Questions to Ask a Web Designer

When thinking about hiring a website designer it’s often difficult to know what to ask. Website design is a complex practice full of jargon and phrases that to the normal customer are often confusing. Good web designers will often explain these complexities to you in simple plain English. Though often enough the prospective client isn’t sure on what questions to ask a web designer.

We have compiled a list of possible questions to ask a website designer while interviewing them for website design services.
This guide is aimed at small to medium sized businesses and based on our own experiences at Jamie King Media.

What are your qualifications and experience?

Designers should be able to list their qualifications and experience in website design. It should be noted that experience will over shadow qualifications and is where a judgement on their skills could be made. We personally find website design partly artistic and in our minds art is self generated. We feel a designers experience and past work holds more weight than qualifications these days.

How do you calculate the cost of websites, per hour or per page?

Web design firms all work differently and their pries can vary massively. Two possible price structures are per hour or per page, knowing which policy the web designer applies could help in understanding their final quotation.

What is included in your website packages?

Knowing what you’re paying for is important and again this specification will vary between design firms. It may help in comparing quotations from other web design firms but overall knowing what you get for your money is paramount.

What search engine / internet marketing is offered as standard in your website design packages?

Most design firms will add your website to all major search engines, dmoz (an open source directory of websites highly regarded by search engines), Google places and a number of business directories. Knowing what they will do as default is worth knowing but it’s recommended to think about your Internet Marketing plans once the site is online. There are many techniques and campaigns that can be applied to further enhance your new websites internet exposure. So ask if they offer internet marketing as an additional service and the expected impact of their default internet marketing.

What are your payment terms such as deposits, stage payments or refunds?

Finance might be a topic to avoid at first but it’s best to lay down the expectations of both parties early on.

Do you provide free after care sales and support and if so for how long after the completion of the website?

Some firms will offer free support for a certain period after the completion of the website. This should include things like any final changes, updates and tweaks to your initial search engine performance. Some firms may not offer this after care and it should be determined before hand.

If you don’t provide after care and support, how much would this cost if I had any problems that need your attention?

If the web design firm doesn’t offer after care it’s worth asking what they charge for it over a specific time period of 3 months, 6 months etc.

Can I edit the website myself? If not what do you charge for updates and changes?

Some websites have content management built in, there are pros and cons of this and its worth doing some research before deciding if editable control is suitable for your needs. Some firms will offer website management and update services which are usually charged by the hour with a minimum charge. The thing here is to anticipate the amount of updates you might do through the year and justify if you need a content management or are happy to pay your web design firm a fee for updates when you need it.

Do you offer any website guarantee or warranty?

This is not so common but some web design firms offer a guarantee on their website designs. What the guarantee covers can vary but if they have one its worth checking out the details around it.

Are website designs generated from template layouts to choose from or are they custom built from scratch?

This is a sore point in the web design world. Template layouts are ‘off the shelf’ pre-made web page layouts generated to suit the ‘average’ website. Custom layouts built from scratch are built to your requirements. It’s advised to use the services of a firm building custom layouts from scratch as this way you’ll know the website is build towards your customers and business, not the national average.

Do you provide domain name & web hosting in your packages? If so what is the annual renewal cost for the domain name and web hosting space.

Some website designers offer web hosting as part of their package fee. It’s worth asking what their annual renewal fee is in advance. Firms that offer web hosting often look to establish better long term relationships with their customers but this doesn’t go to say using an external web hosting company effects the firm’s dedication to their clients. Its also worth noting what features they offer for their web hosting, if they provide it.

Do we have to host the website with your company?

Some firms who do provide web hosting only allow you to host your website with them, check the ongoing costs of this and check any get out clauses. If the web design firm is happy for you to host your website with any commercial web hosting company then it’s time to start comparing prices online. Equally ask the web design firm for their recommendations as well.

How long will the website design take?

Depending on the size of the website you require its worth asking how long the design process will take. Many factors determine this time scale and remember that you have some obligations along the way, so any delays on your part may hold up the design process. Knowing an estimated completion date is a good way to set a target and aim for it with your chosen design firm. Typically a 5 page html website may take 2 to 4 weeks.

How well do you know my industry on a scale of 1 to 10?

Don’t expect a high rating answer to this and don’t take it too seriously. Web designers are designers and thus why you may be considering their services. Whatever your trade the web design firm may or may not have had experience designing in this trade. If they have this will obviously help boost your confidence in using them, but if they have little or no experience in your trade don’t write them off immediately. Take the time to explain your trade and make a judgement later. Good client designer relationships and communication go along way in services like these.

What are clients typically required to supply?

Normally clients supply the written content, images, logo and a design brief detailing the pages required and some preferences on colours, styles and layout. Some web design companies will offer professional photography as part of their package, if not as a supplement. Though you normally are required to submit the written content for pages some design firms will assist and tweak the content to better suit search engine performance. Some firms may advise using a professional copywriter for the job.

Where do you obtain stock images used in the website design and are they compliant with copyright?

Did you know if you use an image on your website that was pulled from Google images and you don’t have authorised usage rights you could be held liable for copyright fee’s or sued for unauthorised use. Ask your design firm where they obtain stock images, they should respond with a known stock image agency.
Remember though, if you supply the designers with unauthorised images and don’t inform them of this you’ll be the one held liable for any costs.

Can you show me one of the cheapest website designs you have done & show me one of the most costly website designs you have done?

A strange question I agree, but. Some design firms will put more attention to detail in higher value projects than the lesser ones. In theory this shouldn’t compromise their web design standards but it’s worth checking to see if they put 100% into all their work.
Website design companies with a Guarantee or Warranty on website designs are favourable in this instance.

Are your website designs W3C validated?

W3C is the web standards of website design. They encourage the proper use of html coding and provide online validation tools to check compatibility. Unfortunately not many firms adopt this policy in their designs because its value is regarded as not necessary.

Do you supply the completed website on a CD as a backup?

Having a copy of your website on a CD gives you peace of mind. Many website design firms will be happy to do this and generally maintain a good level of customer service throughout the years. However in some unfortunate circumstances clients have been left abandoned without a digital backup of their website. Ask your proposed design company about obtaining a digital backup of the finished website. If they seem apprehensive about doing this it’s worth asking yourself why? End of the day you paid for the website design and coding which on completion becomes to ownership and copyright of you.

What to ask a website designer / web developer

We based this article around our own experience at Jamie King Media. We found small to medium sized businesses looking to hire a website designer wondered what questions to ask a web designer. Questions vary for all circumstances and particularly for larger businesses that might have high preferences on qualifications and experience.
Knowing what to ask a website designer can often help in understanding the web design process and better build a good working relationship.

So if you have an interview with a web designer and want to know what type of questions you should ask then this list may be helpful to you.

Author: James King
Dated: November 15th 2010

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