Let’s be honest, the process of hiring a web design agency isn’t fun.
The good thing is if you’ve decided to hire an agency in the first place, you’re already headed in the right direction, and you’ve avoided the two most common pitfalls:
Bad Referrals: “My cousin can help you out, I heard he’s pretty good with that web stuff”.
Do-It-Yourself Builders: “You don’t need a pro, you can build your own site”
So you’ve done well up until this point. Now, the real work begins: picking the right agency.
You are probably thinking, “How do I know what agency is the right one for me?
Fortunately, there are some questions that can help you determine if the agency you are considering will be a good fit for you.
In this post, I will give you 15 questions to ask your potential web-design agency to guide you in the selection process.
Armed with these questions, you will be better prepared to pick an agency that will work well for you.
Let’s get to it!
1. What is your web design philosophy?
A good agency should be able to tell you how they approach web design in a few simple words. For example, at The Ocean Agency, our philosophy revolves around simple and clean web design, and that is the first thing you will see on our website. If an agency can’t clearly articulate what they do and what sets them apart, it will be tough for them to do it for you.
2. What is your web-design process?
Everyone knows the saying “practice makes perfect,” and that’s definitely true, but when it comes to web design I like to say “process makes perfect.” In order to build a great website an agency should a well-defined process that they can easily explain. It’s important to know when and how you fit into that process as well.
3. How much will the website cost?
Most agencies charge a hourly rate that can vary based on experience and size of the organization. The hourly rate and the total estimated number of hours for the project should be clearly stated in the contract. Also, make sure you understand what additional costs you will face if more hours are needed to complete the work. You should only be charged more money if you ask for something additional/not covered in the scope of the contract.
4. Will my website utilize a Content Management System (CMS)?
Having a content management system is very important if you plan to make any changes to the website yourself. A CMS allows you to log in to an interface and edit certain areas of your website on your own. If the agency has its own proprietary CMS, I would be cautious because you will be stuck with them for the life of the website. A better choice is a popular open-source CMS such as WordPress, due to the ease of use and the large availability of developers who know how to use it.
5. How long will my project take to complete?
Again, the answer will vary depending on both the size of the agency and the size of your project. The agency should have detailed timeline line of every phase of the project from start to finish.
6. What kind of turnaround on communication can I expect?
I’ve heard time and again from clients that it was nearly impossible to get a hold of someone from the agency they hired. An agency should be able to outline for you a suitable timeframe for your project — as well as respond to emails and calls in a timely manner.
**Tip** If the agency is slow to reply during the sales process, they will be even slower once the contract is signed.
7. Can I contact a few former or current web-design clients?
This is tricky one, but it’s still worth a try. Obviously the agency will connect you with clients who will say great things about them. The trick is to dive deeper and ask specifics about their experience.
8. What will my responsibilities be as the client?
It’s probably safe to say that you will be more of an expert in your business than the we-design agency. They will undoubtedly need your input to design the best website possible for you. A few common tasks you may be asked to do include, filing out a discovery questionnaire, setting aside times for meetings, and providing approvals on work.
You may also want to ask:
How many meetings will I have to attend?
How long will each meeting be?
What is the approval process?
9. What are some common challenges that can arise during a project?
The best way to avoid a pitfall is know that it exists before you encounter it. Two challenges I’ve seen on regular basis are content creation and momentum. If you are responsible for creating the content for the site, then you need a detailed plan to make sure you can deliver it to the agency in a timely manner. Momentum can be a project killer as well. I’ve seen 6-week projects easily go 6 months due to lack of momentum. If a deadline is missed, a new, feasible date should be set right as soon as possible.
10. Who will be working on my project?
The answer will vary depending on both the size of the agency and the size of your project. Regardless, you should always have a knowledgeable main point of contact who will be able to answer questions and keep you updated on progress.
Other questions you might want to consider:
How many people will be working on my project?
Who will be my main point of contact?
Is all the work completed in-house?
What are the qualifications of the most senior person?
11. Who owns the website when it is completed?
If the answer is not you, then run away as fast as you can. You should own the design and be able to make any edits to the website that you like. I’ve heard nightmare stories of clients being stuck in limbo because the agency that built the site claimed ownership of it as well.
12. What happens to the relationship after the project is completed?
This is always a very common concern for clients. Ongoing maintenance packages have pretty much been an industry standard for years. Although, with the rise of more user-friendly content-management systems like WordPress, I have seen a shift in the practice. Clients are now more empowered than ever to make changes to the site on their own.
Other questions you should ask:
Do you offer maintenance packages?
What if my site gets hacked?
How easy will it be for me to make website updates on my own?
13. What can I do to be the best client possible?
This question will help you win the hearts and minds of everyone in the agency. The client/agency relationship is just like any other relationship: You get out what you put in. If you hire an agency for you project, then be ready to provide them with what they need to be successful.
14. What other services do you offer?
All agencies are not created equal. Some have a singular focus on web design and others claim to do everything imaginable. It’s best to know all the services an agency offers and the levels of expertise they have in each digital-marketing channel. It’s not enough to have a shiny, new website; rather you also need a plan to drive traffic to it. If you don’t, it’s like throwing a big party without inviting guests. So common complimentary services that are sometimes offered include: search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click marketing (PPC), email marketing, and graphic design.
15. What else should I be doing online?
Web design is just one of the elements of a successful digital-marketing mix. A good agency will be able to guide you on the other channels that will help you succeed online. If they are not experienced in a certain area, they should be able to refer you to someone who is.
The vetting process can be a bit time-consuming and a little stressful, but it’s definitely important. If you choose the wrong agency, it will not only be painful but costly as well.
Using these 15 questions, it should be a lot easier to determine if the web-design agency you are considering is a good fit for you.
Do you have additional questions that could be helpful that I didn’t cover? Share them in the comment section below.