If you’re starting the website design process, it can be a confusing process. Many of us don’t actually have detailed knowledge of how the website building process works and what all goes into a new website.
You’re probably looking at a couple different companies to start off with. You’ll need to get quotes from multiple places to find out which one is in your budget. While you’re looking at pricing and determining which company matches the budget, you’ll also want to look at some specific questions regarding the website building process. These questions will help you find a competent development company who will give you a modern and functional website.
Without further ado, here are some questions you should ask before hiring a website development team.
Who owns the content?
All websites have web pages and content on them. Content includes the copy, graphics, and photos. In the case everything is being provided for by the company, you’ll want to ask who owns the content. If they’re writing the copy, is it considered yours? Or, is the copy a service provided by them and when you walk away will it be yours?
Where do the photos come from?
Photos can make or break a website. Current trends in web design include big, beautiful photos. If you don’t have photos of your own to use, it’s important to ask where the web development sources their photos. There are very strict laws against using copyrighted photos, so using other people’s photos is not going to fly.
Photos either need to be purchased with a license that gives you permission to use them commercially–we use Depositphotos–or through a website that offers free photos with a copyright license. Unsplash.com has wonderful, free photos to use commercially. Ask where your photo will be sourced.
Is the site mobile friendly and responsive?
While desktop traffic hasn’t reduced by much, mobile traffic has exploded in the last couple years. If your website isn’t easy to use on mobile, you can kiss your visitors goodbye. It’s important to ask your potential web developers what their strategy for web traffic is.
One old method of dealing with mobile users was to create a whole separate website for mobile users. This is outdated. New methods are based around responsive design, one which snaps down to fit the screen size of whoever is visiting the website– whether it be a large desktop monitor, a small laptop, a tablet, or a mobile phone.
If your web developers don’t design with mobile in mind and responsive design isn’t within their capabilities, it might be time to walk away. Mobile traffic will only continue to rise and leaving out such a huge demographic is a major mistake.
What access do I have to make changes?
You can ask this in two ways: can you change direction mid-project and will you have access to your backend after the project is complete.
It’s good to choose a developer who is willing to work on things when they aren’t exactly going as you want. Or, maybe halfway through the project you realize you need different functionality than initially anticipated. So, ask how they handle these types of scenarios.
Additionally, it’s important to ask about making changes after the website is complete. Once the developer walks away, will you have the ability to make changes to your own website? Or, will you have to contact them and potentially spend more money every time you want to make a minor change?
Is SEO included?
Search engine optimization is a huge part of a new website design. Google is the number one search engine in the world and more than 40,000 queries are asked of it every second. That’s about 3.5 billion searches per day!
The way Google connects these queries is through it’s crawling and indexing of websites. Google crawls websites to determine their content and ascertain their significance. When someone searches for something, Google gives them the results they think match best the searcher's intention, or in other words, matches data with queries.
Therefore, SEO works to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to websites by increasing organic search engine results, helping you reach the front page of Google when queries related to your business are asked.
SEO is an important aspect of your website content, so ask if your web developer considers aspects of SEO when building the website and whether or not they are setting up your website with SEO best practices.
Are you building the site using hosting I own or is the site hosted by you?
There are certain marketing companies that will build websites using their hosting and a domain purchased by them. This essentially locks you in with them. They will then charge you a monthly fee and if you stop paying the company, they will take your website down. Since you don’t own the hosting (and sometimes they refuse to give you the domain), you are basically stuck paying them–in essence, renting the site from them. Be aware of how they are charging you and for what. It’s always better to go with a company that has you buy your own domain and hosting. This way you can always move to another company if you choose with relative ease.
How long does it take to build?
While the length of any web project will be determined by the scope and complexity, it is helpful to know when the company assumes most projects will be wrapped up by. This also gives you an opportunity to tell them your needs and if you have any deadlines.
Once the development teams know about your requirements and anticipated deadline, they can estimate their timetable and help you understand project variables.
Who's involved with building the site?
Depending on the size of the agency, your team may include several people who all specialize in different aspects of the web design and development process.
- Project Manager: will act to coordinate all parties and serves as the main point of contact for the client
- Designer: in charge of creating a cohesive website that matches your companies aesthetic
- Content Specialist: will focus on writing your on-page content with a focus on search engine optimization
- Developer: in charge of the actual coding and technical aspects of development.
Some agencies will have an even larger team who split duties. Others only include a developer and you may have to provide content. You’ll have to ask specifically what who is on their team and what each person’s duty is.
Am I getting a custom site is it based off a template?
In other words, is your website being custom designed and coded or is it based off a template that everyone else has? While a template website may be the cheaper option, it means that potentially someone else has the exact same design in different colors.
A custom designed and coded website, in contrast, is unique to you and may include special coding and advanced features that a template can’t offer.
Is there an ongoing contract?
Some companies require an ongoing contract which includes a monthly charge. This charge could cover ongoing maintenance and updates to your websites, but often times companies will require a monthly charge don’t consider your website “yours” and instead as you renting their website. In these cases, once you stop paying, your website goes away. Essentially, they were hosting your website and will no longer do so after you choose to leave. You may have to fight them to get control of your domain.
Other agencies will quote you a one-time fee that is paid by the end of the project. At the end of the project, and once the final bill is paid, the agency will turn the website over to you, including access to your own backend to make changes yourself. They may offer an ongoing package to include maintenance or updates if you’re not comfortable making them yourself, but ultimately the website is yours. This includes your hosting and the domain.