If there is one thing we can say with 100% certainty about entrepreneurs, it is that they are very BUSY people. They’ve got products to make, services to provide, staff to manage, bills to pay and customers to surprise and delight. Not to mention marketing strategies to build, networking events to attend, and the list goes on and on.
Smart business owners know a little bit about a lot of things – and while they definitely don’t need to know all the ins-and-outs of how to create, design and develop their own website – it does make sense for them to have an idea of the key criteria they should be looking for in the website partner they choose.
So, if you need a website built from scratch (or if you just need your current website updated – which, let’s be honest here, MOST businesses do) then here at the top five things you should be asking each potential candidate:
How long have you been in business?
While this question is not designed to rule out a firm that is a relative newcomer to the scene, it is important to ask for a couple of reasons. One, a company with longevity helps you know that they are good at what they do. Plenty of web designers hang out a shingle (or do design work as a side-hustle to their day job) and then choose to leave the business within the first year. This could be a problem for you if they have taken your deposit but not finished your website . . . or, worse yet, they’ve finished your website and taken your final payment, but there are problems with it and no one else will touch it without charging a fee.
How many websites have you built?
Just like the first question, this query gets at the heart of their experience. While it’s true that everyone has to start SOMEWHERE, do you really want to be someone’s first of fifth (or even tenth) website? Possibly if you’re getting it for low-cost or no-cost, but not if you’re expecting it to be built with industry-wide best-practices. Furthermore, having dozens of examples of work to show means that they’ve likely run into all the most common challenges within the industry and know how to problem-solve (quickly and effectively) for the most ubiquitous issues.
Can I contact some recent clients?
While every website development firm will likely have a handful of positive reviews from happy clients (or at least the ones that you’re considering hiring), you’re looking for a shop that is actually happy to put you in touch with real live people who can tell you what it was like to work with their company. While you may not have time (or interest) in actually connecting with these references, you’ll learn a lot about a prospective partner based on how they handle you asking this question. Be wary if they are not willing to provide actual names and contact information for past customers.
What platform will you be building my website in?
The “gold standard” for most websites across the globe is WordPress. In fact, it is so popular that over 60% of the market has chosen the WordPress CMS (Content Management System) to build their website. To put that into perspective, the website platform that comes in second place in terms of market share is Joomla (which has captured just over 5% of the market.) To read the entire list, click HERE. There are a lot of reasons that you might want your website to be built in WordPress . . . but there are some valid reasons that you might be interested in using another CMS too. The main thing to keep in mind here is to ask your prospective website developer what CMS they are using and ask them to defend their choice. If they are building in a newer and less popular platform you might want to think twice about making a large investment in an unknown and unproven CMS. What if that company goes out of business in a year? What if they no longer support their product? What if you cannot find any developers who know how to make updates and changes within that framework? All valid concerns that should be addressed before beginning any work.
What is your process? What does it look like to work with you?
Asking a prospective partner this question allows you to envision working with them. If they’ve been around for a few years, they will know what sorts of questions you’ll have and will be ready to address this one with ease. They’ll have a proven process that they’ve developed over time to ease the project through from beginning to end with the least amount of headache and heartache on your part. Ask them what they need to get started and what their expected timelines are as well. Ask them how many revisions you will be allowed to make and what happens if you have a major life emergency and cannot provide them with the content they need within a reasonable amount of time. Do you lose your deposit? Do they have resources to help you create compelling headlines and source engaging images for your industry? All of these answers will help you feel comfortable moving forward.
While experts can debate what additional questions should be on your list, we believe that starting the conversation with these five questions will give you a good foundation for selecting the best website designer and developer to work with. After all, your company’s website should be a reflection of you, your team, and what makes your firm unique. Settling for a static online brochure that isn’t secure, mobile-responsive or modern is not a wise business decision. And choosing the lowest priced provider may end up costing you a lot more (in the end, in lost business) than you bargained for!