?

Here are five questions you should ask to make sure your web designer isn’t a shark and that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into:

1. What exactly are you expecting me to do?

Very often, the client’s expectations of what their web designer will do are very different from the web designer’s. Writing the copy for the site, sourcing appropriately licensed images and testing the site works are often deemed to be the responsibility of the client.

Make sure you understand what you’re getting for your money, and that you have the time & expertise to deliver what’s needed.

2. How will you ensure the website delivers return on my investment?

It’s all too easy to decide you need a new website just because your old one ‘looks a bit dated’. Set out specific objectives stating what you want from your new site; baseline current stats to measure how the new site compares; and agree success criteria with your web designers.

Make sure that your objectives are kept front of mind as you go, and test your designs as early as possible with real users. Understanding how your customers are likely to respond to your site massively improves the chances the final product will meet your needs.

3. How will the new site help me perform better on search engines?

A new website isn’t a magic wand that will immediately propel you to the top of Google.

Done right though, it will can give you a useful leg-up. Making sure that the site has well-structured HTML, meets W3C guidelines and includes properly implemented metadata that reflects your business can help dramatically. Also check that your new site will cleanly integrate with social media and facilitate any content marketing plans you might have.

Watch out for guarantees though: If a company is promising you’ll be top of Google in 3 months, they’re probably dodgy.

4. Will your site design be based on a template or will it be original work?

Many low-cost web designers simply populate your details into an template, change the colours to reflect your brand and slap on a logo.

Websites all based on the same template

Make sure you understand whether your developer is coding a site from scratch for you, or is using a template to cut corners. Your website should look to differentiate you in the marketplace and reflect your brand, the products you offer and what your business is looking to achieve.

Consider if a template-based site will be as successful in achieving your objectives as a website that’s been designed with you in mind – how will it give you an advantage over your competition in conversion, search engine performance or customer experience?

5. How will your site work across different devices?

The number of people browsing via mobile devices is exploding – doubling from 6 to 12% of all web traffic from 2011 to 2013, so make sure you don’t forget people that aren’t using a desktop.

‘Responsive design’ is the term for a website that adjusts itself to work, no matter what size of screen it’s being viewed on, and you need to make sure that your site is either responsive or is mobile-friendly in some other way so that you’re not alienating a quickly growing part of your audience.

OK, so I started off with five questions, but treat this as a bonus…

6. Will I have full control of the site when it’s finished?

Make sure you’ve got full access to the domain, content management system and that you own any related system code. If you don’t, you’re beholden to your web designer to make any future changes that you need at whatever cost they wish to charge (And don’t get fobbed off with an ‘Editor’ login – you want to make sure you’ve got full ‘Admin’ rights, even if you’ve no intention of ever using it!).

Don’t feel awkward about asking for these – no reputable company will ever refuse to hand them over.

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