Thinking about a website upgrade? If you’re considering one or more companies to tackle your website redesign, or even build one from scratch, here are some helpful questions to ask. Your website is a virtual storefront to your business—make sure you’re in the best hands.
1.) Can I see your references and portfolio of websites?
Reason: You’re going to need to see the goods before you pay. If a company doesn't already have a showcase of their work, that’s a pretty big red flag. This could mean that the company doesn't have good references from their clients and could even mean that they aren’t proud of their work. Seeing their portfolio will play a big part in deciding if their skillset is what you're business deserves.
2.) How do I know that you understand mobile?
Reason: Mobile responsiveness is a necessity now. Even Google has updated their algorithms to reflect the growing use of mobile devices for search engines. When you prospect web design companies, you need to make sure that they understand the importance of mobile when designing and developing websites. You can normally tell by certain keywords, such as “responsive design,” “mobile-first,” or “mobile-friendly.” They may offer what many call “m dot” websites, which means it’s a redirect from your desktop site to an m. domain. This normally comes with seconds worth of lag, which can severely impact your site and visitors. Add some bonus points if your web design company also creates mobile apps, because this is a good indicator that they fully understand the mobile experience.
3.) Do you install and handle web analytics?
Reason: You want your site ready to go when you launch. Analytics setup is can be immensely helpful to your business before going live; you don’t want to miss out on key analytics and visitor information from your website. Not only does analytics setup save the pain of missing metrics, but it also removes the headache of you personally compiling your analytical information to present to your boss. If the web design company you're talking to doesn't install and handle analytics, they may have a trustworthy partner company who does.
4.) Do you do your design and development in-house?
Reason: If they do one or the other, not both, this could lead to problems down the road. It’s best to have both the design and development of your website done in the same place. This allows the project process to be smooth and connected. There are many problems that can come up if their work is outsourced to other countries. Offshoring also adds more degrees of separation between your contact at the company and the people who actually do the work, which means there are more chances for miscommunication. Companies that send the work offshore for lower rates may end up costing your company more money and headaches in the long run.
5.) Have you done other projects where you’ve worked within strict branding guidelines?
Reason: If your business has a well-established visual identity, it is very important to keep that recognition in your new website design. You don’t want to risk users thinking they’ve gone to the wrong website because it doesn’t “look and feel” like you. Your brand is a big part of what sets your company apart from your competitors and a good designer will take care to emphasize its uniqueness. Do you like the feel of your web design company's brand through their own website? If not, you may want to move on to the next choice.
6.) Will you work with a CMS (Content Management System) so that I can control my own content?
Reason: Nothing’s worse than having a website that you can’t add content or make updates to. If your web design company won’t work with a CMS, it can end up feeling like they’re holding you hostage. You will have to work with the company to add simple updates like content changes or new imagery. This can end up putting holds on time-sensitive releases and information.
7.) How do your websites rank for UX (User Experience)?
Reason: The internet is filled with websites of all shapes, sizes, and content. The problem is that many of these websites aren’t user-friendly. How many times have you gone to a website, only to be turned away by confusing menus and unclickable buttons? It’s important to give your users what they want, easily. If UX isn’t considered, you risk frustrating your visitors, or worse, turning your users away and toward a competitor.
8.) Do you create responsive websites?
Reason: The company may respond to question two stating that they understand mobile and how important it is to your business. The truth is that many companies will say that they do “mobile design,” but that might mean creating a small, standalone mobile website for their clients as a redirect. Normally called an “m dot site,” these sites serve as redirects from the actual website. This can lead to inconsistent user experience with your website, redirect lag, and more problems for users on your website. Creating a responsive website keeps the brand engagement consistent across devices, making sure your customers and clients have a great experience on desktop and mobile. Should you switch to responsive design?
9.) Do you host websites?
Reason: It’s much better to have a company that can also host your website on its own servers. This lets you make sure you aren’t being subjected to a slim amount of bandwidth and can actually get an answer from someone if your site goes down. If you host the website yourself from a separate hosting company, it can be difficult to make and push changes to the website, get website support, and can put holds on the development process.
10.) Do you keep SEO in mind when creating websites? How do I know?
Reason: SEO is the main driver for traffic to your website. If a company installs and handles analytics, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they keep SEO in mind when creating the website. You want to make sure that the web design company you choose understands the importance of coding for content and making sure that all of your meta tags, descriptions, and even images are SEO-ready. As a bonus, ask for some of their best ranking keywords to search for proof.
If the company you’re considering hiring to create a new website has great answers to these questions, you should be in great hands. Remember, your company website is a vital investment for your business’ success, hire wisely!