With so many different options when choosing your web developer it is important that you ask the right questions so you can ensure you make the right choice for your businesses and your specific needs. Having worked previously in companies and being in charge of selecting potential web developers as partners, I am well versed in knowing who and who not to choose based purely on their ability to understand and respond to questions. This ensured that we partnered with the right agencies and were never left with a final product that was not fit for purpose. Here are the top ten most important questions.
1. Have you worked on a project similar to this before?
Previous work is often a great indication of a web developers ability. Hence, this is an excellent question to ask a web developer to gain some confidence. If they have performed similar projects then ask them to send them through to you. Once they send it through to you there a few things you should check for to determine the quality of their work. First off, take note of how long the website takes to load, your own internet speed will have an impact on this, however, based on your experience with your internet you can determine if it is better or worse than average. Next, with the website open try resizing your browser window, does the website change sizes to fit the size of your browser or do things become broken? Finally, check for SEO best practices, do they have a good footer that lists the services, location and business name? The footer will appear on every page and hence is essential to SEO.
Now after going over their work you can get a rough idea of their abilities, however, it is important to take into account the specific requirements of that client. They may have prioritised different things hence impacting the end product. However, after analysing their previous project you will gain some insight into the overall quality of work.
2. How long does it take you to complete a project like this?
This is an important question to ask especially if you have timelines you need to meet. As an agency ourself we can tell you that there is a range of factors that will influence the web development process, including the speed of communication. However, the time in which you receive a project can be essential.
There is a good saying that says you can have things fast and affordable, high quality and fast, high quality and affordable, but you can't have things fast, cheap and high quality. This is relevant to the web development industry as well. Sometimes if it is too good to be true it is.
3. What services are included?
Web developers can be cheeky, once they hand you over your finished site, you might find problems, however, they often say that it was out of the scope of the project. This is why it is important to ask what is included within the project, these include questions such as setting you up an email account with office 365, making sure the site is secure and ensuring the website will be SEO ready. After all, if you have a website that doesn't rank on Google do you really have a website?
Now whilst it is not reasonable to expect them to do everything you need, there are some things you should definitely be able to expect these are:
- a responsive website that works across screen sizes
- an SEO ready site with a site map and the ability to add and edit meta descriptions
- a fast website with a page speed of above 60+
- a website that you can edit and update
- a functional contact form
- a website that is scalable
- a website that is bug-free
These are the basic bare minimums you should be able to expect.
4. What is your SEO strategy?
With the rapid changes in the world of search engine optimisation, it is important to evaluate your developer's knowledge of search engine ranking. This can be done pretty easily and with little understanding of SEO itself. If they understand the general concept then you should be pretty good to go. They should touch on keywords, the importance of your footer, page speed, page load content shifting, lazy loading, and the format of images that they use. With images the current best practice for SEO is to present images as default as WebP, this results in low file sizes and high-quality images. You might also wish to test the page speed of some of their previous projects using Google's page speed score tool. When we develop a website we prioritise the most important aspects that contribute to SEO such as page speed because we know how vital these are to the businesses we help.
5. Will the website be scalable?
This is an essential question for any site that is expecting to see large amounts of traffic in the future. There are a number of factors that will work together to determine if a website will scale. These can include what host you choose and the plugins that are implemented. Imagine you launch an incredible sale and get 100 000 visitors to your site and your site breaks. Hence, scalability can be a costly thing to choose not to invest in. To make sure our websites are scalable we use high quality hosting and back them up to backup servers. When the load changes an additional server is simply switched on.
6. Will I be able to edit the Website?
This question may seem to have an obvious answer of yes... However, over half of our clients have come to us after poor experiences with previous developers. When a website isn't made properly, it cannot be edited properly. If making changes is essential, this might be something you want to touch on through a demonstration before you sign with the developer. If the process is as easy as it should be then they will be able to login to one of their backend (we always use our own site as an example) and show you how easy it is to make changes. We pride ourselves on using software that makes editing your website as easy as making a Facebook post.
7. Would I be able to reach out to some of your previous clients?
If you are doing a particularly big build and investing a large amount of money you can never be too careful. This can be an excellent way of gaining a little more confidence and asking about the benefits and drawbacks of working with a specific company. Some will excel in communication, whilst taking longer to develop, whilst others will be incredible at their job but struggle to communicate effectively.
8. What will you need from me?
This will give you a good idea of the amount of involvement you are required to have during the process. Most companies will just request a design brief, any content you wish to present as well as your domain information and any logins they require. Others will take care of photography, copy writing and development. Hence, each agency will have strengths in different places, depending on your needs there will be a perfect agency for your job, this question takes you one step closer to understanding your role in getting the perfect website.
9. Do you outsource any of your projects or complete them in house?
This is an excellent question to ask as it gives you a clear idea of who will be performing your work. Outsourcing is not necessarily a bad thing, however, when someone who is not an expert themselves outsources to another company the quality of the work can become compromised. Hence, when you ask this question you will be able to judge whether they have the appropriate expertise to ensure the quality of the outsourced work is good.
10. Do you use templates or create custom websites?
Often a web developer will offer both, if they only offer templates our advice is to run away. If they only build from templates there is no way of knowing if they have the skills or understanding to create a great website. Essentially, anyone who has a computer can build from a template, this means that they need only a slight understanding of the platform to create a website that looks great. However, there is a distinct difference between a website that looks great and a website that works great and ranks on google.
11. How does your pricing structure work?
This can be an insightful question to ask. Some agencies charge by hour and will provide an estimate based on the number of hours it will take them to compete. Others will charge based on features and number of pages, others will evaluate your full project and come up with a quote for the entire project. This is a great question to ask as it will enable you to understand the amount you will need to invest. However, we always recommend to any of our potential clients to properly evaluate the risks and rewards. Time and time again we come across clients who have spent 6k-20k on a website and it simply doesn't do what they need it to do. Hence, when you invest in a good website at the start, make sure the right technologies are being used, you can end up saving big in the long term.
12. How many design revisions can I make?
This question will allow you to determine how much you can change each design before you reach your final design. Lower cost options often have less flexibility, you are given a design and you can only change it within the limitations of the template the company uses. Other options allow for a bit more flexibility. Depending on the purpose of your website, revisions may be essential and the freedom to move away from a template build can be invaluable. At Ten Squared we offer both, for low budgets we recommend using templates as this cuts back on the number of hours of work required and hence results in savings. However, we are careful to discuss with clients the limits that exist within this option. For most of our customers we often go with a new build starting from nothing, hence allowing for each element to be created uniquely.
If you have any questions you would like to ask us please reach out to us via our contact form.