Questions to ask a web designer before you hire them

No one cares as much about your business as you do. It's your livelihood, your passion and it's down to you to make it work. In the early stages you'll be needing a website to increase exposure, showcase products or services and tell the world what it is you offer. You'll also need the right questions to ask a web designer.

Questions to ask a web designer before you hire them
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Ensuring your site is right from the off is an important decision and choosing a web designer to whom you’ll entrust your business’ online presence is something that needs careful consideration. Having a clear idea of what your website is actually for is vital but ensure you have some basic understanding of the right questions to ask at your initial enquiry to a web designer. Here goes…

Can I see some examples of your work?

I am usually asked this if a potential client has come on recommendation. All web designers will have a portfolio on their website of recent or selected work. Ask for the web address, take time to check over their work and ensure that there is a wide variety of designs, styles and types. A wide range suggests versatility and that the designer designs for the business. If the work samples look similar to each other it may suggest a reliance on pre-made themes and making the business fit the template.

What if I don’t like the design?

Ordinarily, web designers will produce a ‘mock’ of what your website will look like before anything is built. Usually a series of flat images created on design software, like Photoshop, this design is vital for many reasons: it is the result of the actual concept of your site encompassing all your ideas, your target market, the websites objectives which should have been determined at the beginning of the project and will give you an idea of how your business will be seen by the world. If you have seen the designer’s portfolio and liked it, there’s a good chance you’ll like what they produce for you but always ask how many redrafts you’re allowed and the cost implications.

Who will design and build my site?

Depending on the size of the company your project may be passed around any number of people. Sometimes one person will handle the whole project from beginning to end, sometimes it will be passed from project manager to designer to developer. If a few people are going to be involved you need to know who your point of contact will be and will they be able to answer all your questions and queries throughout the project without referring you onto someone else?

Who will write all the content and find the images?

Content is king and is the single most important thing if you want to keep visitors on your website. Written content and images should be included as part of the initial concept and design of the site. The tone, quantity and message should be woven into the initial mock as it should influence the actual design. It pays to have some, if not all, of your content pretty much ready at design stage. Unless you’re a confident or professional writer it may be necessary to seek the advice of someone who’s in the know. Ask the web designer for help if you think you need it as the quality of the copy and images will determine whether your website succeeds or fails in its objectives. Similarly with images, everyone can spot a poor photo which on a beautifully designed site will stick out like a sore thumb and be a real turn-off. There’s more about website images in an article I wrote last year.

How long will it take to build?

This all depends on how complex the project is. Some projects are quicker than others but make sure you get a rough date if you’re at your first meeting. After the initial meeting the web designer should send you a proposal or project scope so make sure milestone dates for each stage are included and also make sure that what is needed from you, the client (e.g. content, images, testimonials, etc), is ready for the designer at the agreed date. Delays is providing content inevitably results in the project running over time.

What about getting high up on Google?

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is important and somewhat of an obsession. You need to be as high as possible but many factors come into consideration: the age of the site, the visits it gets, how well built it is, how much competition you have, etc. But, make sure you ask your web designer about SEO because they should know. There’s a lot that should be done during the website build process to maximise your search engine position so ask them what they will do to achieve this. Dedicated SEO is a different full time job after a site is launched, such as link building and stats analysis, and it may be something that your web designer doesn’t offer but they should know someone to whom you can be referred. Remember that your designer is not necessarily responsible for your search engine position unless they give you some kind of guarantee. More about SEO here.

Who looks after my site after it’s launched?

Content Management Systems (CMS), such as WordPress, allow clients to maintain their websites themselves. Some prefer to do this whilst others would rather the web designer looks after it. If you want full control ask if the site can be built using a CMS. Alternatively, if you want the designer to maintain the site ask how much a monthly maintenance plan is going to cost in order for them to do it.

How much is a website?

DO NOT ask this question first! It’s like asking an estate agent, “How much is a house?” or a motor trader “How much is a car?” before you’ve given any requirements.  There’s going to be a wide range of factors that influence cost and the designer will need to know as much about your business and website objectives as possible in order to arrive at an accurate quote. If they do give you a cost immediately then it’s an indicator that they may not necessarily be building your site to meet your objectives as discussed above. A figure should not be plucked out of the air. Now, I know that cost is the BIG question, but be patient and give the designer the information they need to arrive at a proper quote. These are just eight important questions to ask but the trick is to ask as many as possible. It’s vital that you and your designer understand each other in order for your website to be a success. The more information each of you have, the higher the likelihood that your website will succeed.

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