Hiring a web design agency is one of the most important tasks you’ll face as a business owner. Whether you’re designing a brand new website for your business for the very first time or redesigning an existing one, the web designer you decide to hire will dictate your website’s success. No pressure, right?
Of course, hiring the ideal web design company who understands your specific company needs and goals comes with a great deal of pressure. With so many options of web design companies, both locally and globally, it can become overwhelming determining which one is the right fit for your business. For this reason, the best approach is to use a thorough hiring process. Just like hiring a new employee, choosing a web design firm involves interviewing, reviewing performance results, requesting a portfolio of their work and checking references.
So how do you know if a web design agency is a good fit for your business?
The key is to ask the right questions. Once you do your due diligence, the answer will become clear as to which web design firm best grasps your vision, your objectives, and the path they’ll need to take for your success. The initial consultation also gives the potential web design company a chance to ask questions and get to know your business, your target audience and the objectives for the website so they can apply their expertise in developing a plan to help you achieve your online business goals.
To help you with your interviewing preparations, here are 12 essential questions to ask before hiring a web designer:
1. What are your working hours and where are you based?
It used to be advantageous to search “website designers near me” but now with more people working from home and growing technology, location isn’t as crucial as fit. We work for clients who aren’t local but we always operate in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Western European Time (UTC). This is an important consideration because if you hire a company several time zones away, you may be transacting business when you should be relaxing or even sleeping.
Also, make sure that the language spoken aligns with your website content writing needs. The last thing you need is the added complexity of miscommunication because of language differences, inferences or different cultural references.
Needless to say, meet your designer before hiring them. Schedule a call via phone or a virtual call or if you’re both local, meet up in person to set your project up for success.
2. Will you look at my current website before designing a new one?
If you have an existing site, ask your potential web designer if they will look it over. If they won’t or say they don’t need to, that’s a red flag.
It’s necessary for a designer and developer to see what you’ve been working with, your history, and your future goals in order to strategise a rebuild / rebrand.
Small websites (1-10 pages) are pretty straightforward to review and give general verbal feedback on. If your website is in the medium-large size range (10+ pages), you may want to request the designer provide you with a site audit/analysis or at the very least feedback of your current site to learn about their thought process and ideas.
Remember: a digital company who is genuinely interested in helping you get what you need, won’t convince you to build a new website if making a few tweaks to your current site is all you need.
3. Do you have a portfolio and/or client testimonials?
Like the question above, any answer other than “yes” should raise major red flags. A web designer or developer should be ready and eager to highlight their best work and happiest clients. Your business’ website isn’t an investment that should be made haphazardly – if a potential colleague / supplier isn’t able to provide you with examples of successful previous work, there’s a chance it doesn’t exist.
Many design companies showcase their work on their website and social media accounts, so make sure to take a look at their previous client work, and take note of the design styles and user experience. Some companies only put a select few featured projects on their website so if you want to see more of their work just ask!
4. Do you offer services other than web design?
If your web design agency has graphic and logo design skills, content writing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies, and marketing experience that means they will be able to build a high-performing website that will generate leads.
It’s important your website is built to be a marketing machine – not just a beautiful site that no one ever visits.
Digital Agencies and web designers usually offer additional services that your business probably needs such as logo design, content writing, brand photography, video or sound editing, social media graphics, etc. Ask them what they can offer! Or better yet, tell them what you need.
5. How will my website generate leads?
With so much focus being put on the overall look of your new website, it’s easy to forget to discuss its functionality as it relates to your goals. After all, how beneficial is the world’s most beautiful website if it isn’t designed in a way that turns visitors into customers?
While going over the layout and strategy behind your proposed new website, ask your potential web designer to show you how your new website will be optimised to generate and capture leads. Don’t forget: your website should be one of your most important digital marketing sales tools. So ask them…
- How will the website convert website visitors into leads and generate more sales?
- What strategies will you use?
- Can you integrate or develop my marketing strategy?
6. Are your websites built to be mobile-friendly?
An estimated 72% of the world’s population will access the internet solely via smartphone by 2025. If your website isn’t optimised for mobile viewing by now, you’re already missing out on a massive pool of potential customers. Mobile-friendly web design is a non-negotiable in this day and age – one that is responsive across devices to provide the same viewing experience on any sized screen. Your customers will thank you, and Google will too.
Here is an easy way to tell if the website is responsive: Open the website in a browser window > Adjust the size of the browser window > Look at the content on the page and see if it’s moving along with the size of the browser. If the content is not adjusting, it’s not responsive.
7. What if I don’t like the final design?
Even if you’ve been involved in the design process every step of the way, there’s still a chance that something about the final design still feels off when you see it all working. And that’s okay! You understand your vision for your website better than anyone, and you should make it known if you see anything that you don’t like or want tweaked. The question then becomes finding out how many edits are available to you in your web design package. Some web designers allow a set number of edits, others an unlimited amount, and some none at all without an additional fee. Know what you are getting into ahead of time, especially if you are someone with a sharp eye for the fine details, or like our manager, have OCD.
8. Can you build an e-commerce site?
The design of an e-commerce site differs from a brochure website. If you’re planning on building an e-commerce store, carve out some time to discuss the functionality – the opportunities and limitations – get a better idea of what is available vs. what you want and need for your business.
Ask your web designer if your CMS supports online stores and accepts online payments. Certain payment processors only accept certain types of currency and transactions. Does the proposed payment gateway accept individual transactions as well as subscriptions?
It’s also important to ask about the in-person point of sale and if that syncs with online sales. You want to be able to manage the online store yourself or have a dedicated store manager for the job. E-commerce can be a big undertaking depending on your inventory and stock levels, shipping process, taxes, commerce policies, emails funnels, etc.
If you aren’t ready to add products or create a store just yet but want to in future, then make sure your website will be capable of adding an online store when you are ready. Otherwise, you would need to build another site and link to it your main site, or start again. And who wants that?
9. Should I provide content for the website? Or will you help me?
There’s no denying the importance of content as it relates to your web design. After all, the images on a website hold far less meaning without words there to add context. The content on your website serves to educate, inform and entertain your readers. It also plays a huge role in your SEO efforts, giving search engines something to read and index. For this reason, it’s important to iron out the details of your content strategy. Will you be providing your own content, or will your web designer be creating it for you? While you may know your business inside and out – can you convey it with clarity and confidence on your website?
Website writing, brand voice, academic writing, book writing, and blog writing are all different disciplines. It’s very important you are working with a writer who knows how to and specifically writes for websites and keeps page hierarchy, SEO, keywords, meta descriptions in mind.
The content on your website is just as important as the design – don’t forget to iron out this detail!
10. How long will it take to build my website? And who will be working on it?
Communication is key to a successful business-designer relationship. Some web designers may work on each piece of your website independently, while others may have a team of graphic designers, writers, and programmers within their team to divide the work based on their specialties. No matter the case, you should have a clear understanding of who your point person will be throughout the duration of your web design project. This may be the designer themselves, or it may be another member of their team who handles client interactions.The last thing you want to do is muddle communications by playing a long game of phone tag until you reach the right person – especially when it comes to something as important as your website.
Depending on the scale of your website, there are different expectations to have in regards to turnaround time. This should be discussed prior to any design of the website, so that both the team and the client are on the same page. It’s important to note that any projected timeline given during your consultation is simply an estimate, not a guarantee. Unforeseen circumstances can arise at any time, slowing down the design process. Look for a web designer who promises an open line of communication should any setbacks arise that change your projected launch date.
11. Who owns and hosts the site? And am I tied to you?
This is quite a biggy. Most clients think they own their website and they can do what they want with it. A lot of agencies try to tie you in by using their own unique software to create your website and will happily host it for you, but if you try to move it elsewhere or ask another designer to make changes, you may find out that you can’t move it away and only they can make the changes/updates. It makes great business sense for them, but it’s not great for you!
But not all agencies do this – there are many who stick to best practice and build in the style that’s best for you and your business. At Rokir Media, we can support you from start to finish, including your hosting, but you are not entitled to stay with us. All our websites are made to fit the purpose of your site (e.g. WordPress, Laravel, Ruby on Rails etc.) and can be edited by your inhouse team and other agencies.
It’s important that your agency gives you the flexibility you need to support your business however you want. Once the website is paid for as agreed in the proposal, the website belongs to you, the client. Your website can be moved to another web host (or indeed it can be hosted elsewhere right from the start, not a problem). If at any time you wish to move away from our services, we will be more than happy to help with the move and talk to whoever you need us to.
12. What do you need from me before you get started?
This question is music to any web designer’s ears! And if your web designer is able to provide you with a list of materials they’ll need in order to start your project, it should be music to yours too. Supply your web designer with any branding elements they may need to bring your new website to life, such as fonts, colours, and images. It’s also beneficial to send over links to other websites with design elements you like. The more you are able to provide, the easier it will be for your web designer to understand your vision and keep your project on track.