People don’t buy websites every day. Websites are different from anything a business owner will ever spend money on. A website isn’t tangible, can take many different forms, can range drastically in quality and effectiveness, and it can be just plain overwhelming and complicated. More times than not business owners view a website as an expense when they should really be viewing it as an investment. Those who believe a website is an expense have what we refer to as the business card mindset. A website to them is merely an online business card – it provides information, looks alright, and that’s about it. On the other hand, a business owner who views a website as an investment understands that like with any other investment, there is an intended ROI or return on investment. AKA the website should be helping drive more business!
In this post, we will cover the 9 questions you must ask a web designer to ensure that your website does bring you a return on your investment. Working with a web designer or web professional can be scary, there’s definitely an information gap and unfortunately, that leaves room for business owners to be mislead and taken advantage of. With this list of questions, you will be far ahead of the game going into your meetings with your potential web designers for hire.
A sign of a professional and organized web designer is going to have a strong process. From the first contact, the web designer should lay out what his/her process is, what to expect and why their process is the way it is. For example, here at Hidden Brilliance our process looks something like this –
1) Our first contact (quite brief)
2) Initial project discussion, learn about each other and if we’re a good fit for each other
3) discovery- a deep dive into your business and learn as much as possible so we can understand you, your business, goals, and issues.
4) Proposal time – we’ll go back after everything we’ve learned and put together a comprehensive, detailed proposal basically saying “here’s what we believe we should do based on your needs and goals.”
5) Planning – assuming we decide to work together we’ll plan out a timeline, get all of the needed materials, content, etc and kick off the project
It should be a red flag if a web designer doesn’t have a detailed process that you two move through not only leading up to the project kickoff, but through the project itself as well. This is a sign of disorganization and your project will be much the same.
Qualifications & Results
This is a no-brainer and obvious, however, you wouldn’t believe how often business owners simply look at some of the work a web designer has done and assume that they are qualified to work on their project and get them the results they are looking for. You need to directly ask your web designer what makes them qualified in [your project] area and what projects have they worked on previously that are similar, and what were the results? You aren’t expected to know everything, what platforms to use, online marketing tactics to implement, etc. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t say “I’m looking to get more traffic and leads to my website, what makes you qualified to do that and what results have you gotten in the past?”
Cost & Payments
Everyone’s favorite topic – costs. This could be one of the most important questions to address if not the most important. Coming back to the expense vs investment mindset – it’s extremely important to not just “shop” around for the lowest price. As a business owner you need to be better than that, understand that price is not a direct reflection of what you are getting like you’re shopping for TV’s. Understanding not just what the costs are, but WHY they are what they are is crucial. Ask your web designer if they don’t clearly show (which they should) how they got to the totals they did, and why they are what they are. Many times business owners will scoff at a price and don’t take any time to try and understand why the price is what it is. Again, think expense vs investment. If a web designer said “Your average customer is worth $1,000 to your business. With [Services] we’ll be able to bring in at least 1 new customer a month, so in only the first year that would bring in at least $12,000 in additional revenue.” How much would you as a business owner be willing to pay for that additional revenue (keep in mind that’s only 12k for the first year)? Just something to think about when assessing prices.
Search Engine Optimization, one of the sexiest terms in all of online marketing. Many have heard of it however, few truly understand what it means and how it fits into the overall traffic strategy of a website. While it would be unfair to expect you to ask a web designer if the alt descriptions are SEO friendly, it’s important to ask whether when building or redesigning a website if SEO will be taken into account and whether it will be in compliance with Google’s standards. SEO is one of those areas you can spend thousands upon thousands on depending on how dedicated you are, but regardless there are base standards that any website should meet.
While you aren’t buying a dishwasher, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be left wondering what to do if your contact form isn’t working correctly after your website is live and your web designer has since taken his money and disappeared off the face of the planet. Something we do at Hidden Brilliance is provide a 30-Day Warranty Guarantee. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do – simple as that. Although the warranty rarely becomes relevant, there are cases when something goes wrong after launching a website and we need to get in there and fix it. We made a promise to you as the customer to provide the best possible website for your business and brand and just because the project is technically done, doesn’t mean we should leave you in the dust to fend for yourself. This is a very important question to ask any web designer because those who don’t have a warranty policy should. No web designer in history has been perfect and without issues post launch so be weary of those who don’t offer this.
While on the topic of post-launch we should also address the ever-important training. Although it might seem surprising, many web designers don’t offer or even consider training for the business owner. This is a huge part of our client’s success at Hidden Brilliance and will spend as much time as needed to make sure the client is comfortable and ready to manage the site post-launch. A website is a living breathing thing, and needs to be updated and tended to consistently. Whether it’s blog posts, updating information, adding events, etc we want to make sure that our clients are more than comfortable with the CMS (content management system). Even if our clients happen to forget what we taught them, we’ve got that covered too because we record videos covering all the areas so a client can reference those videos at any time. This is a crucial topic to address with a web designer because you don’t want to be left hanging once the website is live and you need to make updates.
Off the Rack?
All web designers will offer different options and packages when it comes to building or redesigning a website. There’s a universal term however that comes with a negative connotation, and that term is “off the rack website.” This as you could probably guess, means that a website is generic, predictable…off the rack. These are websites that look like they haven’t been customized at all to the given business or their brand. There are web designers out there and agencies that are volume-based businesses where they charge a little and produce a lot of websites. The quality suffers, and these sites are almost always “off the rack” sites and look eerily similar with only information and colors being the differentiators. Make sure your web designer isn’t producing any “off the rack” websites and if they are make sure you understand why.
This is a very important question to ask. Ownership has been something that can cause nightmares for business owners. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories surrounding this topic and that’s why this makes the list. Although you may find a very nice, seemingly honest and straight forward web designer, you still need to address ownership. By default the creator of the website has ownership of a website under current law. So it is extremely important that in the proposal or other binding document, it is stated, in writing that the ownership of any content, media, and website will be owned by the client and none of this will be owned by the web designer. If this is not done, the web designer has full control and could simply delete the entire website one day three years later if he/she chooses. Make sure you own your website!!
Every project breeds new ideas, things change and opinions change. Pay attention to the details of the web designers proposal, especially when it comes to revisions. These are essentially do-overs in the design of the website if you have new ideas, or change your mind about how you want something to look. If you as a business owner need more than the alloted revisions, more than likely it will go into extra costs which will be an hourly rate so be aware of that. This should most definitely be covered in the proposal. If it isn’t then most certainly ask your web designer about how many revisions you can do for your project.
This checklist of topics and questions to bring with you when meeting with web designers will more than prepare you for success. As a business owner you wear a lot of hats and manage a lot of aspects of your business (if not all of them). The last thing you need is to be wasting time, money, and energy with a web designer that isn’t going to bring you results or represent you and your brand well online. This list should help make sure you find someone who will take your business seriously, work through a detailed process, and get the results you are looking to achieve.