There are hundreds of companies in every major market that offer web design and development. How do you tell the good ones from the bad?
Don’t simply take someone’s word for it. Selecting a web development firm should be treated like hiring an employee, and as such, it’s important to ask the right questions when interviewing one. Here are some questions you should make sure to ask:
- May I see some examples of your work?
- Do you have a contract?
- What is your process for creating a website?
- Do you build sites that are standards-compliant?
- What graphics software do you use?
- What development software do you use?
- What programming languages do you use?
- What happens if I want changes?
- Do you provide hosting?
- Will you register a domain name for us?
- Will you provide me with the files for my website?
- How long have you been in business?
- May I see some examples of your work? Asking this is an absolute must. Never hire a web developer without seeing some of the other sites they’ve created. This is a sure-fire way of telling whether you’ll get your money’s worth from them. Same goes with testimonials and client references.
- Do you have a contract? Never work with a designer or developer without getting the terms of your relationship in writing. It makes life easier for everyone involved, because both parties will know their obligations. In particular, it’s important to clarify the scope of a project, the delivery date, payment terms, and who owns the design, content and code.
- What is your process for creating a website? This question is important not only to know what their process is, but to see if they even have one. A good process for creating a website will include planning, design, development, testing and promotion.
- Do you build sites that are standards-compliant? The idea behind web standards (see webstandards.org) is that a website’s design is separated from its content, meaning that when you decide to redesign your website someday, you won’t have to start from scratch. Sites that are standards-compliant typically load faster, are more compatible with mobile devices, can be updated more easily, and are more accessible to those with disabilities, which could shield your organization from possible lawsuits (see, for example, National Federation of the Blind v. Target). Do not work with a designer or developer who isn’t familiar with web standards!
- What graphics software do you use? Look for companies that use professional design software such as Photoshop and Illustrator from Adobe.
- What development software do you use? Web developers usually have two options when programming a website—they can write the code themselves or use a web authoring program. Programs such as Dreamweaver can be used to create excellent websites, but they are often relied upon as crutches for quasi-professionals who sometimes don’t know how to program standards-compliant HTML.
- What programming languages do you use? Look for developers who know more than just HTML—they should be well versed in server-side scripting languages, which will help automate your website and reduce the amount of time required to build and maintain your site. Open-source solutions such as PHP generally result in lower costs when compared to proprietary technologies like ASP/ASP.NET.
- What happens if I want changes? Changes in the scope of a project, as well as the design and functionality of a site, are bound to occur. Make sure it is determined ahead of time what will happen if revisions must be made, for example whether you pay for the changes or if certain modifications will be made at no additional charge. Another issue to discuss is how ongoing maintenance will be done—you will almost definitely have to pay for future enhancements and updates to the site, but some companies do things differently than others.
- Do you provide hosting? Although some firms provide web hosting in-house, most individual developers and many development companies do not. In this case, they will often set up a hosting account with another company and have that company bill you directly. Beware of any developer that does not give you a choice regarding hosting—usually it’s easier if the developer also provides hosting, but you do have a choice, especially if the hosting fees seem a bit high. (Note that your hosting options will depend on the technology required to build your site, and the level of service you want, but don’t believe anyone that tells you that you have only one option.)
- Will you register a domain name for us? Most developers will gladly register a domain name on your behalf. After all, every website has to have an address, so it’s a necessity for any business. Make sure that the developer registers the domain under your company’s name, so that you are the owner of the name and not the developer.
- Will you provide me with the files for my website? Many of our clients come to us because of disputes or problems with their previous designer. Make sure that the company you hire is willing to give you a backup of your website, or even better, access to download and modify the site at any time.
- How long have you been in business? A somewhat obvious but essential question that should be asked of any company you contract with.
Remember, selecting the right company to manage your website is extremely important, because your website can have a dramatic effect on the success and reputation of your business. To find out our answers to the questions above, send us an email or call us at (513) 742-9150.