13 Questions you should ask a Web Designer before hiring them

With so many different Website Designers to choose from, knowing the questions to ask to feel out the good from the bad is an extremely important first step in deciding on who you choose to create a website for your business. The questions below should give you a good idea of what to expect now and into the future, and hopefully avoid unpleasant surprises after your website is launched. Any Web Designer worth their weight will have no problem answering these questions – run away fast from any Web Designer who will not or hesitates to answer any of these questions!

How much will my website cost?

This is often the most important consideration for many businesses when deciding what Web designer to use. The cost of a website will depend on a wide range of factors including the size of the site, functionality & features, hosting requirements, the content to be provided etc. There will also likely be a wide range of pricing in any prices you do obtain – more experienced Agencies and Freelance Web Designers will be the most expensive, newer or unestablished web designers will likely be the cheapest, and there is a middle ground in-between.

In comparing the upfront cost, it is really important to consider what you will get for your investment – that’s right – your website is an INVESTMENT. A well designed and developed website will become an Investment in your business, and forms a crucial component of your businesses online presence. Whilst you do not have to pay a fortune for your website, an experienced and effective Web Designer will generally be worth the investment to create a website that works for your business. A basic small business website can range anywhere from $500 up to $5,000 or more depending on who you select.

What does the website cost include?

The inclusions for the cost of your website should generally be itemized. Things like how many pages, whether hosting and domain name registration are included, any Search Engine Optimisation work allocated, design concepts allowed, warranty period, whether the site is responsive for mobile devices, email accounts included, instructions and training etc. This will sometimes be referred to as “Project Scope”. This is important as it provides a clear description to both parties as to what to what is included in the service being provided. Be aware that whilst most providers will accept small changes at no additional charge, larger changes may lead to a change in price for additional work performed that are outside of the Project Scope (otherwise known as “Scope creep”).

How long will it take to build and launch my website?

This is one of those “how long is a piece of string” questions – the timeframe will depend on many things including the complexity of the website, the design, the person’s workload, how quickly you can provide the content and images for the website etc. In my experience I have found that I am generally waiting on client’s to provide the content for the site, and this is what more times than not provides delays in the process as people underestimate the amount of time required to put together the content for a website until they need to do it. If you have your content ready, or atleast an idea of your content, this will help avoid any timely delays. Again, it could take a few days in a rush, or a few months if there are delays from either party of the project is complex.

What are the On-going Costs?

This is an important question to ask – you may find that providers who charge less to start with will have higher renewal costs for Domain Name and Hosting meaning you pay more over time than you would have if you chose a slightly more expensive provider to start with who has reasonable on-going costs. All Website designers should be able to provide a cost for your hosting (generally payable annually) and domain name renewal (generally payable every 2 years). As an idea, a .com.au domain name renewal should not be more than about $30-$40 total for 2 years, and basic hosting suitable for most small businesses can be had for a similar price.

Can I see some of your previous work?

Nearly every Web Designer should have a portfolio they can refer you to to view some of their previous work. Any web designer who does not have their own website or cannot direct you to their previous work should be avoided. Viewing a website designer’s portfolio will give you an idea of what they have produced previously, and will provide a feel about the type of work they do and their style. Do keep in mind however that whilst some designers may not have created projects similar to yours previously, it does not mean they cannot help you with your project. A discussion with the person should allow you to get an idea if they can help you meet your goal with your website or not.

Who will manage the project and who will do the design work?

This can be helpful to know who you should contact and liaise with during the Design & Development process. Agencies for example will likely have a project manager, with separate people creating the design and then developing the website, whereas smaller providers and freelancers will likely handle the whole process. Consistency in who you deal with throughout your website development is critical in ensuring the goals and messages are consistent and result in the end product you want. Communication is everything in collaborative processes like Website Design so it is important you are comfortable and confident in the provider you choose.

Do you use templates or are your websites custom designed and developed?

This question can help you decide whether you will have the flexibility you require in the look and feel of your website, as some cheaper providers may design and develop their websites from a selection of templates, and effectively just input your content and make minor changes. Whilst templates can be useful in keeping costs down in some instances, they can limit flexibility in the look and feel of the end product if the website designer is not confident making changes. Any Website Designer should be able to design and build a custom website from scratch, and whilst you may pay more for this than a template option, the flexibility and ability to make changes that may not otherwise be able to be done can mean the difference between you liking or loving your website.

Will my website look good and work well on Smartphones and Tablets?

With many people now using their mobile and tablet devices to browse online, having a website that is “Responsive” and adjusts for different screen sizes is very important – so much so that Google now may rank sites that are mobile friendly better than those that are not on mobile device search results. There are only very rare instances that a responsive website design and development would not be required, and as such, if your designer or developer is not providing this it is worth asking why as you risk alienating a substantial portion of visitors who will not be able to view your website properly and easily.

Do you outsource or use offshore designers or developers?

What is the point of hiring a local web designer if they then send your project offshore to be completed by someone else at a cheaper rate? There may be some instances where it is viable to send a portion of the work offshore to save the client some money, but generally all of the work should be completed locally by the person you’ve hired unless otherwise stated and agreed to. This ensures you have a local contact if anything happens with the website, and just makes the process easier than having to correspond to someone overseas or waiting for your developer to resolve any issues through them.

Will I be able to make changes to the website in the future?

A lot of businesses will often want to make changes to their website, whether it be adding/changing photos, changing pricing, wording on pages, updating contact details, adding new product details etc. This can be done one of two ways – the developer does it for you and you likely incur some cost, or the website is developed using a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow you to make certain updates yourself. There will generally be no difference in the look of the site using one method over the other, but the flexibility of being able to change certain aspects on the website without having to go back to the developer appeals to a lot of people these days. If you wish to be able to make changes and the designer isn’t using a CMS, ask why.

What happens if you disappear or I want to change provider?

In an ideal world, Website Designers and their clients maintain a long & happy relationship. If something goes wrong however, such as the original designer no longer being able to perform work for you, or you not being happy with their service and wanting to take your business elsewhere, the question of ease of transferring the site and its components elsewhere is an important one.

Things like website login details (to logon to the site itself if using a CMS), FTP & CPANEL details, and hosting account details become important and will be required to take your website elsewhere, and this information should be shared between the parties in case things change in the future. Depending on what platform the designer has created the website on, it may be easy or difficult/impossible to take your website elsewhere. In the case that your website is developed using a CMS, ask the provider what platform they have used – if it is their own custom platform, it may be difficult to move your site. If it is a common CMS like WordPress, or Joolma, finding someone who can take over the site will generally be easy. This leads us to the next question.

Will my domain name and hosting account be registered in my name

Some shady providers will register domain names in their own name, in an attempt to require the client to stay with them. All domain names should be registered in YOUR business name, using your ABN. It is normal for your Website Designer to be listed as a contact, but you should own the domain name. If you choose to move, you may be required to contact the original developer to obtain a domain name password (also known as EPP code) to allow you to move the domain name, which they should provide. For hosting, it can normally be setup in either your own name and account, or may be established on your behalf using an existing account they have with their provider which allows them to obtain better rates. If it is done through your developers account, you should request all of the relevant login details to CPANEL, which will allow you to obtain the website files and settings down the track should you require them.

What are your charges for service and support?

Once your website is completed, you may need additional work performed by your web developer, and it is worth knowing what their hourly rate and billing increments that will be charged for such work. Some providers may have a “support plan” in place where you pay a certain amount for the year and receive Support as required, whereas others will just bill on an “as required” basis.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this has provided you with some useful information to help in making the decision of what website designer to hire for your project. Asking the above questions will give you an excellent understanding and feel for any developers or designers you contact. For me, the most important part of the Web Design process is Communication – if everyone is on the same page from the beginning, it makes the process much easier and results in a website that you are happy with and no nasty surprises along the way!

Should you have any questions about any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact me, or comment below.

Thanks for taking the time to read this entry!

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