34 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Design CompanyChoosing the perfect design company for a project is not a decision to make on a whim. You’re going to be spending a lot of time meeting and communicating with your design company; it’s a very involved process.
In the initial meeting, before the contract is signed, you’ll be answering questions from the company’s project manager regarding your wants and needs. Consider asking some of your own questions to gain a better view of how the process may work on your side, and if you’re even compatible with the company.

You should feel comfortable with your choice and in the end, walk away knowing your investment of time and money was well spent.

How do I find the right design company?

To figure out which design company to hire you need to know the right questions to ask during the initial meet’n’greet. If you’re not very familiar with the web design process there’s some lingo you may want to learn. Being familiar with the terminology will help prepare you for the interview and ensure you have a clear understanding of the project details.

Below you’ll find a list of 34 questions to ask to make sure you don’t hire a crappy design company.

Ask About Past Clients

How past clientele evaluate their experience working with a design company may help you predict your satisfaction with the company and narrow down the decision about which company to hire. Consider asking past clients of the design company the following five questions:

  1. Were they happy with the process?
    Yes No Checklist

    Keep a Yes/No checklist of responses to reference later when making your final decision about which design company to hire.

  2. Was the work completed in a timely manner?
  3. Did they pay what they expected to pay for the site?
  4. Did they receive the website they hoped for?
  5. If the client had a do-over, would they work with the same company?

If clients can answer Yes to the first four questions and No to the fifth question (with maybe a few exceptions here and there), then it sounds like the design company builds trusting relationships with their clients. But don’t stop your investigation there…

Drill the Design Company    

With a clearer idea of the company’s success with past clients in your head, start drilling them about their process to get an upfront idea about exactly which services they offer and if there are additional fees for certain services. The remaining questions have been divided up into 11 categories to clearly outline the topics you should discuss in the interview.

Site Updates

  1. At what point do final revisions to the site become updates for which you are charged additionally? 
  1. When it comes to regular content updates, how much are the charges? (Updates may be charged by a monthly or hourly rate.)
  1. If you have the ability to update the site on your own, how much of the content can you easily update and what should you call the design company for?
  1. Can they provide you with a sample login to an admin section to see how their content management system works?

An admin section is an area of a website where people can access and edit certain information on the site if they have the corresponding log in and password.

A content management system is an application used to create and store content on web pages. MayeCreate websites are built using a content management system called WordPress.

  1. Will they provide training or a guide to teach you how to update the site on your own?

Stock Photography

Stock photography refers to photos that are available for purchase and can be used under certain conditions. Using stock photos on a website typically costs less than hiring a photographer to take all the photos for you.

Thinkstock - Stock photography

Thinkstock is one of many websites the supplies stock photography.

  1. Can you use the stock photography in the site for other marketing pieces for your company? If yes, ask that they purchase the images at a high enough resolution for use in print pieces.
  1. Are stock photos included in the cost for building the site?

Hosting

  1. Where will the site be hosted? How much will that cost?

Write down the different hosting company names or choices along with an estimate of the monthly cost to keep your website up and running. If you’re unsure of this information, don’t hesitate to ask your design company for advice regarding hosting.

  1. Is there a discount if your pay for a year in advance? How much?

Domain Name

Simply put, a domain name is a unique name used to identify your website; it’s your website’s URL (website address).

  1. If you don’t own a domain name and the design company purchases it, will you own the domain name or will they? (This is important for the future if you ever want to switch design companies.)
  1. How often will you need to renew the domain name? (Every year? Every 2 years? Every 5 years? Other?)
  1. How much does it cost for them to purchase a domain name for you? Is it included in the estimate?

Changes

  1. If a change needs to be made to the proposal after it’s signed, what is the process to add those changes to the project?
  1. What types of changes will incur additional costs and which are included in the original estimate?

Time Frame

  1. What happens if the project is not completed on time?
  1. How long does a website typically take to build?
  1. Can they provide you with a sample project timeline?

Design/Programming

  1. Will their design process result in a custom looking website or will it be a pre-designed template?
  1. Will they be using open source code, custom programming or both?

Open source code is created by a community and can be used in a plethora of situations to modify a website. Custom programming on the other hand is done by one individual person to meet the needs of one unique situation, such as building a custom web page.

Search Engine Submission

  1. Will the site be submitted to search engines such as Google?
  1. What, if any, search engine optimization will be included in the bid or do you have to ask for it specifically?
  1. What types of results can you expect to see from their efforts? (First page placement? #1 ranking?)
  1. How long will it be before you can expect to see the results? How long will they last?

Browser Compatibility

  1. Will they optimize the site to display correctly in multiple browsers?  

Have you ever visited a website and found that it looked fine in Chrome but some content didn’t show up right in Safari? If that’s the case, the website might not have been optimized to display correctly in all browsers.

  1. Which browsers do they optimize for? (Internet Explorer 8, 9, 10 or 11? Firefox? Safari? Google Chrome?)
    Responsive image

    It’s important for websites to display properly on all devices to ensure the visitor has a good experience and can easily navigate the site.

Device Compatibility

  1. Will they optimize the site to display correctly on multiple devices?

These days people don’t just view websites from a standard desktop computer. Tablets and smartphones are commonly used to connect with businesses on the go. Websites have to be modified so that they will display on the different sized screens in a way that’s still user friendly.

  1. If so, which device? (Desktops? Tablets? Smartphones?)

Pricing

  1. Is the estimate a fixed bid, meaning it won’t change unless you change the project, or is it an estimate range that can potentially be exceeded?
  1. Are there any other annual or monthly costs not covered in the estimate?

Having clear answers to all of these questions will help you weigh the pros and cons of each design company and ultimately allow you to hire the best company based on your budget and project needs.

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