Congrats! You’ve decided to launch a new website (or redesign your existing one) for your business. There are some do-it-yourself options out there, but for the purposes of this post we are going to assume you have decided to work with a web development agency or web design studio to bring your vision to life. This is a much more daunting — albeit important — task where you need to be armed with the right questions to ask in order to hire the right web design team for your specific needs.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. The same is true (and we’ve said it before) when it comes to hiring web designers, developers, or agencies. But how do you know the web design company you’re talking to knows what they’re doing? Ask them the questions no one else does to see how they respond.
This may be one of the most important questions to ask to determine the type of quality you’re going to get out of your project. You want to make sure that the team who’s courting your business will also be the team that designs and develops your new website. The chances are extremely high that they may not be! Outsourcing runs rampant in the web design industry, especially with large firms with big overhead. For example, at Humble Meteor, we never outsource projects under any circumstances to ensure our clients’ websites are designed and built with the utmost precision, quality, and attention to detail.
Bonus follow-up question: How many people will be working on my website project?
The right answer? 2-3 people. Any more than that and you’re likely getting a junior-level team lacking the expertise needed to execute your project correctly.
Double-bonus follow-up question: What are the experience levels of the team who will be designing/developing my website?
Regardless of your project size and cost, the web design and development team should give you the same level of attention and expertise.
The right web design team should easily be able to tell you how they approach the design of any project. While there are nuances to each industry, there should be an overarching and consistent direction that they take for each project. And this process should always be guided by both the user experience and data. For example, this is what our design process looks like at Humble Meteor:
So a web design company’s design process should include — at a minimum — the following:
Bonus follow-up question: How involved can I be/should I be in this process?
Some business owners like to be really involved in the design of their website, almost to the point of stifling the creative process. There is a happy medium here where you trust the team you’ve hired to help you decide and do what you can’t (after all, you’re hiring them to design and build your new website because it’s outside of your skillset, right?). Step in to help make the important decisions to maintain brand consistency and voice, page structure, photos, etc., but let the designers and developers do what they do best — design and develop.
The answer to this question will vary based the type, size, and features your new website will have. A typical static website project shouldn’t take any longer than around 2-4 weeks. The timeframe for a basic CMS project shouldn’t take any longer than 6-8 weeks. If the estimates you receive seem a bit off, that’s a big sign they’re in over their heads.
However, remember that if there are a lot of custom asks on your part for functionality, those types of options may take a bit longer to build out.
If you haven’t designed a website in the past five years, there are two very important factors from a coding perspective that need to be in place in your new website: mobile responsiveness and SEO-readiness.
A mobile-responsive website adapts to your users’ screens, allowing for the same experience across all devices. A good web design company will openly mention they design with a mobile-first approach, which is what you want. We have talked a bit about a mobile-first approach and SEO-readiness in this post as well, and why it is so important for optimal website design.
Bonus follow-up question: Ask them what mobile-responsive framework they use.
Typically web designers and developers will use an open-source CSS framework in their workflow, and some can be really bloated with unused code which can slow down your website. Don’t get me wrong, those frameworks are great (we use them ourselves, but optimize how they are delivered during our build processes). Follow up this bonus question by asking what they do to slim down those assets before deploying into production.
For pretty much all of us IT-challenged business owners out there, you want to make sure that the web design studio you hire can also handle these difficult tasks. Make sure you let them know what other services are tied to your business domain and email before handing over the credentials to your precious domains to avoid any unnecessary downtime or lapse in service.
Will your website be hosted in-house, or via a third-party service? Either is fine as long as it’s being monitored by professionals and the right infrastructure is in place to keep your website and its data as safe as possible. Make sure there’s something in the project’s statement of work contract that details how you’d be able to get access to your files and domains if you one day decide to part ways.
Post-launch support is probably even more important than some of the questions we’ve already covered. You’ll need to know what to expect after the website launches:
Meeting the people who will be handling your project once the sales team moves on is a crucial part of the decision-making process. You need to make sure that you vibe with them too, and that they understand and empathize with your brand.
If you’re building or redesigning your website on a content management system (CMS), it’s imperative that the web design company you hire has the ability to set up hourly automatic backups. This ensures that you are able to roll back to an earlier version of your website in case of some sort of catastrophe, at the worst only losing an hour of your time. It also ensures that you have some sort of version history and security around the content and settings of your CMS>
Depending on if you’re building a static site or a CMS this answer may be different. For a static website, it may be as simple as providing the content and/or changes to your web design team for them to update based on a monthly managed hosting fee. For a CMS, you should ultimately be provided with credentials to access your admin.
Getting to know what other services your future web design and development partner can offer you is crucial in determining their overall capabilities to deliver value now and in the future. What you’re looking for is a team that specializes in a few things and does them well — not a team that offers a boatload of services but isn’t really more proficient in one over the other. Stay clear of web design shops that offer a one-stop shop approach for all web design, digital marketing, off-line marketing and branding needs. That long list usually comes with high price tags, sub-par work, and inexperienced team members.
What you’re looking for is a team that specializes in understanding your company and its customers, can design and build you an exceptional website, and also offers a gameplan to drive traffic to your new site post-launch.
Bonus follow-up question: Can you provide at least three references?
This is a standard, common sense question you should ask of anyone you’re thinking of hiring.
As with hiring any type of contractor, getting to know their strengths (and weaknesses) before signing a statement of work creates transparency and trust before your project begins. If you’re unhappy with your current website or are looking to start a new web design or web development project, feel free to contact us. We’d love to help you build something stellar.
As Humble Meteor’s Director of Digital Marketing, Krista helps connect audiences with helpful brands and their killer websites. With more than 13 years of inbound marketing and paid media experience, she never shies away from investigating a new digital marketing innovation to help bring a client’s brand to the next level. When she isn’t knee-deep in researching and writing blog articles, optimizing campaigns or conducting social media audits — she loves to bake all things yummy and hang out with her family.Contact me →