When it comes to what questions to ask your website designer, it’s important you know what to ask and what to look out for. In today’s digitally focused consumer marketplace, your website can make or break the success of any digital campaign. The problem is, when it comes to such a widely expansive creative process, developing your website - alone or with the help of a website designer - can either be a dream or a nightmare.
We want to make sure it’s the former. So, to help make sure of that, we’ve written up this quick 15 minute read to help walk you through what essential questions you should be asking your website designer. And, to go one step further, we’ll also discuss a few common bottlenecks that plague so many client-website designer relationships (and how to remedy them).
So let’s get started with why you would even need a web designer/developer in the first place.
We all know the feeling of when you see an outdated website and feel sorry for the brand it’s meant to represent. This is the most obvious case of needing a new website. But there are more signs for needing a new website than just a cringey user experience.
Beyond the usual signs of an out of date website such as grainy photos, old school designs, lackluster/text-heavy pages, and simply not representing your current brand, there are some actual quantifiable metrics that can highlight your need for a new website as well. Metrics such as:
These metrics point to two things: First) a general lack of performance where it really matters, and Second) they show that even if your marketing campaigns are successfully generating traffic, the destination you’re sending your potential leads is failing to convert. Either way, your website is a flop. And you need a new one, pronto.
Here’s where so many companies today run up against a tough decision. Do you take the time and resources trying to fix your existing website to maintain “brand consistency? Or do you invest the money (and trust) in someone else’s ability to build you a new website from scratch?
Whichever way you choose to go, here’s one crucial piece of advice:
“It is now inherent in the collective [sub]conscious of the everyday consumer that if a business doesn’t have a [high quality] website and a Facebook page, then it’s not a real business.”
Where the website and digital marketing campaigns of a few years ago used to set brands apart from their “old school” competition, nowadays it’s just considered basic practice. Your website isn’t impressing anyone just by existing. It’s not only expected to be there, it’s expected to be awesome. So failing to live up to the standard is not only missing out on new customers… it’s costing you existing customers right now.
This is why knowing which questions to ask your website designer is so important. To make the most of your new website, you need to make sure that your designer not only is up to snuff, but will also be able to appropriately match your brand and vibe to the design and functionality of the website.
So, to make sure you’re properly armed with the right questions to ask, let’s dive into these 15 key questions to ask your web designer/developer.
The first and most urgent question you’re going to want to ask is “what’s this build going to cost me?” So, let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way before we get started with the real distinguishing questions.
The only thing you need to remember when it comes to ‘the money question’ is that they need to be able to explain their pricing to you clearly and concisely. It should already be a red flag if you’ve done your comparative research and find that your prospective web designer is quoting you for far more than their competition. But sometimes the extra buck gets you your extra bang.
However, what’s more important is that they can explain why they’re charging what they’re charging. If they can’t explain to you where their expenses and pricing comes from, chances are that they’re trying to take you for a ride.
Once you dive into the actual build you’re going to need to figure out just how many pages you’re going to need to build for your specific domain. Now, here’s something that’s important to remember:
Don’t just add on pages to the build list for the sake of having more pages. Communicate with your designer and agree on a site plan that makes sense according to your keyword strategy, conversion funnel, and desired user experience.
Many website design payment plans include the number of pages in the final quote, so be wary of a potential agency that is willing to stack on any number of pages for seemingly any reason - again they might be hiking up your build just for the sake of hiking up the price.
Keep your pages and your site architecture focused on what matters, and don’t add any unnecessary pages or navigation that isn’t necessary to the conversion. Stuffing your site with unnecessary pages will not only hike up your build prices, but will also end up confusing your users and taking them off track.
As soon as you start considering this potential agency or designer as a serious candidate, you should ask to see some of their example work. Not only will this give you a better look into what kind of designs they usually employ and what quality to expect, but it can also alert you to a suspicious red flag.
If the prospective hire isn’t willing to share with you their past work, you can bet that one of two things is going on. Either:
Depending on how adept your website design team is, they may be able to take on certain other aspects of your new website development beyond just design and build out.
Asking if they’re able to take on more specific tasks like the on-page copy and SEO for your site is a great way to test the knowledge base of your potential partner while also getting the most bang for your buck.
It’s also important to figure out where exactly all the content for your new website is going to be coming from. Even if your designer is able to completely revolutionize your brand and site with a new build, it isn't going to matter if you're using your old dry content and old grainy photos.
Your entire brand needs to step up cohesively. From the smallest icons and images to the most prominent headlines and animations. When your consumers are as scrutinizing as the average digital shopper, everything matters.
Don’t let one ugly toenail ruin your entire makeover.
One question that we often hear from our newer clients is if we can make them a new logo or not. While this isn’t something that we thought we would need to address as often as we do, we’ve found that many brands who are investing in a digital makeover are in fact investing in an entire brand makeover. Which means that they’ll need a new logo to match their sleek new site.
Now, not every agency is going to be as adaptable as we are (wink wink).
But it’s important that if you’ve decided to change your logo, you communicate with your logo designer and website design to ensure they share compatible views of what your brand looks like and how it should be represented visually.
As I mentioned earlier, a website developer who can apply other digital marketing skills to your build can be a blessing (but also a curse). Someone who is willing to implement the extra tactics that your brand specifically needs to help improve your site is a great partner to have. But someone who is trying to force extra services down your throat isn’t someone who you need to trust with your business.
Hiring a digital agency or developer who is also skilled in SEO can be a huge asset. Building your site architecture and back end code with technical SEO in mind can give you a huge leg up in the organic traffic generation game. If you’ve optimized your site for the right keywords in the right way from the get go you’ll be set up for success from the very moment you click ‘publish.’
Ensuring that your website is going to be functionally integrated into the rest of your existing campaigns is key to a smooth launch and transition. So asking up front if your developer is going to be able to integrate your chatbot or other off site components is important to clarify upfront and as soon as possible.
Just like any digital campaign is specific to the goals and parameters of the tactic at hand, your website needs to match those unique goals.
That means that if you’re looking to build an eCommerce website versus a classic lead generation blog, you’re going to want to see which one your web designer specializes in.
And believe me, each come with their very unique needs and best practices.
Another unique aspect to a lot of our onboarded clients is their privatized membership pages. Creating certain pages with locked access on your domain isn’t easy. But creating membership exclusive content is a great way to leverage gated content and other exclusive offers to grow your loyal following.
So if you offer memberships on your existing site, make sure you’ll be able to transfer over that functionality to your new site.
One of the most important questions you’ll have to ask is how you’re going to be able to edit and manage your site’s content after your developer hits ‘publish.’ Managing a website isn’t as hard as building one, but it isn’t exactly an easy task - especially if you don’t know your way around the backend of your own site. Taking the time to learn - or have your developer at least walk you through on a recorded video - will definitely pay off in the long run.
Here come the technical questions…
When it comes to new websites, and launching them, it’s important to ensure what I referenced above: a smooth transition.
Making sure that your website is in good - and capable - hands that are going to safely migrate your original site, contact, and hosting, over to your new site without compromising your domain is something you want to clear up right away.
Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what kind of awesome site they build you if you can’t safely transfer your domain over to the new site.
And that might as well mean money down the drain…
Another question that we often hear from our clients is if the domain and website transfer is going to mess with their email. If you’re hosting your email on your company’s domain, you’re going to want to double check that nothing is going to go wrong when the transfer finally goes down.
Because you want to be involved in the development of your dream child, you’ll want to know just how the build process works. Knowing what to expect at each step of the journey will help you better schedule your editorial time to focus on the changes that you think will drive the most growth for your brand via this new site. And be sure to be extensive when asking about the design/dev/editorial process. As you can see below, it can be quite long, so make sure your potential developer isn’t skimping:
This is just a boilerplate editorial process. So anything shorter should raise an eyebrow or two. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should be hassling your designer to send you an email every time that they attempt to change something on your site. But it does mean that you should stay involved in the already extensive dev process.
Of course, after you know how extensive the editorial process is, you’ll want to check on just how long it’s going to take. Not that taking their time is a bad thing, but if you’re on a timeline and the agency or developer is either too busy or too meticulous to meet your deadlines, you’ll need to look elsewhere to find your web design partner.
Lastly, one question I like to suggest potential leads ask their potential agency partners is whether or not they outsource any of their work. If they do, transparently sharing what types of work they are comfortable outsourcing and which tasks they insist on taking on themselves can give you a good picture of what kind of web designers you’re working with.
For example, a simple middleman agency who outsources nearly all of their work isn’t someone who is insistent on the quality, customization, or personality of the work they’re doing. But, an agency that handles all the design work, site architecture, and wireframing, while outsourcing some of the link building and copy and pasting work, might be an agency who is simply trying to maximize their output.
In the end it’s going to be up to you to make the judgment call, but finding the right threshold is key.
Now that we’ve discussed what questions you should be asking and what behaviors to stay suspicious of, let’s take a moment to talk about the trust you should be developing with your designer. Yes, it’s important to extensively vet the person who’s going to be handling the baby that is your brand’s new website. But once you hand over the keys to the castle, it’s also important to trust in your web designer.
After all, you’re the one who found them and hired them for their expertise - it’s time you trust what they have to say and see what they can do. If you’ve asked the right questions and done your research, you should have nothing to worry about.
However, trusting your website designer doesn’t always mean you’re going to get good news. Sometimes we have to burst our client’s bubbles in regards to what can be achieved in certain website designs and within certain budgets. Not everyone can have the craziest animations on their homepage - nor should they.
Learning to trust the suggestions, and vetoes, of your designer as well as learning to find the middle ground between what your dream design is and what can be easily achieved will help make your agency-client relationship more pleasant, efficient, and successful.
In the end - any successful collaboration is the result of the right combination of trust and communication. And the same goes for your relationship with your website designer. Knowing what questions to ask your web designer/developer can help you properly vet your prospective partners/agencies so you can hand over control over your brand’s new website with a sense of ease instead of concern.
The more transparent yours and your agency’s communication is, the better the two of you will be able to workout what’s achievable and what’s necessary out of every little imagined aspect of your dream website. And the transparent trust in your chosen architect is what’s going to help make your dream a reality.
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