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Questions To Ask When Hiring A Web Designer
A list of questions to ask a web designer before hiring them. Because asking the right questions of a potential web designer or web design company BEFORE you hire them can save you a lot of frustration and headaches in the months and years to come.
We've compiled this list to help you make your selection process easier. We've included our answers to the questions as well, so you know where BANG! ranks.
#1 - How Long Have You/Your Company Been Building Websites?Why? Because experience does matter.
BANG!: Started building Web sites for our clients in 1996 (remember dial-up modems?)
The Web design business has an extremely low cost of entry and seems to attract many people working in some cases part time and from their kitchen table. Anyone with a computer, some inexpensive software and an account with a hosting company can call themselves a Web designer. You should be concerned with how long they will stay in business. The life of a website is at least 2 years, but 30% of small businesses don't make it that long (70% of small businesses don't survive the first decade).
Your website will be a living and constantly evolving marketing tool and will require regular improvements & security updates. You definitely don't want your web designer disappearing on you (we get calls monthly where a company can no longer reach their old Web designer).
#2 - How Available and Responsive To Your Needs Are They? How Do They Handle Support?Why? Because there will be times when you are going to need some help, especially if they are responsible for your e-mail.
BANG!: Has a customer support specialist who works 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. We also have knowledge base and support systems available 24 hours a day.
As part of our development process we also include training which will allow you to make updates to the site, both text and photos, even video if desired. We also prioritize existing client site updates in our work flow. We often hear horror stories of it taking weeks or months to get simple updates done. We generally get simple updates done within a business day.
When you have questions or need assistance with the site or your e-mail, how does the company handle support? Is it e-mail and pray or is there a structured system in place for supporting you? Is there a knowledge base available of frequent support questions? What are the support hours? Are their support packages available to reduce the cost of support services? Do they provide training on how to add, edit and delete content from the site? How to make blog posts or work with an e-mail marketing system?
Again, a part timer working in the kitchen may not be available during your normal business working hours. How quickly can they respond when you need their assistance?
#3 - How Large Is Their Staff? How Long Have They Been With The Company?
Why? Because "One man bands, don't always make the sweetest music"
BANG!: Has a staff of 4 seasoned pros all dedicated to web design, development and hosting with an average of over 17 years with the company.
Website development is a multi-discipline practice. It takes left brain creative types to develop attractive designs, right brain computer geeks for the programming, and we've found staff that measure somewhere in the middle make the best SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts. For these reasons you want a firm with several experts building your site. Beware of the "One Man Band" who says they do it all. In our experience, they don't do it all well.
Also make sure there are sufficient numbers on staff to effectively handle the number of clients they have. Everyone needs to take a vacation now and then, who will take care of you when your usual contact is away?
On the other hand, a web design firm that is too large may result in a disconnect between you, the business owner's goals, and the finished website design. Working with a project manager as an example put's one more layer of communication between you and the people actually building your site.
Granted, project management software should be part of the process, but you may not need a dedicated team project manager just for your firm’s website redesign. At some point, layers of people just increase cost and result in project delays.
#4 - How Much Experience Does The Individual or Firm Have?
Why? Because "Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill".
BANG!: Our experience? Decades!. Truthfully we've lost track of how many sites we've built, but it's certainly measured in the Thousands. Additionally we've worked across many industries from banking to manufacturing, we work with professional services needing sites like law firm websites, catering websites, to contractor websites for the building trades.
Experience gained through repetition and our constant desire to improve our skills so we can assist our clients in growing their business.
Related to how long have they been in business... it makes a difference whether or not a Web designer has been at it full time, for how long and how many staff are dedicated to Web development. It also makes a difference how many industries and types of sites the Web firm has worked on. A company that spends all of their time building the same site over and over again for the same industry with a different logo on the site may not have the experience to be effective with your company & industry.
#5 - How Many Clients Does The Firm Have? How Long Have They Been Clients?
Why? A firm with few clients should make you suspicious.
BANG!: We manage over 300 domains for our clients and on average those clients have been with us for Six years.
A website design firm with under 100, either hasn't been at it long or they aren't taking good care of the clients they do have. Asking how long on average do clients stay with the firm is very telling. Again, a small number, say less than 3 years may indicate customer satisfaction concerns.
#6 - Do They Have a Proven Web Design Process?
Why? While each new website (at least built by our team) is unique and is carefully designed to portray a clients brand and image, the process should be similar for each.
BANG!: Yes, a process fine tuned over the last 26 years while building Thousands of sites.
Experienced website designers will have a standard operating procedure or process in which they work through the design, development and deployment process.
While there are some research and development processes that must be handled first before design and content development tasks, such as keyword research for SEO purposes, a less experienced firm may put the cart before the horse and worry about design concepts before proper planning has been done.
Be sure to ask what their development process is and have them show it to you ahead of time, preferably in writing so you know what to expect. Also beware of the company promising a complete project in a short period of time. Lower-budget website builds, done by grabbing a WordPress template and swapping out the template logo for your logo and text, while quick and cheap rarely result in optimal results.
Since you'll probably be living with your site for a couple of years, it makes sense to develop slowly and strategically to make sure the finished site meets or exceeds your expectations and business goals.
Proper keyword research, site plan development to establish the site hierarchy, design concept development, and content writing take time. The entire project can take months to get to a completed, ready to launch project.
Content creation for visual content shouldn't be short changed. Choosing stock images may not take long, but if you want your brand identity to tell your brand's story, purposefully generating custom brand photography and video will go a long ways towards building a new site that you are proud of and your site visitors will love.
Do you have a new brand without an established identity? Then logo design and establishing a brand style guide should be included in the approval process as well.
What about social media? Will your designer use social media graphics to connect your website to the social media platforms you are active on?
#7 - What Are The Capabilities of The Web Firm You Are Considering Hiring?
Why? While today you may have simple needs, tomorrow may bring highly complex sites with advanced functions as your company grows. Is the designer you are considering capable of adding advanced features and functions as your needs grow? For instance you may start with a simple "brochure" site with nothing more than text and photographs describing your products or services.
BANG!: Our capabilities are extensive. We've helped small companies create their first online presence and have helped startups develop their applications from scratch. We've redesigned an existing site and connected it to Google, UPS and Authorize.net API's to enhance the capabilities of the site. We've tied the back end of websites into the customers existing ERP systems... and everything in between.
Be sure to think ahead though to future needs. Will you want to regularly communicate with your customers through an e-mail marketing system or e-newsletter?
Is the company you are considering only comfortable with basic frameworks like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla? Or do they have advanced systems that are customizable to your needs?
What about content development and writing for the site? Can they provide these services as well or will you be forced to write your own content?
Wouldn't you rather be with a company that can lead you in the right directions vs a company that you'll have to push to keep up with you?
#8 - Search Engine Optimization - Does The Website Development Company Provide SEO Services As Part of The Project?
Why? It's not enough today to have a Web site. If you don't rank on page One for keyword phrases relevant to your products and services you simply don't have an effective site. Your prospective customers may never find you.
BANG!: Yes, nearly half of our revenue is from working as an SEO company. We use an "SEO First" design process that starts with SEO keyword research... what keywords do your prospective customers search for and then we develop a game plan so that Google is convinced you are the right website to send those searches to.
Does the individual or firm you are considering for your project have a proven track record of getting their clients ranked well? Do they provide SEO services? Both technical SEO, on-page optimization and inbound link building? Or do they outsource this work to others?
Do they have case studies showing success in getting sites ranked well for generic keyword phrases (as opposed to your company name)? Do they provide a guarantee of measurable results for the site (BANG! does!)?
#9 - Mobile Site Development - How Will The Individual or Firm Handle Mobile (Smartphones & Tablets) Visitors To Your Site?
Why? Depending on the site, as much as 80% of the traffic to your site may come from mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.
BANG!: We use Google's preferred method of Responsive Web Design for our projects
How will your Web development firm handle website visitors using phones? Will they provide a responsive site that automatically adjusts to fit the screen resolution of the site visitor's device (Google's preferred method)? Or will they redirect the mobile visitors to a purpose built mobile site optimized for mobile viewing (NOT Google's preferred method?
At BANG! we practice a mobile 1st approach to design so that today's mobile visitors get an optimized experience, and we keep Google happy with the same URL for both desktop and mobile visits.
#10 Who Will Host The Site and Be Responsible When There Is a Server Issue?
Why? This area is probably the biggest differentiator between a professional firm that will take care of your every need and a lone wolf designer.
BANG!: We operate our own servers. There will never be any question as to who is responsible (we are) for the complete delivery of your site from design concept to delivery to your prospective customers.
Will your designer take care of the critical function of hosting your Web site? If they do, is it on servers they control or a 3rd party that they have little control over?
When something goes wrong (and over time it always does as servers are still mechanical devices that fail) are they in a position to effectively deal with any outage or problem and correct it as quickly as possible? Or are they at the mercy of a huge company and they are a little fish in a big pond?
What you want to avoid at all costs is a situation where your Web designer is blaming the hosting company and the hosting company is blaming the designer. In that situation you are the one stuck in the middle and will likely be in a losing position.
#11 - E-mail - Will the Individual/Firm Assist You With Corporate Branded Domain Email?
Why? We shudder every time we see a company miss the opportunity to brand themselves and improve their image when they instead us an ISP provided or free e-mail account to conduct their business.
BANG!: Yes, of course. We handle the e-mail for 90% of our clients
Will the firm you are considering provide you with e-mail addresses at your domain? Do they provide effective spam filtering and virus protection as part of that package? Will they provide support for those e-mail accounts? At BANG! the answer is Yes, yes and yes. We've been doing so since the 90's.
#12 - ADA Accessibility Can Be a Requirement in Today's World
Why? There have been many lawsuits in the fast few years of companies being sued because their website wasn't ADA compliant.
BANG!: Yes, we can take your website 95% of the way there just with our content management system. If you are after 100% compliance, we've got a solution to get you there too.
ADA Website Accessibility has gotten to be a hot topic in the last few years. Having a website that the visually impaired can navigate successfully has gotten more important.
The basics are pretty easy and can be handled through our CMS (Content Management System). Things like Alt text on images for instance is easy. Having enough contrast between the background and text is handled during design.
If you want a 100% solution we've partnered with Accessibe to use their tools as an "overlay" that takes care of that last 5%. It's an annual subscription and depending on the size of your site, can be as little as $395.
Let us know if that's a concern for you.
Bonus Question: Internet Marketing - Once The Site Is Live Will Your Web Designer Assist With Marketing You & The Site Through Other Avenues?
Why? If you truly want to harness the power of the Internet to grow your business your website may only be the starting point.
BANG!: Yes, with our 26 years of experience we know that for some clients the site is just the beginning.
There are many other ways to market your company and site. This may include implementing a Google Ads campaign or remarketing campaign, purchasing ads on relevant sites, assisting with the creation of banner ads, E-mail marketing, blogging, or social media efforts.
Do they have resources they can recommend for other marketing including print work, business consulting, or business networking groups for word-of-mouth marketing? At BANG! we've got partners we can refer you to for any marketing need. We also actively assist our clients when appropriate to join BNI to develop word of mouth referral marketing as well.
We hope these questions have given you some ammunition when exploring relationships with other Web designers. If you have questions about anything here don't be afraid to ask! You can reach us through our contact form, schedule on our calendar, or call us at 602-427-5626 ext. 1 for sales.
About the Author
Brian Rideout, Chief Pixel Pusher of BANG! Web Site Design is an industry veteran (sounds better than old guy right?) who started building websites in 1996 when dial-up, modems, Netscape, and 640 x 480 resolution monitors with 256 colors were state of the art. We very quickly adopted ColdFusion as our application server. We developed CMS (Content Management Systems) powered sites for our clients so they could update their own websites easily without having to pay a web designer to do so.
Times changed, Google became the dominant search engine, Adobe bought ColdFusion, and we switched to Lucee for our application server, which is an open-source CFML language server. We continued to build websites for small businesses in the Phoenix market. Brian's approach of SEO 1st Design has resulted in many businesses, particularly in the building trades such as contractors and plumbers, as well as law firms, ranking at the top of Google's results which keeps our customers healthy, wealthy, and profitable (you thought I was going to say wise didn't you? Ben Franklin's quote).
We continue to provide website design, website development, hosting, SEO services and digital marketing for Phoenix companies. More information about the company can be found on our About Us page. Click the following link for examples of our award winning website design work.