After having met with several discruntled and frankly over promised and under delivered small businesses, I thought it would be best to re-distribute a helpful post from 2007 that still holds extreme value during these slower economic times: Top 10 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Agency.
1 ) How long have you been in business?
Think about what type of company you are comfortable working with before you meet with them. If they give an answer outside of your comfort level tell them immediately. Some businesses don’t mind working with startups or individuals with lesser experience if the price is right. Everyone has to start somewhere, but if this is a risk you are not willing to take just tell the designer upfront.
2 ) Can I see examples of your work?
This is a must have for any designer or web agency. Make sure they have actual websites you can review on your own computer at any time you want. Avoid designers that only show you their work in a PowerPoint presentation or only on their computer.
3 ) Do you have testimonials from other clients?
Good designers and companies will happily provide a list of satisfied clients, both past and present. We even make them publicly available on our website.
4 ) What is the experience level of your team?
While almost every company has a few noobs (pronounced newbies) there should be some senior members on the team. Again, this is a comfort level thing on your part. Don’t get caught up in sales pitches and listen to your instincts here.
5 ) What programming languages and development tools do you use?
For development tools look for names such as Adobe or Macromedia (although Adobe now owns Macromedia).
6 ) What is your process for designing and developing a website?
A well outlined plan or process ensures you and your vendor know each other’s respective roles in the design and development of your website. It also will help you gauge their level of experience. Beware of companies that don’t have a plan!
7 ) What is the change process after the website is finished?
At some point your website, no matter how great it is, will need some changes or updates made. Find out what the process is for having these changes made. One way to avoid having to work with your vendor for content updates is to see if they will implement a content management system on your website.
8 ) Do you provide hosting?
Ask very specific questions about where the site will be hosted. If you need to, review our August 2007 post: Protect Your Website and Domain!
9 ) What other service solutions can you provide?
You never know what other services they may be able to provide unless you ask. It is often easier on you and can build a stronger brand identity if one company or designer can handle multiple aspects of your marketing. Ask them about direct marketing, email marketing, and natural search optimization services.
10) Who owns the website in the end?
There is only one acceptable answer here. No matter what, the client owns the website including all graphics and content. The only exception is if your website uses a content management system. Often the CMS is outlined in your contract with the vendor as belonging to the vendor as their intellectual property.