Hiring a website design company is far from easy. It usually takes hours of endless searching before you can make that final decision
In my post, 15 Best Qualities to Look For in a WordPress Design Company, I talk about why it is important to hire the best company for your business. There is a lot to consider.
To make things easier, I made a questionnaire that will help you pick the best website design company.
How it works
The questionnaire includes 37 questions to ask a web design company. These questions are designed to assess for the skill, experience, and scope of services they provide.
The accompanying Q&A explains why you need to ask these questions to a website designer, and shows the answers you should be looking for.
Q: Where are you located?
Why you need to ask: Many web design companies are located in offshore sites outside your country. While there is nothing wrong with hiring offshore, it does carry the risk of miscommunication. Time zone differences and language barriers tend to cause problems.
What to look for: You can’t go wrong with an experienced onshore web designer. Working with a professional from the same country will make it easier for you to collaborate and communicate. Keeping track of your website’s progress is also easier if you hire a web designer who not only speaks the same language but also works in the same time zone.
Q: Which locations do you serve?
Why you need to ask: Large onshore companies tend to outsource their web design service offshore. Unless they serve your location, it might cause the same problems as hiring offshore.
What to look for: Check with a website design company to see if they provide services for your location. To ensure smooth and timely exchanges throughout the process, their services (including customer support) must be available during your free times.
Q: How long have you been designing websites?
Why you need to ask: Technical know-how is an important quality, but so is the actual experience in web design. Before deciding to hire, you should ask a designer about the number of years he/she has been in the industry.
What to look for: Professionals with at least 3 to 4 years of hands-on experience is a huge plus. If you can, choose a designer who has been actively building websites in recent years. The standards of web design are constantly evolving. Naturally, you will want someone who stays up-to-date and uses the latest techniques in creating websites that are relevant to modern audiences.
Q: Do you have a portfolio or samples I can look at?
Why you need to ask: A web designer’s portfolio primarily reveals their ability to make beautiful and functional websites. It also says a lot about their dedication and how much effort they put into their craft. Without these samples, it can be difficult to evaluate a designer’s actual experience.
What to look for: Start by going over their samples. Don’t overthink it or spend too much time. Just have a quick run-through of a designer’s portfolio and if you like what you see, then you’ll most likely love the website they will design for you. The next step is to check for variety in their work. You want a designer who displays versatility and creates unique websites. Finally, check out their live samples (if there are any) and assess the websites for responsiveness, loading speed, ease of use, and functionality. Altogether, they will show you the level of quality a website designer is capable of.
Q: How many projects do you handle at a time?
Why you need to ask: Website designers that handle more than 3 projects at any given time might not be able to give your website the full attention it deserves. Since their focus is quantity, they tend to produce websites which lack a much-needed personality.
What to look for: As a startup, it would be more ideal to find a professional who focuses on building personalized websites for their clients. If you want your website to stand out, find a company that prioritizes quality and puts hard work into every detail.
Q: How long will it take you to complete my website?
Why you need to ask: Not that speed matters, but a good web development company finishes designing websites within a reasonable timeframe.
What to look for: It usually takes one month to complete a simple website with basic features. However, a website with advanced features and/or custom design may take longer to build. Before you hire, ask a website designer for their estimated time of completion. If you are in a hurry, convey a deadline and confirm whether it’s possible to finish it by that date.
Q: Will you be responsible for the domain and hosting?
Why you need to ask: Every website needs a domain and web hosting to be fully operational. A web host is a digital space which makes your website accessible to online users, while the domain serves as a website’s online address. If a company doesn’t offer these services, you either have to hire a web developer who can take care of them for you, or obtain them yourself.
What to look for: If you’re completely new to this or simply want to cut costs, look for a web development agency that can take care of all your design, domain, and web hosting needs. These companies usually offer plans and packages at discounted prices, saving you time and money.
Q: Will you test my website before it goes live?
Why you need to ask: Testing is an integral part of web development. During this stage, a website undergoes a series of tests which help identify potential problems. Testing is crucial because it lets the designer know of any existing issues. That way, they can be corrected before a website goes live. Sadly, not all design companies perform testing. The last thing you want to happen is to publish a website with plenty of errors as it’ll reflect badly on your business.
What to look for: Only work with companies that include testing in their design process. The design and layout of each page must be assessed for inconsistencies. Individual pages must also be tested for their loading speed and responsiveness across multiple browsers and devices. Lastly, the content must be checked for grammatical mistakes and spelling errors.
Q: Will I get complete ownership of my website as soon as it’s finished?
Why you need to ask: Shady companies might keep certain information and prevent you from having complete access to your website. The reason behind it is they want you to be completely dependent on their full range of services, even after they’ve finished building your website. You’d want to stay away from them.
What to look for: A trustworthy website designer will grant you full ownership to your website. You should be given access to your website’s administrative, database, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and Domain Name System (DNS) settings.
Q: Can you develop a niche website for my business?
Why you need to ask: Niche sites are perfect for small businesses targeting specific audiences. Without the technical knowledge, background, or experience in building websites for your particular niche, a designer cannot help you attract ideal customers.
What to look for: Search for a web design company that specializes in making websites for your niche. A designer who is well-informed in your industry will be familiar with the products and/or services you offer. In turn, he/she will be able to create a personalized website that attracts potential customers and increases your chances of converting them to buyers.
Q: Can you build me an advanced website with specialized features?
Why you need to ask: Websites come in all shapes and sizes. There is no single way on how images, text, or pages should appear – just as the functionality and feel of each website tend to vary. Your website may require a complicated design template, but not all designers have the skill to do so.
What to look for: A professional designer who goes beyond the basics and is capable of building websites with advanced features. More importantly, it should be someone who is knowledgeable enough in your industry so that he/she can recommend the perfect design layout for your website. For example, if you’re planning to offer online courses, a true specialist would suggest building either a forum or a membership-only website.
Q: I already own a website. How can you change its look?
Why you need to ask: An old website with outdated design elements will have a negative impact on your traffic and branding. If you want your business to survive, you likewise have to adapt to the changing times. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to redesign your website. Unfortunately, not all design companies offer as many choices, leaving you little room to choose.
What to look for: Find a company who can give you more than one option for redesigning a website. Usually, a designer would offer to tweak your old template for some changes, install a pre-existing template, customize a starter template, or create a fully personalized template from scratch.
Q: Can you make my website responsive and mobile-friendly?
Why you need to ask: Internet traffic is divided between people who are using different devices and browsers. These subtle differences can affect how your website is displayed for each user. Depending on how well or poorly built your website is, this could have good or bad results.
What to look for: Find a web design company that equips websites with responsive features. That way, your website will properly render on-screen no matter where it is viewed. Talk to your designer about building more than a mobile-friendly website. It has to be optimized for various screen sizes and browsing platforms.
Q: How can you improve the speed of my website?
Why you need to ask: Research shows that web pages which take more than 2 seconds to load discourage people from staying or viewing other pages from the same site. Since people are more likely to bounce off, your website will have lower page views, sales, conversion rates, and an overall return of investment (ROI). Simply put, a slow website is bad for business.
What to look for: Companies that offer website maintenance will most likely be able to build you a fast-loading website or improve the speed of an existing one. From choosing the right web host to the performance of site caching, database, and image optimization, a website designer must have the capacity to improve site loading speeds before and after a website is handed to its owner.
Q: How can you improve the performance of my website?
Why you need to ask: An existing website that isn’t updated regularly will have bugs, security problems, and slow loading speeds. All of which can badly affect the user experience of people who visit. It also places your content, personal data, and customer information at risk. However, not all website designers offer these services. So you need to make sure that you find someone who does.
What to look for: Be on the lookout for a company that offers support and maintenance on top of their design services. By performing regular updates, your website’s performance can be improved.
Q: How can you improve the functionality of my website?
Why you need to ask: An older website will lack the features of newer websites, especially if it hasn’t been updated for a while. It may have limited functionality, making it difficult to perform key business operations.
What to look for: Try to find a designer who can add or customize features for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media, or are able to add functions which are relevant to your industry. For instance, if you want to sell products online, you will need additional features for your eCommerce site.
Q: How will you optimize my website for SEO?
Why you need to ask: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) allows people to find your website when searching for relevant information via search engines. Many of its practices are performed after a website is handed over. However, a website must primarily be optimized for SEO during the design process.
What to look for: An experienced SEO web designer would be a great person to hire. He/she can target keywords which your audiences are searching for and incorporate them in your website’s page elements. Adding keywords to permalinks, titles, and meta descriptions will make your website easy-to-find on search engines.
Q: Are you able to create a website that’s easy for me to manage?
Why you need to ask: Not all web designers consider ease of use when building websites. They can give you a website with a simple design but is disappointingly difficult to manage.
What to look for: Choose a designer who has your best interest in mind and will make it easy for you to add, edit, and replace content on your website. Changing design elements such as pages and menu options should also be effortless.
Q: How can you make it easier for me to add new features to my website?
Why you need to ask: Your website may require new features to accommodate a growing business. Perhaps you’d like to add new products and/or services. Many startups forget to consider these factors when starting a new website. If you want to avoid extraneous costs, you should consider the scalability of your website early on.
What to look for: A good designer creates websites that are scalable, though you do need to let them know of your expectations. Elaborate on any plans of expanding your business. Tell them you need a website with enough room for growth. Ask your designer if he/she is able to build a website that makes it easy to add features. Don’t be afraid to get into detail and talk about specific functionality you would like in the future.
Q: I want to migrate my website. How can you help me preserve its history and SEO value?
Why you need to ask: A website that’s been running for some time would have accumulated a significant amount of content, links, and SEO value. When migrating to a new platform or hosting service, a website might experience 404 errors, broken links, missing content, and a drop in rankings if it isn’t performed by an expert.
What to look for: A professional web designer will take extra measures to preserve the integrity of your website. Prior to migration, he/she must perform backups of your existing website, content, and SEO work. Old URLs, internal links, and backlinks from external sites should be mapped out for a successful transition.
Q: Do you offer services that will help me easily manage my website?
Why you need to ask: The sole responsibility of a web design company is to create websites. Once they finish a project, the website is simply handed over to its rightful owner. More often than not, these professionals merely specialize in website design. Startup businesses with no previous experience in managing their own website will need additional services.
What to look for: A web development company that offers support and maintenance can help with your website – even after it goes live. These services are usually available as plans, giving you the freedom to find one that’s suitable for your needs. Website designers that provide one-on-one training are even better. They can coach you through the process so you can become more self-sufficient and handle basic website management.
Q: Will you keep backups of my website?
Why you need to ask: Keeping a backup of your website is an aspect of maintenance that’s typically overlooked. Mistakes do happen. You might delete or change an integral file in your website by accident. Sometimes, a routine update can go terribly wrong. Both can result in a broken site and “downtime” where a website becomes completely inaccessible. Either way, it’s bad news and should be avoided at all costs.
What to look for: Always choose a web designer who offers backups and restores as a maintenance service. Think of it as insurance. By creating an exact copy of your website, you will have the reassurance that your website can be restored the way it was.
Q: How do you perform website backups?
Why you need to ask: Performing backups is important, but knowing how backups are performed is equally vital. If you want to better secure your website, several backups should be stored safely across different platforms and/or storage devices.
What to look for: Cover your bases and find a web designer who can make at least 2 to 3 copies of your website. The backups should be available offsite through a reputable provider, directly on your website, and locally in a computer or external storage device. Consider talking to your designer about getting a hosting provider that performs regular backups.
Q: How often will you perform backups of my website?
Why you need to ask: The frequency of backups varies across web design agencies. Depending on how often you make changes on your website, you want to hire a company that performs regular backups.
What to look for: Nightly backups are preferable, because then you would have peace of mind in having the most recent copy of your website. It is the best backup method for blogs and business sites that are constantly updated with fresh content. But if you don’t post content often, weekly backups will suffice.
Q: Will you perform technical updates on my website if they become available?
Why you need to ask: All websites need to be regularly updated. It doesn’t matter if you have an HTML-only website or a Content Management System (CMS). Keeping your website up-to-date brings many advantages including bug fixes, protection against security threats, and faster loading speeds.
What to look for: Your website will run smoothly if you hire a website designer that offers maintenance services. He/she can perform regular updates that are compatible with your website. Eventually, you can learn to perform some of these updates on your own.
Q: How can you protect my website from security threats?
Why you need to ask: Websites are vulnerable to hackers. Without you even knowing it, users with malicious intent may already be probing your website. A good security system can
protect your website from security threats and ensure that the content and information exchanged between you and your customers are kept private.
What to look for: First, you will want a web designer who is familiar with Web Application Firewall (WAF) and is capable of setting it up for you. WAF acts as a filter that screens your site visitors based on a set of criteria and prevents access to potentially harmful users. Afterward, check if they also know how to set up a Content Delivery Network (CDN). It works by increasing your site’s visibility to “good” traffic while limiting its access to “bad” traffic.
Q: Do you perform hacking recovery?
Why you need to ask: Setting up good security should be a top priority for your website. But you also have to prepare for the worst case scenario in case your website gets hacked.
What to look for: Hacking recovery is a must-have skill when deciding to hire. It entails that a web developer is capable of restoring your website to its original state after its security has been compromised. The recovery process involves countermeasures such as checking for damaged files and fixing errors that have resulted from the security breach. Finally, your website’s security will be reinforced to prevent hackers from re-entering.
Q: If I need help with my website, how can I reach you?
Why you need to ask: Every web design company has its own technical support system. Before hiring one, you should look into the different ways you can communicate with them. Keep in mind that since your designer will most likely work from a remote location, the majority (if not all) of your collaborations will be done online. You want to make sure that you can reach them during and after the design process if ever you require further assistance.
What to look for: First of all, a company should offer one or two support platforms which you’d be comfortable with. Second, you want to check for the availability of support staff. Third, the main support system must allow for fast, clear, and reliable communication between you and a web designer. But as a rule of thumb, you can’t go wrong with a web designer who offers support on various channels including phone, chat, email, and screen shares.
Q: What is the fastest way I could get help with my website?
Why you need to ask: Your website might encounter major problems such as security issues, slow speeds, loading errors, and downtime. For these, you will need emergency assistance. Otherwise, you might lose customers from the bad experience they have on your website.
What to look for: Web designers who offer priority support can attend to you quickly. But in other cases, you should look for companies that offer phone calls and live chat. These are the two fastest support systems available. With them, you can expect to get help for your website within minutes or hours.
Q: When can I expect you to be available for support?
Why you need to ask: The availability of support varies across providers, and it isn’t determined by how big or small a company is. A web development company with a support team may not always provide 24/7 help. Meanwhile, a freelance website designer can be available up to 12 hours a day! Ask about their available hours so you will know which companies can cater to your needs.
What to look for: The most practical option is to hire a website designer who is available during your free times of the day. Getting 24/7 support isn’t necessary, especially if you’ve only just started out.
Q: How long does it usually takes you to respond?
Why you need to ask: The response time says a lot about how much a web designer values their clients, and whether or not they act professionally.
What to look for: Ideally, technical support should be available within hours or less than a day after sending a request. However, the response time largely depends on the support system being offered. It is generally accepted for email and ticket support to take anywhere between 24 and 72 hours. Live chat shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to respond.
Q: How much help can I get for my website?
Why you need to ask: Some web design companies will limit the amount and/or type of technical support they’ll give based on your chosen plan or package. Such limitations can make them unreliable.
What to look for: Find a website designer who is available on more than one support channel, irrespective of your chosen plan or package. See if you can get priority technical support – some offer it at a premium. A reliable support system will enable you to effectively manage your website. It also ensures that you’ll get help anytime you need it.
Q: Do you have an online knowledge base that I can use as reference?
Why you need to ask: Technical support may not always be online 24/7. There will be times of the day that they’re unavailable, and thus take time to respond.
What to look for: A web design company with an online knowledge base isn’t necessary, though it’s certainly helpful. Whenever you need help with your website, you’ll have access to information and be able to resolve problems on your own. It could be an FAQ or Q&A that covers commonly encountered issues by site owners and how to fix them. The resource can be available on their website or as a downloadable PDF.
Q: What other services do you provide to website owners?
Why you need to ask: If this is the first time you’ve ever owned a website, you need all the help you can get. Receiving technical support, software updates, security checks, regular backups, and speed optimizations are all important factors to consider. However, some website designers offer more services which you might find useful.
What to look for: Web designers that perform continuous security audits will be able to closely monitor your website for suspicious activities and security threats, thus making it better protected against hackers. You might also want to consider 24/7 up-time monitoring which ensures that your website is always online.
Q: Do you offer one-on-one training and support?
Why you need to ask: Owning a website is only the first step towards online success. If you’re a startup with limited online experience, you may need assistance after your website is completed. Unfortunately, most web design companies are either unwilling or are unable to provide extra support, and are simply there to build websites.
What to look for: A website designer who can go the extra mile and teach you how to run your website. By helping you ease your way into the process, he/she can help you overcome the struggles of managing an online business. Find an expert who offers individualized support and one-on-one training so you can better manage your new website in the long-haul.
Q: Is there a way you could help me increase my leads, traffic, or conversions?
Why you need to ask: Once you get the hang of running a website, the next step is to grow your online business. This is where most startups usually fail. After setting up a website, they forget to market it just like any product or service. Without proper exposure, a website will have fewer customers.
What to look for: A web designer who specializes in digital marketing can help you get ahead of the competition and guide you through the marketing aspect of your business. A digital marketer can help you develop solid strategies that are guaranteed to increase leads, traffic, conversions, and sales.
Q: Do you provide consultations?
Why you need to ask: If you have a basic understanding of how a website works and how to manage it, you may not need as much technical support. Maybe you want to discuss concerns about your website in-depth without committing to a paid monthly service. In these cases, it’s more ideal to opt for consultations.
What to look for: Phone consultations allow a web design company to offer quick or in-depth support for your website needs. If you’re still not sure about hiring, getting a consultation is the next best thing because it gives you time to interact with a website designer. During the consultation, you can better assess if you’ve found someone worth hiring.
Use our bonus checklist when interviewing website design companies. It includes these questions and space to write answers to each question.
Don’t expect when hiring a website design company that they will be able to answer all these questions. But their answers will give you a good idea if they are a company you’d like to hire. Good luck!