Sometimes, it’s easy to spot a bad web designer from a mile away.
Other times, it’s more complicated.
Our goal in this post is to help you understand how to tell the difference between a good web design agency and a bad one so that you can make a decision that won’t hurt your business.
Why is it important to choose a good web design agency?
If you were going to get a tattoo that has a lot of meaning to you, wouldn’t you want to go with the best? Budget allowing, of course.
With web design, it’s the same.
A mediocre web designer or web design agency will provide a mediocre design.
Either that, or they will take 8+ months to deliver your website, and the end result will not be what you had hoped for.
So… you need to learn how to pick ‘em.
What are some questions to ask when hiring a web designer?
You can’t expect to get a top-notch website from a web design company that simply isn’t up to par.
While it may be uncomfortable for you to have a conversation with your potential web designer about their weaknesses, it’s an important thing to discuss before you cut them a check.
So what kinds of questions should you be asking your potential website designer or web design agency?
Here are 25 questions to ask when hiring a web designer, long with some helpful information about Revved Digital.
1. Have you built similar websites for past clients?
Sometimes going with a generic web design agency isn’t your best option – especially when you work in a complex industry, or your business has very industry-specific requirements.
So, while it is important to find a web designer that is overall a great fit, it’s also important to identify the best web design agency for your specific business or industry.
For example, here at Revved Digital, we are a B2B web design agency – which means what we specialize in building websites for B2B clients.
Try searching for “web designer” + “your industry” in Google, and see what comes up.
You may be surprised at how many niche-specific options there are out there!
2. What kind of research will you do before you begin?
Different web design agencies will answer this question in different ways, but ultimately, there should be only one right answer: User Research, and Competitive Research.
These are the two different kinds of researches that your potential future web designer should be performing before they get started on your web design project. Failing to address either of these two points could lead to a bad website.
Make sure that they will look into your users and the competitive landscape of your industry.
3. Will you review and audit my current website?
Not every web design agency will provide this, but we do on request.
This point ties into the last question in regards to performing user research for a new website:
Without understanding how users are interacting with (or not interacting with) your current website, how can a web designer know what to do to improve the next incarnation of your site?
A web design agency that provides an audit of your current website will be sure to give you a great web design that’s researched and delivers results.
4. What’s your web design & development process?
Many new web designers don’t have a clear design + development process in place, and that typically leads to their downfall.
You see, no matter how talented, experienced, or promising a web designer appears, if they don’t have the appropriate internal processes for managing client projects, they will become overwhelmed with work and will not be able to handle your project.
Here at Revved, we implement a 4-stage design and development process:
- Discover: We learn as much as we can about your business, customers, users, history, industry, competitors, needs, and what you want in a new website.
- Design: We provide you with several design options in the form of both low and high fidelity mockups.
- Develop: After you approve our designs, we begin to develop your website. We prefer to develop on WordPress because it’s easier, cheaper, and more user-friendly for you.
- Deliver: After everything is done, we hand off the website to you. We will sit with you to let you know how to maintain your site, make updates, changes, and add new content.
Having this process enables us to keep track of projects along a workflow, and keep our clients updated in regards to how their projects are coming along.
5. Do you have a portfolio/case study we can review?
A web designer or web design agency without a portfolio, or at the very least, a few case studies, is a bad sign and you should run for the hills.
This means one of two things:
- The web designer is new and/or inexperienced, and they will not have what it takes to handle your business’ web design project.
- The web designer is full of themselves, and they don’t believe that a portfolio is necessary.
In both cases, you should move on to a new potential web designer.
Pro-tip: Make sure that your potential web designer has a portfolio of live websites and that it’s up to date. Static images, gifs, or videos don’t showcase their ability to deliver a project, only their ability to design a fancy website. You need a designer + developer with substance.
6. Can you provide references/testimonials from past clients?
Most web design agencies should be able to provide you with a list of testimonials or references from past clients – this is a great way to learn not only what kind of work they churn out, but also what their past clients think of them.
A web design agency with no testimonials is either too new to the industry to handle your project or doesn’t have any positive testimonials to speak of.
7. Who is going to be my project manager?
Sometimes, your project manager will be the owner of the web design agency – as is the case with Revved Digital.
When your project manager is the owner of the web design agency, that means the agency is small and only has 2-5 employees. This can be both good or bad, depending on how you look at it.
To us, keeping our operation small means that we are able to spend more time being creative, and work with fewer clients.
When you work with a larger web design agency, sometimes a project can get a bit hectic.
You may end up working with 2, 3, or more project managers, and it will be easy to get lost and/or confused. Internal communication at larger agencies can be hard – trust me, I’ve worked for a few.
We’re biased – but we think that working with a smaller agency is simply the safest and most comfortable route to take!
8. Do you offer any services other than web design?
When a web design agency focuses solely on web design, it’s a good sign that they are going to give you a great website!
However, it’s also a sign that they may not be able to grow with you.
Sure, you will get a great website.
But when you hire a company that only builds websites, you will need to hire a separate agency for SEO, and another one for branding, and another one for marketing…
If you have those two things covered in-house, then you should be safe going for an agency that specializes in web design… but if you don’t, you’re probably going to be better off working with a web design agency that provides web design, seo services, and corporate branding.
This way, it’s easier to keep everything localized to one company!
9. How long will it take to have my website developed?
This question varies from agency to agency, and honestly, there’s no right answer.
Some websites take a few weeks, while others require 4-6 months or more.
As your potential web designer about how long they think it will take for them to design and develop your new website – because it’s better to know at the beginning and compare that value to a few other agencies than it is to find out 5 months in that your agency needs a few more months!
10. How will we communicate during the design & development process?
A good agency will work with you and communicate with how however you feel most comfortable, so make sure the agency you decide to move forward with is flexible in terms of how they communicate with their clients.
Some agencies work specifically on certain communication platforms – we prefer to collaborate on Trello, but if you like emails/texts better, we work with you.
This is a question you can’t ignore, so be sure to include this in your list of questions to ask when hiring a web designer for your business!
11. Is my website going to be outsourced, and if so, to whom?
Many people think of the word “outsourced” as a bad thing – and while that belief has its merits, it’s not always true.
A good web design agency will be honest & up-front about whether or not they hire sub-contractors to help them manage certain projects, so it’s important for you to understand who is going to be working on your website.
If you have security concerns and don’t want your business data shared with another party, demand that your potential web design agency does not outsource any portion of your project to another party.
If they can’t meet this demand, you need to move on.
12. Will my website be optimized for conversions?
A good website is more than just a few nicely-designed pages – it should be a lead-generating machine that essentially operates as an additional salesperson.
Websites that are optimized for higher conversion rates tend to provide you with a steadier stream of high-quality leads. It’s important to hire a web designer or a web design agency that understands both web design, and also the in’s and out’s of conversion rate optimization.
13. Will my website rank high on Google when it’s launched?
Anyone who can guarantee this is a liar, flat-out.
The truth is that it is impossible to guarantee that a website will appear on Google, and even harder to predict rankings for certain keywords or keyword groups.
With enough content marketing, thorough keyword optimization, and a strong backlink portfolio, it’s safe to say that your website will probably perform well on Google search results – but anyone who can guarantee this is lying to you, and you should be wary of working with them.
They may just be telling you what you want to hear, so they can squeeze a check out of you.
The better question you should be asking is:
14. Do you follow SEO best practices?
Keyword optimization. On-page SEO. HTML schema markup. Link building.
These are all things that are considered SEO best-practices, and you should work with a web design agency that understands how to build Google-friendly websites using these standards of design and development.
Because your ultimate goal is to attain more customers/leads through your website, so in order to do that, you need to show up in Google – right?
15. Will my website be mobile-friendly?
In 2020, I doubt that you will be able to find a web designer who is unable to design a mobile-friendly website. It’s simply a requirement these days.
However, the big question is: are they going to charge you for this?
The answer should be no.
In 2020, all websites produced for clients should be mobile-friendly by default, and if your potential web designer says otherwise, they are just trying to squeeze every last penny out of you.
We don’t nickel and dime our clients. All of our websites are not only mobile-friendly but mobile-first.
16. Will my website be ADA-accessible?
ADA Accessibility is a big question these days, and your website should be 100% ADA accessible.
Especially if you work in an industry that typically provides to people who might fall under ADA specifications, such as the medical industry, education, or e-learning.
Make sure you ask your potential web designer If they have experience in building websites that are ADA-accessible. If they don’t it’s not worth the risk.
Go with a designer who understands ADA-accessibility, and can provide you with an accessible design.
17. Will my website be secure from hackers & viruses?
Virtually no one can guarantee that a website will be secure from hackers and viruses, and especially not for under a few hundred thousand dollars.
Hackers and viruses are simply a fact of life, and if someone is dedicated, they can break into even the most secure websites and apps to steal data.
But… that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do to help prevent this from happening.
Ask your website designer what measures they will take to secure your website, and whether or not they are able to provide you with legal documentation which ensures that you are not liable for any damages caused to your customers due to a data breach caused by a virus or a hacker.
Something like this Terms of Service, for example.
18. Will you be using a theme, or custom development?
In order to keep costs down, many web design agencies will opt for a theme instead of ground-up design and development – and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as you’re not paying them more than $500 – $1000 for your website.
But if you are paying upwards of $2k+, then you should expect that your website designer will be designing and developing your site from the ground-up.
Of course, this is entirely circumstantial.
This is definitely one of the most important questions you can ask when hiring a web designer, so be sure to include this one on your list.
19. What do you need from me before we begin?
Most good web designers will have a list they can send you containing all of the things they need from you – including text, images, videos, graphics, source files, documents, brand guidelines, a list of keywords, competitors, locations, addresses… etc.
Ask your web designer what assets they will need from you before they begin your web design project in order to avoid any confusion down the road.
Chances are they will ask you for this information before you have the chance to ask them this question… but, just in case!
20. Who will be providing text for the website?
Many web designers also offer copy-writing services – like us.
But, some don’t, and they will expect you to provide and proof-read 100% of the content which will be uploaded to the website. It’s important that you know this beforehand, as it’s bound to be an important factor in deciding whether or not to move forward with them.
21. Who will be providing images & videos for the website?
Most, if not all, web designers and web design agencies have the option to provide you with stock photos – and some even have the ability to provide custom-created and on-brand photography for your business, like us – but you should definitely ask your potential web designer this question before you start.
Sometimes, they will expect you to provide all of the photos – so ask!
22. What platform are you going to build my website on?
There are so many great platforms to build websites on, and there’s no right answer here.
The only thing you should be certain of is that if you are paying several thousand dollars for a high-level website, your potential future web designer is not going to build it on a platform like Wix, Squarespace, or Drupal.
If you are paying big bucks for a website for your business, you should expect it to be built on a more articulated and advanced platform, like WordPress, Ghost, Magento, or another CMS.
This depends on your budget, but it should be discussed with your designer beforehand.
23. How many revisions/changes am I allowed?
We allow unlimited revisions during the design process, and charge for additional revisions if you request them to be made after you’ve already approved designs… but not every agency is the same.
Some agencies will allow a certain number of revisions, and once you surpass that number, will charge you hourly…
And others will simply charge you for each revision, starting at the first one.
This is an important question to ask your potential web designer before you begin working together.
24. Is there anything that’s not included in the price?
When it comes to things that are in or not in the scope of the project, there should be a clear distinction made between the two.
Ask your potential web design agency what is specifically not included in the scope of the design – and if you need it added, ask them to add it to your project.
Sometimes, an agency will be unable to offer certain things you need to be done – and you need to decide whether you want to proceed with that agency, or move on to a different agency who has the ability to provide you with everything that you need (i.e. a Full-Service Web Design Agency).
25. Do you offer training/web support after the website is launched?
We offer 60 days of post-delivery support, but not all web design agencies are the same.
Unless you are having your web design agency completely manage all content updates, changes, updates, and more on your website and paying them on a monthly basis, it’s important that they provide you with the necessary post-delivery support and website training.
This can be in the form of an in-person meeting, a PowerPoint, documentation, or live training sessions.
Whatever it is, make sure you ask them before you get started.
Can you think of any more questions you should ask a web designer?
I think that this list is pretty complete, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been wrong before. What are some other important questions you can think of which you should ask a web designer before you hire them for your business’ web design project?