Questions to ask a Web Design Agency
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In searching for a web design agency for your business you might find yourself confronted with an embarrassment of riches. There are literally thousands of companies throughout the country offering web design and development services. The rates vary wildly and there are a plethora of additional services that might be offered in combination.
Choosing the right web design agency for your project should start with drawing up a shortlist of companies with the appropriate skills. You can build such a shortlist through recommendations, web searches and quote comparison sites like Approved Index. But once you have such a shortlist how do you choose between the different web design agencies on it?
The following list of questions to ask web design agencies should help.
1. Can I see a portfolio of your work?
One of the most important factors in choosing a web designer is how closely the design sensibility of the designer matches your own. If the previous work of the company is dominated by a look and feel that wouldn't be appropriate to your brand then it's probably wise to look elsewhere.
Portfolios are often readily available on web design agencies own websites – if they don't publicise their work on their site it might be worth asking why not.
2. Do you have any relevant experience?
If the web design agency has worked in the same, or a similar, field to that of your business in the past then they're more likely to understand your aims and objectives and the challenges you face. They're also likely to have the necessary technical skills to deliver websites with the features suitable to your industry (e.g. ecommerce skills for retail).
Ask to see examples of work relevant to your industry and judge it by the standards of your target audience.
3. Have you delivered this kind of website before?
If you're looking for an ecommerce website then you'll want to hire a company that's built one before. The same goes for a portfolio website, one with a large database or one that offers major interactivity. Look for examples of work that are similar to what you want to deliver to your users.
4. What are the major challenges you see arising from my brief?
The brief you've provided hasn't been written by a web design expert. The delivery of everything you've asked for will inevitably throw up problems and complications. The web design agency should be able to identify these sticking points quickly and suggest solutions or alternative approaches.
5. What software do you use for content management/ecommerce?
It's likely that rather than developing your online shop or content management website from scratch the design agency will use an underlying software format like Magento or Drupal for delivering standard elements of such websites. Research each of the platforms that are mentioned – those which are more popular will allow for greater flexibility when it comes to changing the website in the future. Beware proprietary software (i.e. software written and copyrighted by the company themselves) as it will lock you into using the same agency for all future work on this design.
6. Who will own the copyright for my website?
Make sure that you'll end up with complete ownership of the copyright on all website content, images and design elements like logos etc.
7. Can you write the content for my website?
If you're not able to write the copy for the website in-house you'll need to outsource it. A web design agency might be able to take care of this for you: they might have copywriters on the payroll or a pool of writers they commission for such work.
8. Do you offer ongoing support for my site?
If they do then check whether they charge a monthly fee or an hourly rate when problems arise. Is the web design agency available to respond to your problems quickly.
9. Can you provide references, reviews or testimonials from previous clients?
In the history of a well established agency a client must have put something down in writing about them at some point. As well as the glowing references the company provide, be sure to search online for any negative reviews that might point up potential weaknesses or bad tendencies like missing deadlines or being hard to get hold of.
10. Will our contract provide guarantees that protect me from unseen hitches and problems?
Bugs and glitches might not be apparent until after the launch of the website. Your website designer should guarantee to fix any such errors at no additional cost.
11. What is the payment schedule and are you happy to work to milestones?
You probably won't be comfortable paying a large lump sum up front for work of this nature. On a large project though a web designer might not be happy with delivering big chunks of work without payment. You could arrange a payment schedule based oin definite milestones e.g. £x to be paid after design of log, £y to be paid upon delivery of wireframe, £z upon completion of usable demo etc.
Lastly: A Question to Ask Yourself
12. How good is the web design agencies' communication?
Communication between yourselves and the website designers has to be excellent if the project is to be a success. Through asking and gaining answers to the above questions you should get a feel for whether the potential designers are enthusiastic about your project, respond to queries in a timely manner, talk about your project in plain English or hide behind jargon and how close their conception of your website is to your vision.
A website is so important to the success of a business these days that you should only entrust a company that can satisfy you with answers to all the above questions.