6 Questions to Ask Your Web Design Agency

If you are considering a new website for your business, choose carefully.

Your website is the centerpiece of your sales and marketing efforts. Even if you don’t visit your website often, you can bet prospects, recent acquaintances and members of your network certainly do.

The language of web development can be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with terms like “wireframes,” “hosting” and “responsive design.” To make things more complicated, you might receive a wide range of estimates from different web design agencies. How do you know who’s offering what? Here are a few questions to ask your prospective first choice before signing on.

1. Where will my website live?

Unless you are a large organization requiring a high level of security, your website will likely live on a shared server. But, it’s important to know how many companies are sharing the server, as one website’s vulnerabilities on the server could potentially affect your site.

If you opt for one of the many wholesale web hosting companies (like a GoDaddy or Yahoo) you may have a hard time getting service or support. We set up our own private server and we only host our clients’ websites. Although we have many clients, the numbers–and therefore the risks–are much smaller than a public server with millions of users.

2. Why such a price variance?

Website “templates” are prepackaged designs that make it easy to build a site with little to no input, at a low cost. While templates are great for hobbyists, they do not provide the flexibility of a custom-coded website. If you receive a website estimate for $3k and another estimate for $30k, it’s safe to assume that the former will be built off of a template, while the latter will involve deep strategy and customization.

3. What does “responsive” really mean?

There was a time when “responsive design”–meaning a website “responds” to different devices by automatically reconfiguring for optimal viewing–was a differentiator for advanced developers. Today, responsive design is usually a given – but not all responsive websites are created equal. With more than half of all websites viewed on mobile devices, you want to make sure your images, headers and other website features are not just resizing, but resizing accurately. A highly customized website will pay more mind to responsive design than one that relies on the out-of-the-box reconfiguration.

4. Do I need a brand website or a marketing website?

There is a big difference between a website built to be used as a point of presence and one designed to power your ongoing marketing. Search engine optimization, content strategy and user experience are essential for businesses that want to use their new website as a launchpad for growth. These facets are not typically included in low-end estimates.

5. What about the messaging?

Copy is one of the most undervalued aspects of a website, but it’s arguably the most important. Very few web design agencies have a copywriter on staff, or even on contract. In fact, many will leave you to your own devices to find a writer or write your web copy yourself. When you see that an agency has included interviewing your stakeholders and writing copy in their proposal, it’s a clear sign that they are offering more than a plug-and-play template website.

6. How do I maintain my website after its built?

A website is just like a car or home in that it requires constant upkeep in order to remain in top shape. Consider inquiring about a small monthly maintenance package to keep your site from “breaking.” You can learn more about the importance of ongoing web maintenance in this article.

Above all, be open and upfront with your budget, and expect your agency to be the same with their capabilities and pricing. Finding the right match, knowing what you’re paying for, and entering a contract with confidence are all paramount to a successful outcome.