Many times, your website is the first point of contact visitors have with your brand, and you want their first impression to be a positive one. That's why it's essential to ask the right questions when choosing a web developer. By being prepared with what you'd like to know, you have a better chance of working with someone who understands your vision and is willing to give you the website and user experience you want.
Here are 16 questions you should ask your next potential web developer.
Editor's note: Need a website design solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.
1. Have you worked on projects with goals like my own?
If your developer can't see your vision, they'll never have the ability to create the website you want. You need to make sure they understand what you're looking for and can execute a process centered around it. If you need an e-commerce site but your developer hasn't worked on a lot of these projects, or doesn't have experience at all, you're in trouble. It'll take twice as long to create because of the extra research and planning that'll be required to compensate for a lack of experience.
2. What's your research process like?
You want consumers to visit your site and understand your image, mission and goals. If they end up confused, your developer hasn't done their job. Do they research your target audience so they know whom to appeal to? Do they know about your brand and its identity? Going the extra mile to answer these questions is essential to building a website that represents you accurately.
3. How long does one web development project take to complete from start to finish?
If you have a deadline for your website's completion, you should work with someone who can complete your project within that time frame. Developers take different times to complete their tasks. There's nothing wrong with that, but you have to make sure their schedule and availability aligns with yours. You want to get the most for your budget, and being on the same schedule will ensure that.
4. What services are provided?
Different developers offer a different range of packages and services. It's your job to find out which package is best suited for your business. Do they implement SEO tactics? How far do they go with design? Do they offer social media services for promotion? Make a list of the services you'd like included in your agreement and go through each one with your potential developer. See if there are any features you absolutely need that they don't provide so you're not wasting your time.
5. What does your SEO strategy look like?
How will your developer utilize search engine optimization so that your website ranks in search engines? How will they increase its visibility? If your developer doesn't plan on using keyword research and other optimization strategies to boost your business's lead generation and engagement, it's best to go with another option. The whole point of your website is to act as a hub where visitors explore, gain interest and convert. A site without SEO is a site that's set up for failure from the start.
6. Will I be able to make edits on my own?
Websites change as time goes on. You need to outline the editing process. Are they setting up easy access for you to update your website and make necessary changes? Find out what tools or software they'll give you, if any, so that you can gauge if this endeavor with them is worth your time and money. It's up to you to decide how much editing access you want to your site once the developer's job is done.
7. Do you have a content marketing package?
Just because your web developer is creating a website for you doesn't mean it's guaranteed to generate leads, convert visitors, or increase ROI. Ask if they provide content marketing as part of their package. Adding a content marketing package reaps tons of benefits, including optimization of all content, improving visitor engagement, and creating quality content that ranks in SERPs. If you already have a content marketing strategy for your business, then you don't have to pay attention to this.
8. Can I reach out to your references and/or clients?
If you want an honest, unbiased opinion about what it's like to work with your potential developer, talk to their references and previous clients.
9. What is your expectation of my involvement?
Think about how much you'd like to be involved in the web development process. Do you want a say in the major decisions being made, or do you want to leave it up to your developer? It's also important to gauge what their expectations of your involvement are, because if you aren't on the same page, you won't get the results you want.
10. What do you charge for a project of this scope?
Every developer's rates are different; do your research beforehand to figure out the budget you want to set and what you're willing to pay. Don't opt for the cheapest developers you can find; you get what you pay for, and what you'll end up with is a website you aren't proud of. It's better to spend extra on a job well done than to skimp and have to pay more down the road to compensate for the lack of quality work.
11. Do you outsource projects or complete them in house?
In some cases, a web developer or web design agency may offer several different services, such as a content or social media marketing package, but don't have the necessary staff in-house to complete the project. Instead, they outsource this work to a third party, which can result in project delays, poor communication and extra costs. Before working with a web developer, ask whether they will complete specific projects in house or if they work with third-party developers. If you're interested in working with a web designer who outsources aspects of their work, research their partners and ask what parts of the project they will handle.
12. What assets do I need to provide?
Before working with a web developer, collect all of your company branding assets so you can quickly pass them along. These assets may include your company logo files, fonts, colors and brand guide documents. When you meet with a web developer or agency, determine which party will be responsible for delivering content, photos and graphics for the website. Some web developers and agencies will create or provide these website elements, but you will see this work reflected in your bill.
13. What is the project timeline?
It can be difficult to determine how long a web development project will take, especially if the scope of work changes or major edits are required throughout the process. Remember, the longer it takes to develop a website, the more it costs you, as you will be missing out on prospective clients and customers. Before you sign an agreement with a web developer, ask for a project timeline with significant milestones listed toward a launch date. Finally, create a proper communication framework with the developer so you can communicate the overall progress of the project.
14. Do you offer both custom and template websites?
Oftentimes, a web developer or web development agency offers both custom and template websites depending on your needs and budget. While a template website is usually a very cost-effective option, they are developed to work with any type of website and, therefore, often include extra, clunky code that can negatively affect its overall importance. Furthermore, if your website template requires multiple plugins, you run the risk of breaking your website when one malfunctions. Finally, template websites can have a "cookie-cutter" feel that visitors can pick up on.
Custom websites, on the other hand, are purpose-built for your needs and should only include the specific code you need. With a talented web developer, your site can be clean and efficient on the back end, resulting in better performance. However, custom-built websites come with a higher price tag and can take longer to build. Regardless of what type of website you commission, make sure your web developer is comfortable creating both template and custom websites.
15. How many design revisions do I have?
When you work with a third party, chances are their first version of the project won't be your favorite design. Many web developers and design agencies allow a set number of revisions in the approval process to limit project creep. Before signing an agreement, know how many changes you're allowed to make, or if there are any additional costs for further revisions.
16. Do you charge by milestone, hourly or a fixed fee?
Knowing how you will be charged for a developer's work is important as fees and additional payments quickly turn a reasonably priced project into an over-the-top, expensive website. If you work with someone who charges by the hour, you will have more flexibility on what you want the end result to be, but this can result in going over budget. Working with a web developer who charges a fixed price can help you stay on budget and ensure a fast turnaround. Charging by milestone is a happy medium between hourly and fixed fees as you can be a little more flexible with the scope of the project, but keep an eye on your budget.
Wrapping it up
Find the right web developer for your business takes time and research, but by knowing what you're looking for and always keeping the consumer in mind, you have a much better chance of hiring someone who suits your needs. It's important to have a developer who understands what will best represent your brand and fulfill its goals, and asking the right questions will help you find the perfect one.
Additional Reporting by Sean Peek