Your website is the face of your business. Did you know that website visitors judge your website and your business as a result, in a matter of milliseconds? The same study conducted by Google Research, found that 94% of a visitor’s first impression was related to the design – so you need to create a great small business website. You don’t even have a full second to make a first impression! This is why great design is so critical to achieving the goals that your company has such as branding, sales, signups, etc.
Great design is essential to remain competitive, and the design company you choose to work with makes a big difference. Not all design companies are created equal. As a small business owner, you want to find the perfect balance between high-quality work and cost-effectiveness. You need to ask several hard-hitting questions before choosing an agency to partner with because that’s what it should be: a partnership. Below are 10 key questions to ask the company or yourself before settling on a web design company.
1. Do They Offer Full-Service Web Builds (SEO integration included)
This question is critical and, in today’s digital-first world, pretty much the most important other than the actual design. Unless you are a search engine optimization expert or have a digital marketing specialist on your marketing team, your web design team should be knowledgeable enough regarding SEO to put your initial strategy in place during the website building process. While this is more of a question for the design company itself, it’s one you need to ask yourself as well when vetting design companies.
2. Can I Fully Manage the Site Post-Build?
Ask if you will have full access to edit the site after the initial build is complete. Having to go back to the web design company every time you want to change an image, add a page, or any other modification is truly an outdated system. It can also get exceptionally costly as the web design company’s hours of work on your site add up. Ask yourself if you have the manpower internally to fully manage the site.
3. What Are Your Priorities for Top-Level Pages?
A top-level page refers to the main pages. This is where your core information will be housed. Ask yourself and key team members with varying roles what content needs to be prioritized. When you meet with your prospective web design companies, make sure you ask them if there is any type of page limit. Remember, don’t go crazy with the number of top-level pages. Your target customer wants a sleek, seamless website experience. Overwhelming them with too much content isn’t necessary for a small to mid-size business and can actually lead visitors to bounce (come to your website only to immediately leave) off of your website because they feel overwhelmed.
4. Who Internally Will Handle the Day-To-Day Management of the Website?
Ask who on your internal team will manage the day-to-day of the website. This includes things like posting blogs, keeping a blog schedule of who will write on what topic, minor updates like adding a new page, potentially writing content, and more. This should also be someone with at least basic SEO knowledge to make sure when changes are made, they are internally optimized to gain maximum organic traffic. Basic SEO knowledge will also ensure that your shiny new website doesn’t get flagged for any Google penalties because someone made a faux pas that could cost you precious rankings.
This day-to-day management is typically able to be done by anyone from a marketing intern with website knowledge to a marketing manager. As a small business, you should be aware that many of today’s recent graduates in marketing, public relations, journalism, business, and similar fields come fully knowledgeable about how to manage a website.
5. Can I Speak Directly to Past Customers or View Reviews?
Ask if the web design companies are open about providing references, reviews from past clients, or, even better if you can speak to past customers via phone. Determine if they seem open or are acting hesitant. This could save you a lot of time, energy and budget down the line. Many web design companies are great at making a really strong, enticing pitch to win your business. However, many also fall short as the work goes on or becomes unresponsive.
Most importantly, you should never sign off on working with a web design company if they can’t, at a bare minimum, provide examples of their past work. This should be a given for any service-based company, especially one working on something as crucial to your company as the design of its website.
6. What Kind of Post-Site Build Support Do They Provide and What Is Their Ongoing Cost?
While it is recommended that you handle the day-to-day updates internally, ask what kind of post-design build the company can offer you. What if your domain crashes or you get spammed? Technical issues like these call for bringing in the big guns: website building experts. Ask their team to provide you with costs and how they typically bill. Is it hourly? Do you receive a certain number of hours a month before additional charges are given? Sit down after you compare how cost and billing practices of each company are handled and ask yourself which works best for your ongoing web maintenance budget.
7. Are They Knowledgeable About Your Industry and Goals?
Ask if the web design companies you are considering have a strong understanding of your industry. Ask for specific examples and the goals they recommend specific to your website. For example, if you own a few restaurants, do they understand that industry and what your target audience is looking for when they come to your website?
8. Who Will Be Personally Responsible for Building the Website?
When working with a design agency, you want to make sure you know exactly who will be working on your website daily. You also want to ask what their role in the company is. For example, as content management systems become easier to utilize, it isn’t uncommon for the average intern or college student by more than able to build a website. However, as a small business, you likely have a modest budget. This often leads to you not being a top-tier priority and, unfortunately, can lead to design companies outsourcing the work to the lowest-bidding overseas company that won’t put quality time and attention into your site.
9. What’s My Budget?
Sit down and really ask yourself what your budget is before vetting web design companies. As mentioned above, many design companies and marketing agencies are masterful at the art of the flashy pitch that earns your business. This can lead you to over-extend yourself financially as you are “wowed” by their flash and fancy web jargon. Setting a concrete number before taking any meetings will ensure this doesn’t happen and you settle with a company that can meet your financial limits for a website build. Then ask the companies for all-inclusive costs. Ask if there are any hidden fees or extra fees that may crop up.
10. Can They Provide Concrete Timelines and Time Your Site May Be Down as They Move Domains?
Ask if they are able and willing to give you a concrete timeline. “A few months” is not a timeline; what is a few? “A week” means they do shoddy work and are probably outsourcing your web design overseas or to a low-level freelancer. You likely won’t be pleased with the results, making this an important question to ask. As a side note, website builds tend to run over the hard deadline for a short period of time. It is simply the intricate nature of the business and process.
Conclusion: Be Selective When Choosing your Website Design Company
It’s incredibly important to ask the tough questions before you commit to a website company. These 10 questions may not be all the ones you ask the website design company, yourself, or key team members depending on the industry, but these are the essential ones you should always ask. At the end of the day, there is one critical thing that matters above all else when settling on a company to design your website: are they transparent with you? Transparency is everything. You shouldn’t leave a meeting with a prospective design company feeling like you just had the wool pulled over your eyes or that you barely understood the meeting’s content due to all the tech jargon thrown at you.
Also, best practice is to vet at least three website design companies. Choosing a partner for your web build is a lot like choosing a life partner; when you find the right fit, you’ll simply just know. The comparison element of the selection process is crucial. Asking these key questions may be more of a time commitment than simply going with the first website design company that calls first or calls most frequently to earn your business. Yet, in the end, it will help make your selection much easier.