I have been involved in the creation of many websites for myself and clients over the past 15 years using a range of web development companies and my experiences have ranged from having my expectations far exceeded through to immense frustration and even being totally ripped off and losing a lot of money.
During this period, I wish I had a check list of key questions to ask so I was better prepared to make informed decisions. I have learned a lot along the way and here I share 15 key questions you absolutely MUST ask any person or company you are considering to engage in building your next website.
When you start looking for a web company, you will be amazed that there are so many options. Many companies offer so many different things and all claim to be online experts. My first warning is to beware of the super cheap options (for obvious reasons) but the most expensive does not always mean the best either.
Regardless of price there are many companies out there making ludicrous claims about their ability who suck you in by using all the right terminology. Once they have won your business they soon realise they don’t have the experience or know-how and embark on a “learn as they go journey”, usually at your expense. These projects often blow-out time wise and budget wise and more often than not you end up with an overdue, more expensive incomplete project.
There are also some brilliant and reputable companies who specialise in web development who over deliver on their promises every time. These companies take your ideas to the next level and produce something that truly enhances your business and delivers results.
To help you weed out the winners from the wannabes, be sure to ask these 15 vital questions to gain a good insight into the companies you are researching. The results will give you a clear idea of which company you can reply on and trust to help develop your business and reach your potential online.
1. Do you have any testimonials?
Established and credible companies will gladly show you their previous customer’s testimonials. Many will even allow you to contact their previous clients to ask about their experience. This is definitely a great way to get an idea of how well you will fit with a company and to also check that their promises match up to their end results. If they give you a customer list / portfolio, do your own research!
2. What platform/system will you use to build my website?
Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, Magento, Wix etc, (the list goes on and on), are all website programs / platforms for website creation. I have used many different programs and in my opinion WordPress is by far the most effective, user friendly and scalable system to use. However, you need to be comfortable with the system chosen so be sure to ask lots of questions about how easy it will be to add to and grow with your business along with ongoing costs and how easy it will be to maintain using the relevant CMS. (see next question).
3. Do you use CMS (content management system)? And if so, which ones?
Content Management Systems are designed to enhance the usability of a website from the backend, ensuring simplicity for those who are unfamiliar with coding and technical terms. This is something you should definitely insist on in order to update and maintain your website yourself. Ask what system the company uses and request a demonstration if you are unfamiliar with the program. You definitely DO NOT want to have to rely on your web company to make every edit or update to your website, this is generally totally impractical, time consuming and costly. A good CMS is essential for you to be able to manage your own content, images, menus etc. Again, in my opinion, WordPress is one of the most popular, scalable and user friendly options available.
4. Who will I be dealing with throughout the build?
The best companies will allocate you one person to deal with throughout the entire project. This is much better than having to deal with numerous people involved in the build as you will find coders and technical gurus are often very hard to understand if you are not tech savvy yourself. One point of contact ensures a good communication line is maintained and you stay on track during the build. You don’t want to be flicked from person to person if someone cannot help you.
5. What kind of support and/or maintenance do you offer?
If you are not a coder or programmer you will more than likely need some sort of assistance as your business grows and changes. Look into the costs of running the website after it is live online and whether or not they will provide hand-holding when needed or assistance with future updates and backups. What costs are involved?
6. Is my website scalable? Eg; grow with my business.
Can you update your website in the future with growth? For example if you add a store, a new location, a new product range, a new services, can the website easily be added to, to accommodate this when necessary? As your company grows, you must be sure that your websites design and functionality is able to grow with your business.
7. What kind of functionality can be added later?
Perhaps your budget doesn’t allow for something right off the bat, but you’ll want to add it later. Will this company be able to provide you with further functionality down the road? If so, is there anything they can’t provide? What costs are involved?
8. Is there a process to the planning and execution?
Planning is the most important phase of any new website build. If a company doesn’t spend time to get to know your ideas, key measures and desired outcomes, you’ll know they aren’t concerned about your overall goal. Take time to discover what the web company does to prepare, process, and execute a beautiful and functional websites. Is their a briefing document for you to complete? Often the longer the scoping and planning process, the better the end result will be.
9. Will any work be outsourced?
Sometimes smaller web companies use freelancers or outsource to other companies if they can’t handle the work alone. This is often completely fine, but sometimes it can get complicated when you’re dealing with third parties. Decide if this is a way you’d like to work and if you can communicate directly with others who may be involved with your project. The bigger and often better web development companies usually do everything in-house which gives them a vested interest in your overall project and I would recommend this approach if possible.
10. What other products do you supply?
Can my website link to my e-newsletter system, social media, data base, sales systems etc. eg: If you have a CRM (Customer Relationship System) or customer data base that you would like to send regular electronic newsletters to, ask your web company if they can link your website to this system so anyone signing up to your newsletter or offers can be automatically added to this system. Any streamlining you can do with your current systems will save you time and money in the long run. A good firm will understand this and will be able to provide workable solutions for you.
11. How can I be certain that you’ll deliver a fantastic product that is suitable to my needs?
Be clear about your business objectives and website goals and ask your prospective company how they intend to supply you with a finished product that will meet all of these expectations. You will want to be certain that they can provide you with optimal results that are sure to positively impact your company. Open communication is the best tool. Get all of your questions out of the way before you sign a contract and, of course, always be sure that there’s a contract that protects both the buyer and seller.
12. How long will the project take to complete.
Get a firm time line from your website developers and ask what happens if the project runs over time due to no fault of your own. Be sure to sign-off on the time frame but also hold up your end of the deal by supplying the company with all the information, images and any other assets they will need to complete the project on time. Projects are often held up due to the client not supplying required material – get organised and be a good client!
13. What payment schedule is required?
Be clear on the payment schedule, many companies work on 30% up front, 30% mid build and the balance on delivery of the completed project which is a fair and reasonable schedule. Whatever it is be clear on it and again be a good client and pay your bills! This will ensure your project stays on track.
14. What are your terms and conditions?
Read all the fine print carefully! Get legal guidance if you are unsure of any of the terms and conditions. Don’t sign anything you don’t fully understand.
15. Who owns the Intellectual Property of the website?
Discuss this in detail with your company and be sure you are clear on what is agreed. Custom software developed often remains the property of the developers. Be sure to find out your developers policy on this and how this will effect you if for example you want to move your site to another company or provider. Do you actually own your website developed? Be VERY clear on anything agreed here!
There is a lot of elements involved in engaging a company to create and develop what should be one of your most valuable business assets so it is worth taking the time to get it right. In this digital age your website is so important to your business success, consider it as one of your greatest business assets not just an unwanted expense and be sure to ask each company you are scoping the above questions. Their answers will help you get a clear idea of which company is best for you to work with to develop your business and discover your true potential online.
As a final tip, be sure to communicate extensively with the company you choose. Build a good rapport with your key contact and be clear on your exactly what you want from your website. The developers do not know your business like you do and will rely on you to supply as much information and insight into your business so their team is able to develop a website that not only looks fantastic but achieves your objectives and puts your business at the forefront of the online world.
For any questions regarding website development, please do not hesitate to contact me, I would love to assist!
Kim McKee - founder of Kee Marketing.
Kim Is an experienced marketing consultant specialising in assisting companies develop cutting edge websites.
Book a Consultation