In this post, we’ll be sharing with you 20 helpful questions to ask a web design company before you hire them.
The goal of these questions is to help you find quality people to work with and to start a more detailed conversation with your preferred web design company—one that will help you decide if they are up to the task.
20 Questions To Ask A Web Design Company
1. How Long Have You Been In Business?
With this question, you are essentially asking your preferred web design company, “Do you have enough experience to do the job?”
While this is a rather blunt question, it’s an important one nonetheless.
Without knowing your web designer’s skillset, you might be wondering, “Did they just open up their shop yesterday? What is their skill set? What if I pay for something I don’t like?”
Asking Tough Questions Is A Good Thing
It’s perfectly fair to want answers to legitimate concerns like these.
You don’t want to be paying a web design company to use you as a guinea pig, after all.
You want to be paying for results.
Working With A Brand New Web Design Company Is Somewhat Risky
Every web designer has to start somewhere.
And if they haven’t been in business for a long time, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker.
However, it certainly should be a red flag, especially if it comes down to a website that might be a little more expensive or if there is a very specific functionality needing to be developed.
Learning The Ropes of Web Design Takes Time
Having the experience to know how to navigate through tough, unexpected web design challenges isn’t something that comes right away.
And it’s not necessarily something you can learn from just reading textbooks or watching some YouTube videos.
Web designers need time and experience to understand what they’re doing.
2. Do You Outsource Any of Your Web Design or Web Development Work?
If you’re paying someone to design and develop your website, you certainly want to make sure they’re not outsourcing the whole project to somebody else and just collecting a fee.
If they are, you might as well go directly to the source and save yourself some money.
There’s nothing wrong per se with outsourcing certain parts of the design process, but it’s all about transparency.
You should understand how much your agency does themselves versus how much they outsource, and they should communicate openly with you about it.
What Sage Digital Agency Outsources – Photography and Certain Graphics
For example, in our company we do not have a photographer on staff, so we have a few incredible photographers we work with locally.
These partnerships help to reduce costs because we only have to pay for the services and design work that is truly needed, and moreover, we focus on our core competencies to produce the best product possible.
Check out our blog post about the importance of web design and digital marketing for more information.
We also have relationships with specific freelancers and design companies who specialize in different styles.
For a client who needs graphics for a medical website, those designs are going to be a lot different than someone looking to start, say, a t-shirt brand.
The costs and the outcome are going to be different as well.
Specializing with a freelancer who understands how to design for a medical site, whether it’s image selection or graphic design, that type of work is going to come from someone with a different skill set than someone who designs emojis, for instance.
Given the wide range of designs that we encounter, we require a diverse pool of talent to complete certain projects.
3. When It Comes To Your Web Design Project Management, Who Is Involved?
At Sage Digital Agency, we believe it’s important for us to have one person in our company who is your main point of contact during a development build.
Obviously, it’s great if different hands can get involved in your project, and there’s somebody contributing from our team doing A, somebody else from our team doing B, etc.
One Point of Contact Is Better
But it’s best to have one project manager who is your main point of contact, as this makes communicating a lot less confusing.
The project manager we task to your design project will able to update you and not overwhelm you with stuff that isn’t important to your overall project.
When you work with us, we are very clear about who your project manager is.
Pinpointing Your Point of Contact For Your Web Design Project
If you choose another web design company, on the other hand, you’ll want to find out who your direct point of contact is, as this will help you keep pace with project updates.
Regarding your project updates:
We personally utilize project management tools internally, and we document absolutely everything. This makes it easy for our project manager to keep you updated with accurate details.
But we imagine that not every web design company does this, so once you know who your project manager is, you’ll also want to ask them how they document their process.
4. What Are Your Web Design Milestones?
Our milestones at Sage Digital Agency depend on the project.
Every design is different, which is why we establish project timelines with you during the initial consultation.
Are Web Design Milestones Important?
Every web design company should have project milestones in place. Understanding when certain deliverables are expected is very important—for you and the web design team.
As a client, you don’t want to be waiting three months, six months, or a year for your project to finish. Fortunately, having benchmarks in place helps the design team keep the project on track.
What Are The Milestones of Other Web Design Companies?
While we don’t know the specifics, if a web design company is good, then they will set reasonable milestones that don’t leave you waiting for weeks or months to see progress being made.
Keep in mind:
In many cases, when there’s a hand-off from a web design company’s development side, they might say, “Okay, this project is done.”
However, what if the client hasn’t provided all the images they need? Or what if the client decides, after the site is already live, that their users are having a hard time navigating it?
You don’t want a situation where maybe your site is done, maybe it’s not.
Our Web Design Company Culture Is Simple: We Make Your Project Finalization Clear
With the creative process there will always be some need to go back and forth to make adjustments.
But as far as putting timelines together, the big question is:
When is the project considered done?
We have a particular client we work with who is a nationally known musician.
He told us recently:
“I’m so happy we’re working together. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve been down this road of trying to make a good website.
“What your team has developed for us recently is the best iteration that we’ve ever had of our site.
“And what I found is, usually designers in the past that I’ve worked with will take a deposit, promise the world, pick up the phone, and everything is great.
“But once that deposit has been received, you can’t get them on the phone, and everything that you ask them to edit becomes additional costs when it was supposed to be a website that was already finished.”
Setting Web Design Project Expectations Avoids Problems
Certainly, the majority of blame for this is on the web designer, and it’s definitely unwarranted for them not to answer calls.
But it’s also important, in any web design project, that both the client and the web designer get on the same page from the start.
Setting Design Expectations Helps Solve Scope Creep
One benefit of setting expectations is that it helps you avoid scope creep.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s when you have a project that has been scoped out, but over time it begins to change.
While there is nothing wrong with making changes to your project, please remember that when you ask for additional functions to be added to your new website, it’s going to add to the overall cost and cause a time delay.
It can also lead to a reduced quality in your design.
Think about it. You don’t want the development company to begin to get tired, or start skimping on some of the work, or get lazy with how they end up doing the code, because now it’s taking more time, and they’re not making as much money.
5. As A Web Design Company, Do You Guarantee Your Work?
Yes, we do.
When it comes to guaranteeing deliverables, though, especially when building a website, your guarantees need to be broken down.
It’s very important for both sides to be protected from the start.
You don’t have to sign a crazy contract with 20 pages of fine print, but:
You should have something in writing that outlines exactly what everyone’s expectations are and what steps you can take if those expectations aren’t met.
Any web design company that is reputable will certainly stand behind its work in this manner.
Do You Provide Project Follow Up?
This is quite a helpful question to ask when discussing project guarantees.
Once the project’s finished, is it just handed off? Is there any more communication? Is someone still going to be behind it?
At a bare minimum, there needs to be a clause in whatever contract you have that includes 30 days’ worth of additional maintenance or bug fixes as needed.
The reason this is important is that:
Once you go live, there are usually things that are missed, broken links, or an image that isn’t compatible, and someone needs to be able to go in and fix them.
What a horrible feeling to pay for your website, then all of a sudden, you’re getting another bill to fix something wrong with it—just because you didn’t detail the scope of work with your preferred web design company before the project began.
Your Web Design Company Is Responsible For Communicating Effectively
The onus is on the web development company to be very specific and say:
“This is what you’re getting. This is what we’re doing for the price that you’re paying. This is the timeline that we’re going to be developing it in.
“And we are going to do whatever is necessary to ensure that you as our client are happy, that you have a functioning website at the end of all of this.”
Otherwise, it leaves a lot to risk and puts clients in a bad position.
Get Something In Writing From Your Web Design Company
Just to reiterate:
You should have something in writing that explains, “As a development firm, we are providing to our client A, B, C, and D.”
And when you client go back and ask for E, F, and G, they should say:
“We would love to do that for you, but here’s an amendment to our agreement, and here’s the time it’s going to take, and this is what it’s going to cost you extra.”
Asking Questions Prompts A Web Design Company To Treat You Right
Having the ability to reach out to a readily accessible contact person and make sure that your questions and your issues are taken care of is at the core of customer service.
At the end of the day, we wish that all companies would treat their customers and clients right.
Unfortunately, in our experience, that’s not always the case.
But if you ask the question on this list to your preferred web design company, and you’re satisfied with the responses, you put yourself in the best position to have a positive outcome.
Think of it this way:
If you’re not happy with the sales process, imagine how unhappy you will be once you actually work with the company.
6. What If I Don’t Know What I Need With My Web Design Project?
From the perspective of a web design company, if you aren’t sure what your web design project needs, then the focus should be on doing the correct onboarding.
Let’s say a client comes into a situation and says, “I want a website.”
And we just say, “Okay, great. We’d love your business.”
That’s just not enough.
Your web design company needs to ask you questions like:
- Who’s going to provide the content?
- Who’s going to provide the images?
- Where is your graphic content coming from?
- What functionality do you want n your website?
- What’s the core purpose of the site?
- Is your website informational?
- Are you selling something?
- Are you trying to get people to call you?
- Who are your ideal clients?
Your chosen web design company needs to be clear on all of these topics, and if they’re not asking you these questions up front, then it should definitely raise a red flag.
Your developer should take the time to look into these issues.
Otherwise, how can you be on the same page? How will they even know what deliverables you need and how much it will cost them to build?
Your Website As A Minimum Viable Product
There’s nothing wrong with starting off with a minimum viable product (MVP).
This can help you avoid paying excess money for work that you don’t actually need. Or it can reduce the time it’s going to take to get to that finished product.
Seeing how the site performs will help you make further design decisions.
Again, it’s all about making sure that there is a clear understanding of what the deliverables are.
Web Design Project Phases
We use the term “phase” a lot.
We’ll say to clients, “Let’s develop Phase One. Here’s what it is.” Then we’ll add, “What does Phase Two look like over the next few months? What does Phase Three look like six months to a year down the road?”
Finding out how many phases your website needs is essential.
If you’re a locksmith, you’re not going to need a four-phase website.
However, if you have a business that’s a little more complex, maybe you’re running an eCommerce site, maybe you have a lot of content pages, that’s when it would make more of a difference.
Check out our Las Vegas web design services page for more information about our web design approach.
7. What If I Don’t Have Any Design Files?
If you’re creating your website on a shoestring budget and you don’t have a UI or web design files, then you will need the developer to do that work for you.
Going into it, you should have something to show them to say, “This is exactly how I want my site to look and function.”
Now, it’s certainly not about nickel-and-diming.
It’s a matter of, “This is what we’ve agreed to, we’re going to stick with it, and it’s good for both sides.”
It’s bad for both sides when we just say, “Yeah, no problem, we’ll take care of it. We’re going to do your website.”
But there is no list of what the actual deliverables are.
Then you get into a position where there is no end, and that is not a position that either party should be put into.
8. Two Related Questions: (1) Do You Provide Referrals From Past Clients? (2) Do You Have Examples of Similar Projects You Have Worked On?
We have mixed thoughts on asking these questions because on the one hand your chosen web design company should be able to provide you with examples of websites they’ve built.
On the other hand, there is a greater possibility for tunnel vision when you base your web design on someone else’s website.
For example, if you go to a web design company that only does websites for lawyers, chances are if you’re a lawyer, you’re going to get a cookie cutter template.
There are only so many ways that your web designer is going to be able to design your website if they show you examples of what you’ll get based on past projects and don’t have the freedom to innovate.
Beware of The Web Design Company That Uses Pre-Made Templates
Many lesser-experienced web designers use templates that they duplicate and just slap your logo on.
A skilled web design company with a more varied portfolio of websites, by contrast, can give you a site that’s actually unique to your business.
But a potential disadvantage is they might not have the experience in a specific niche, especially if they’ve mastered only one or two website genres.
Should you go with them?
It’s all a matter of how you feel about the organization when you start having a conversation about your needs.
Do they seem competent? Are there real answers to your questions and concerns? Is their body of work great, albeit not in your specific industry?
9. Do You Take The Time To Learn About My Business and Competitors?
Any reputable web design company is going to perform basic, necessary research.
The questions they ask should include the following:
- Who are your competitors, and what are they doing well in the marketplace?
- What are the goals of the potential client?
- Which industry are they in?
- Are there industry specific issues that we should know about?
- What are the trends with respect to keywords and searches?
Research like this separates the good designers from the not-so-good since what works for someone else’s website might not work for yours, even in the same industry.
A web designer has to understand what you need.
No research plan on the part of your web designer = a major red flag.
If a web designer doesn’t understand your business, how are they going to build a web design that is compelling?
10. What Other Services Do You Offer?
It’s really important to find out, “Who are these people that I’m going to trust to develop a website for me? And what else do they have in their sphere? What are they offering to me besides web development?”
There’s nothing wrong with a web development agency that only builds websites.
However, they’re not going to be able to take into consideration what’s going to actually drive the conversions.
A full digital marketing plan is far more than putting together a great website, that is merely the beginning.
Check out our post about how to create a powerful digital marketing plan for a step-by-step guide on digital marketing and how to succeed.
Most clients are building out a website with a specific goal in mind. There’s an ultimate goal.
- They want more leads
- They want more downloads
- They want to give their users more information
- They want to sell a product
- They want more phone calls
If the agency only builds websites, they won’t be able to factor in placements or navigation to achieve a higher click-through rate, or the steps necessary to aggregate this data in a meaningful way and glean insights from that data.
They won’t understand the fundamentals of how to convert a user into a customer, or how a certain type of product page will drive higher sales or an upsell funnel.
For example, if Facebook or Google Ads are going to be a part of your strategy, you’re going to want that to be built in.
They need to factor in pixel placements and event tagging to make sure you don’t have conflicts or elements that prevent certain ad platforms from tracking correctly.
On the other hand, you’re not going to want to work with an agency that does everything.
If they’re designing billboards and TV ads and printing business cards, oftentimes the website and digital aspect is just an add-on service.
You’re not going to get the type of value that you need to drive results for your business.
11. What Happens If I Don’t Like The Design?
What if you’ve paid money to a web development agency, everything seems to be going well, they provide you with a link of something to review, and you don’t like it?
This really comes back to planning. If you go into this project and you have a clear plan of exactly what you want, then there should be several milestones or checkpoints you can recognize.
You Will See Signs If Your Web Design Has Issues
You should be able to see quickly that it’s not going in the direction you want, or that it’s not turning out the way the designs call for.
And at any point, you should have a clear communication process to let them know your feedback. Maybe a placement or the color scheme is wrong. Maybe the overall design is not what was originally discussed or envisioned.
At any of those points, you can still pivot.
But once the site’s done, you almost have to start tearing apart the backbone or the foundation to rebuild it. This is an issue.
Establishing A Starting Point For Your Website’s Design
We start by saying to our clients, “Show me examples of sites you love by competitors or outside of your industry.”
Because that gives us an idea of a starting point. If we don’t ask those questions, how will we know what they want?
Maybe they want a site that’s completely opposite from the way we even build sites.
We don’t like seeing situations where web developers will say, “Oh, we’re going to build you up to five pages, and you have three changes.”
You’ve hired them to develop something and do what is right and necessary to ensure that you’re happy.
You’re most likely not an outlier of a client who asks for 3,000 changes. That’s obviously not acceptable.
But in most cases, so what?
If you’re a web designer reading this:
Roll up your sleeves and spend a few hours in order to do exactly what your client needs so they have the best chance of being successful.
12. What Happens If Something Changes In The Scope After You’ve Started?
We don’t look at changes as an issue at all because we spend the time to explain to our clients exactly what we’re doing for the price we’re charging.
For example, let’s say we already have a full site in development.
Then the client says, “Hey, I want to start selling subscriptions to all this new content I have now. I could never do that before. And it just hit me now because I’ve seen the level of website that you’ve built.”
What would we do?
We would say, “We’ve agreed that we were going to do X, Y, and Z, and we’ve already gotten to that point. Let’s have a discussion about what your new idea would look like. Give me the dream. Tell me exactly what you want to see.”
Open Discussions Build Trust With Clients
Now that we’ve built up trust with this particular client, they understand that when they give us their “dream list” of desired website features, we’re going to think about it and come up with a plan of how we can execute it.
Again, it’s an opportunity to say, “Hey, we’ve done what we said we were going to do in Phase One, so let’s start talking about the next phase.”
13. How Long Will My Project Take?
A savvy client should ask, “When am I getting a full draft of my website?”
If the answer from your web design company is—let’s go with 30 days from now—you as the client should then add the following:
“Okay, great. At what point will I start to receive a discount if I don’t see a copy of it?”
This is your business that we’re talking about here. And building a website for it isn’t cheap.
So, your web designer should perform.
Project Timelines Should Be Upheld As Much As Possible
If a professional firm says, “You are going to get the following from me at this time,” then there should be no deviation for that.
Obviously, as you’ve said, maybe the client is non-responsive or some other issue happens. I’m not talking about those scenarios.
But in general, make sure you ask the question and hold them to it. If you offer too much wiggle room, then your web designer might misinterpret your response.
A Lack of Clarity Makes Business-Client Relationships Difficult
When both sides are not on the same page, that’s when a relationship can really go sour.
More times than not, when we are on our initial calls, a lot of potential clients complain about working with other web design companies that are terrible about clearly communicating performance standards.
The most common complaint is how long something took, or how three or four months went by, and they still don’t have any sort of finished product.
And they still haven’t seen what the website looks like.
The time aspect is a very big hindrance.
Obviously, there are many factors. We know from a technical standpoint what can cause delays. But if we ask for some feedback from a client and don’t get it, we can’t move on to the next step.
The Length of Time Before You See Your Website’s Wire Frame
So, what’s a reasonable time estimate to at least see the wire-frame or the back end?
We believe a range of one to four weeks is reasonable.
But we’re not talking about two or three months to see a draft of a standard WordPress site. That’s not correct. Something’s wrong with that picture.
14. Will My Site Work On Desktop, Tablets, and Phones?
Our response to question 14 is very simple, “Yes, but we put mobile first.”
Your site has to look great on mobile.
In most cases, probably 50% or more of your traffic will come from mobile devices.
Therefore, why would we not build your website with the idea of putting mobile first?
You must ensure you have a responsive site that works well on any device that’s coming to the site, of course.
Direct To Consumer Brand Are Mobile Heavy
For many direct-to-consumer brands, it’s common to see 70% to 80% of people coming to you through mobile.
Google crawls websites to determine search engine rankings and positions, and they scan from a mobile side.
So, if your site’s not mobile responsive, you’re automatically going to be put to the bottom of the list.
15. What Do I Need To Provide You With Before You Get Started?
Okay, let’s say you’ve moved past all the questions above, and as a client, you’re ready to get started with your web design project.
You have decided that X firm is the company you’re comfortable with.
They seem like they can create the vision you want, they have the resources, and the numbers work out.
Usually, this is where the biggest holdup starts since, as a client, you need to be able to provide logos, product imagery, access to hosting, etc.
It’s important to give your web designer everything they’re going to need as early on as possible.
16. How Does The Web Design Process Work?
As already discussed, from onboarding on day one, your web design company should send you a list of questions, which is what we do.
We send out a link to a form that is for onboarding…for new development.
It has 25 or 30 questions on it, and we ask for as much info as possible.
Those answers go straight into our project management tool. Everything is there.
Our Las Vegas web developers and our team can see all of it in one place.
We suggest using an online project management tool such as ClickUp.
17. Do I Own My Design and Website Once It Is Completed?
All the work that we do is owned by our clients.
Period. End of story.
One Note About Web Hosting
Although you fully own your website, understand that your hosting company is where all your data is stored.
So, if you happen to hire Joe Schmoe as a host, and he’s having a bad day, he can turn off access to your website.
Thus, it’s extremely important to make sure you have a backup of your site as well as cPanel access.
You have to ensure your site backup is downloaded with some frequency and that you have access to it.
That way, if there’s some problem, it can be reset somewhere else.
18. If I Need A Domain Name or Hosting, Do You Set That Up?
Could we go into a GoDaddy account and purchase a domain for you?
Yes, we could.
But it would be better to make sure you’re the owner of your domain name.
Essentially, when you buy a domain through a website like GoDaddy, you’re leasing it because there’s really no ownership.
If you don’t pay your fee, you’re not going to own the site anymore.
The same goes for hosting.
BTW: We have VPS hosting for all of our clients. It’s a tremendous service, and speeds are magnificent. We also ensure our clients have access and that backups are available.
19. What Do You Do With Ongoing Website Updates and Maintenance?
How we handle your website’s updates depends on you.
If you have technical abilities and want to supervise your site, then of course, you can get involved with updates and site maintenance.
But you need to understand exactly what’s required and the risks involved with doing so.
It’s very easy to maintain a site. It just needs to be done correctly. Otherwise, your site can start crashing.
You don’t want to let your plugins get depreciated or your site hacked.
Don’t Have Technical Skill or Don’t Have The Time?
If you don’t know how or can’t devote enough time to maintain your site, then it’s best to hire someone knowledgeable to stay on top of it.
A WordPress website in some ways is like a car in some ways. There are many things working in concert together to keep it running.
With this in mind, you’ll want to hire a trustworthy website “mechanic” to ensure that the plugins, core, theme, etc., are all updated properly.
20. Do You Have Good Reviews?
Yes, we do!
PS Remember to ask your preferred web design company this question. It’ll help!
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