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 developer.
2 ) Can I see current online examples of your work? Website Designs, Email Marketing Campaigns, Social Media Marketing Setup and Management…etc
This is a must have for any developer. 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 other formats besides online such as printed collateral. Most developers will be happy to meet with you and review their current and past client work.
3 ) What other services 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.
4 ) Do you have testimonials from other clients?
Reputable designers and developers will happily provide a list of satisfied clients, both past and present. Ask for a list of references to contact direct for a follow up.
5 ) I have a budget. Can I see examples of your work that fall within specific price ranges?
The developer should be able to supply a range of web design examples and online campaigns that where developed within general price ranges or tiers. This will also give you a perspective of the value of the end product being developed for you and your business. You can also request quotes from multiple developers to see a general average in pricing, but beware that the cheapest price might not be your best solution – reason why you ask for examples, testimonials…etc.
6 ) Do you register domain names and provide hosting?
Ask very specific questions about where the site will be hosted. In my professional opinion, host with a third party and keep all information in your name or your businesses name. Do not let a developer register your domain name or hosting in their name. All of that information is the property of you and your business and should always remain that way. Reputable third party hosts include: GoDaddy, Dreamhost, Bluehost, Rackspace…etc.
7 ) 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 developers who do not deliver a timeline for milestones during the development phase. Ask your developer to sit down and review the proposed process and ask any questions that are unclear.
8 ) What programming languages and development tools do you use?
9 ) 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.
10 ) Who owns the finished product at the end of the contract?
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.