1. Can you provide a portfolio or case studies of your previous work?
The best way that you can find out whether a possible web designer is capable of delivering your vision is to ask to see previous examples of their work. It’s almost inconceivable to think that there are any developers out there that do not have a portfolio so you’ll want to spend some time going through their previous projects. If you can get your hands on some case studies then this is generally even better, as these normally show a before and after example of website redesign and also give you an insight into how the individual or company proceeded with a project.
Make sure that you critique both the look and feel of all websites across a portfolio or case studies, as well as whether they deliver the functionality that you’ll need in your finished product. If you feel the designer’s work is professional, aesthetic and does what you need then you can be pretty sure that they are well placed to take your project forward.
2. How much will it cost and what is included?
Awkward as it is, you’ll need to know sooner rather than later how much a project is going to set you back. This is normally in the form of a final proposal, although you may be able to get rough estimates before you proceed to discuss your website redesign in more detail.
You probably expect that web design project prices will vary greatly dependent on whether you pursue a freelancer or established agency and this is true. However you’ll also need to understand what is included within the project too. Will the designer include management of the website or is the total cost inclusive of hosting and domain name? Get a breakdown so that you can compare each potential developer effectively.
3. How will the website work towards my goals?
Your website is a marketing tool for your business and therefore you need to know how it is going to provide a return on your investment. You may need to take online bookings, get users to sign up for a subscription or sell goods online. Regardless of your call to action, a web designer should centre the design and copy of the site around these goals.
Will the finished product include mailing list opt-ins? Will users be able to effortlessly find my contact information? Can visitors select products and make purchases easily? All questions that you’ll want to consider asking to start a conversation about how your finished website will support your business strategy.
4. Will you review my existing website?
As important as the visual design of your website, there is also essential research to be done behind the scenes to help the site succeed. If you have an existing website with the correct analytics reporting set up you are potentially sitting on a large amount of data that can give really effective insight into what’s working and what isn’t.
You should expect a web designer to properly audit your existing site for things like bounce rate, conversions, SEO & keywords, demographics and other elements. If the agency or individual does not normally do this, or skims through this stage, you may be getting a good looking site but it may not end up supporting your business aims or getting you more leads.
5. How big is your team? Will you outsource any aspects of this project?
This is a double-barrelled question that is really important to ask to ensure that you can best predict how your project will be delivered. If you’ve chosen a freelancer then you may benefit from a more flexible and personal service and if you’ve picked an agency you may benefit from a larger knowledge and experience pool and more resources. Both options have their downsides and benefits to consider depending on how you like to work as well as your budget.
Crucially you need to know that your web designer has the time to dedicate to your project. Asking whether portions of the project will be outsourced is interesting as it will highlight any risk in the delivery. Managing any outsourced elements of the project can be tricky and you won’t be able to rely on previous examples of work if that individual isn’t actually carrying it out.
6. Who is responsible for content generation (written and images)?
After the complexity of your requirements is considered, the biggest differentiator of price and time of a web design project is content. Namely, this is the written copy needed for things like your about section or product descriptions and the images needed. You should clarify early on whether a project fee or hourly rate is inclusive of this written copy and image discovery as quite often it will not be.
If you are on a tight budget the best way to reduce the price of a web design project is to write your own copy and provide your own images. This is problematic if your list of things to do is growing every day and there isn’t any realistic probability that you’ll be able to provide this information. If you’re in this position, make sure that you know how much this written copy will cost you and that the designer is as good at copy writing as they are at developing websites.
7. Will my site follow SEO best practice?
Search Engine Optimisation is the process in which you attempt to rank higher in Google through various techniques. How effective your website is optimised from the beginning can vary vastly between different outfits and this should be a point you are clear about. It is a lot easier, cheaper and faster to optimise your website from the outset rather than go back in at a later date.
Equally, not all website designers have great knowledge or even have an interest in SEO. In order to prevent them from harming your SEO efforts through ignorance you will want to find a developer that can confidently articulate the SEO-friendly steps that they take within a web design project.
8. Will I be able to see the project as it is developed?
Every designer will work in a different way and project timelines can be different across agencies. Within a proposal you should be shown accurate and realistic timescales for your web design project and here you can find out at which points you are able to view any progress. It’s an awful situation if you are unable to view the site until the final stages and discover that you just don’t like the format they have opted to use. Make sure that there are points throughout the project where you can view and interact with the site so that these changes can be made early.
Equally, lean towards a designer that provides a generous revisions process. Amendment stages have to be limited to avoid an endless back and forth but this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a reasonable amount of time to request any changes before the project goes live.
9. Who will manage my website?
Websites are never truly finished and require ongoing management to be the most effective. If you have the resources and the knowledge you may be comfortable maintaining your site after it has been designed. If not, you’ll need to find out whether your web designer provides any ongoing maintenance or care packages and how much these will cost.
Leaving your website unattended is a terrible idea that will almost commit it to fail so factor in the time and/or money you will have to outlay to ensure this doesn’t happen.
10. Is web hosting and domain registration provided?
There are two unavoidable costs when it comes to creating a website outside the fee that you will pay for it to be developed. Website hosting is basically the computer out there that your website is saved on and your domain name is the URL that you enter into your browser. If these services are not provided by the website designer you’ll either have to pay them separately for these or source your own.
It may be easier to have the designer deal with all of these details however if you are on a budget you can often set up your own hosting at a lower cost if you have the time and the knowledge.
We hope at least a few of these questions have given you pause for thought prior to your next web design project. Asking these questions should leave little room for doubt about whether a potential web designer has what it takes to deliver. Clarifying all of the above points will reduce any risks of the project going sour in future too. Good luck!
Liam is a website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He spent a decade working within the charity sector before moving into the marketing space a number of years ago. Liam always strives to do something slightly different with every project and always designs to deliver results, not just pretty websites.