So, you’ve decided you need to hire a firm for some web development and design, but where do you start? In an effort to make this a successful process for you, we’ve gathered some important questions to ask and thoughts to ponder when figuring out who you want to hire. Bonus: We even whipped up a handy sheet for you to download to make it easy to grade and compare different firms.
Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Web Development & Design Firm
Are they a real, well-rounded business?
We are NOT knocking all of those amazing freelancers out there—however, if you want to ensure you get the most success out of the web development firm you hire, look for a well-rounded team of professionals. Please avoid hiring “that one guy/girl who does websites” or “your cousin Bobby”. This is tough because you want to help those you care about, however, it’s important to maintain a business relationship first with your firm over a personal one. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, or to see a portfolio. If they do great work, the web development firm and their customers will be more than happy to share their experiences with you.
Another piece of this is that the team should have access to other consultants or resources to get the answers they need in the event that they are not the expert on the matter. Admitting you’re not the expert in every single thing isn’t a bad thing, it’s honest—and honesty definitely holds great value in this industry.
Components of a good team:
Components of a good team include transparency, good communication, organization and a bit of cohesiveness to tie it all together. If the firm in question doesn’t seem to have it together as a team, they’re probably not a good fit.
Bonus: Do they use project management software? If they don’t, they’re probably not the most organized firm.
Does the firm have a website of their own?
If the web development firm you’re looking to hire has a “bad” website or no website at all, don’t hire them. If they can’t grasp that a solid website is the face of the business they are selling to you, then they most likely shouldn’t be designing anything for your business.
If they do have a website, it should include:
- A Portfolio
- A Responsive & Mobile Friendly Design
- Ease of Use
- Fast Loading Time
- A Clear Representation of Their Service
- You Leaving the Experience with a Good/Memorable Feeling
Does the firm know about your business and industry needs?
This one is a bit tricky. You do want the web development firm to have done some homework before they propose to you, but on first touch, you don’t want them to have all of the answers. For example—You just called the firm. Given you had no previous relationship with them, they obviously shouldn’t know your business. So, when you’re asking questions like, “What do I need to put on my website?”, there should be some sort of indication that they need to explore more about who you are, what you’re looking for, and what your business is trying to accomplish before getting any more granular with details.
On the flip side, they could also mention some basic components that should be included on websites in general, such as a responsive/mobile-friendly design, a clear call to action, search engine optimization, a description of your business or other general items related to SEO and design best-practices.
How does the firm use search engine optimization, and do they understand it?
Ten red flags to watch out for:
- All they can offer is a discussion about keywords.
- They never mention the word “strategy” or “planning”.
- They can’t speak to onsite versus offsite SEO.
- They tell you they can get you to the #1 organic position in x number of days (full disclosure, results will NEVER happen this way).
- They prefer a paid strategy over organic for your site, and push the conversation towards AdWords or some other advertisement campaign.
- They cannot articulate the difference between organic and paid SEO.
- They don’t incorporate the technical side of SEO into the code and the content.
- They say that Flash isn’t an issue.
- They don’t talk about page speed.
- They think “algorithm” is a type of expressive dance, and finally…
- They don’t incorporate SEO into their web development process at all.
Stop the conversation right there, and move on to your next choice.
Do they design using templates or use customization?
You want your site to stand out from the rest of your competition, so hiring a firm that uses pre-fabricated templates isn’t what you want to do. Pre-built templates often come with many components that you do not need, which can bog down the site and create complications if you try to customize it later. If you have a custom-designed template on your website, it is set up with exactly what you need where you can easily add customizations later down the line. This is key because the rules for website design and SEO are ALWAYS changing. It’s such a relief when you can easily make changes and updates based on any new best practices that the latest algorithm update is requiring from the site.
What is their communication process like?
Speaking of answering questions…the firm you hire should always be in touch with you throughout the process. From check-ins to just a simple “how are you” are more than acceptable. Ask them what their policy is on getting back to clients in a reasonable amount of time. If it’s more than 24-48 hours, they’re too busy to give your business the attention it needs. Of course, we understand that there are business hours and weekends, but there should also be a policy for emergencies and rush jobs. Finally, how many ways can you get in touch with them? Make sure there are multiple ways to get in touch if you need to, especially in an emergency.
Does the firm make it easy for you to use the website?
In our opinion, most sites these days should be developed within a CMS (Content Management System), because it makes it so much easier to use for beginners and experts alike. A CMS such as WordPress does just that. As a business owner, you most likely don’t have the time to learn how to hand-code a website. The web development and design firm you hire should be able to set you up for success by creating a website that is easy for you to use, if you so choose to make an update, such as a blog post. They should also be able to talk to you in a way that you understand, without being condescending, and be available to you within a reasonable amount of time to answer questions.
Bonus: While on the phone or during a face-to-face chat, ask if they charge for answering questions. They shouldn’t.
Do they have writers?
Creating content is hard, and relevant content is necessary. Content creation is probably the biggest culprit in holding projects up from completion. Ask if the firm offers website content development solutions.
- Can they develop content for you?
- Can they maintain consistency in your blog?
- Is there a strategy behind it related to SEO and relevancy to your business goals?
- Do they incorporate planning and strategy?
Find a firm that understands the insane amount of content marketing rules and best practices to follow. Content is directly related to SEO in the way that if you put out content that has no value to your audience, you’ll see little benefit.
What is included in their web design process?
If the design firm does not include a scope of work, you may as well throw your money away now. The scope of work will detail out everything on how the work will be delivered and performed.
A wireframe is also useful in understanding the concept of your design before it’s designed. This extra step is often a missing piece of the design process, that really shouldn’t be missing. Wireframes also help you to understand exactly what you’re getting before the design process begins, which will help drastically during any revision processes.
You also want to be able to discuss your goals, wants, and needs for your website. The firm should be able to help guide you towards the best solutions to get you the engagement, conversions, and insights that you’re looking for.
Inquire about any other types of meetings and documentation that will be included to define and guide the process through to completion and beyond. After all, web design does not stop after the project is over. There’s always more continual website maintenance work to do to keep your website in tip-top shape.
- Do they offer WordPress Support?
- Website health checkups?
- Copywriting services?
- Backup/Restore services?
Cost Versus Value
There’s that elephant in the room again. We know it’s often a bit uncomfortable discussing the cost of these types of solutions; web design and development solutions. You don’t want to pay too little, and you don’t want to pay too much.
I think cost benefits are difficult to visualize because many of the assets you will receive out of the process are intangible. You can’t hold a website in your hands, however, you can see the tangible results via tracked data. To that point, you’ll want to make sure that the firm you hire is able to track absolutely everything from sessions to your return on investment.
Justify the costs by adding up all of the costs you’ve spent in the last year on your marketing and advertising. How much of those efforts have shown a return on investment? It’s good to note that a good web design should prove a return on investment, as well as a profit in many ways.
In summation, there are a ton of details that go into finding the right web development firm to hire for your website design and development needs. Hopefully, you can use the points we’ve summarized above to help you make the most informed decision.
To go one step further, download this handy chart to grade your candidates and see who fits your needs best.
Grade Your Web Developer / Designer: