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As a business owner or marketing manager, you’re constantly putting out fires and preventing new ones from starting.
Losing your website is a dumpster fire on steroids.
The easiest way to prevent losing your website is by signing on with the right web design and development company.
How do you do that?
You ask the right questions before signing on the dotted line.
To help you out, I asked our Director of Web Development and our account managers to tell me ALL the horror stories they’ve ever heard from clients who came to us from another web development company. From them, we identified the top 12 most important questions that would have prevented those scenarios from ever happening—and the 12 questions you should ask before signing on for a web development company’s services.
12 Questions to Ask a Web Development Company Before Signing On for Services
Looking for a new web development company? Ask these questions before you jump in the deep end.
1. Will I own my website?
This is a crucial question.
If they give you a vague answer or start saying, “Yes, after a certain period of time,” it’s a red flag.
Here’s a common situation we see when business owners come to us: A business owner hires a web development company, and she gets a “free website” on an advanced “proprietary platform.” She only has to pay a small monthly fee for hosting and maintenance.
It looks great on the surface, but what that web development agency didn’t tell the business owner is that she’ll have to pay a hefty fee to access her website files. If she stops paying monthly fees, she risks having her website pulled with no way to recover it.
To avoid this type of scenario, be careful about companies that give you a “free” website with a proprietary platform and watch out for the phrase “Ownership Condition Date” in your contract. It means you’ve got a clause that states you’ll only own website after a fixed period and according to a specific set of conditions.
Also, ask if you will own your source code. If you ever switch to a different web development company and you can’t keep your source code you may as well kiss your website goodbye.
Learn more about website ownership »
2. What hosting and content management systems do you use? Do I need to provide hosting? Can you integrate with my CRM?
Ever seen the phrase “proprietary platform”? A proprietary website platform was created by and is owned by a marketing or software company. Unless you know exactly what you’re getting into, you might want to avoid them.
What happens is if one of these companies designs your website, you’re required to host it on their platform. This becomes a problem when the proprietary platform isn’t compatible with other hosting platforms (like WordPress). If you ever want to switch to a new provider, you won’t be able to take your full, working site with you.
Make sure you know exactly who is hosting your website, what CRM system they use and if it’s compatible with your existing one, and whether it will be built on a proprietary platform.
3. Have you done work like this for companies similar to mine? Can you provide references and examples in my industry?
We are all about putting our money where our mouth is, and you should be, too. Make sure your potential web design agency can show you examples of work they’ve done for others in your industry. Each industry has different nuances, vocabularies, and needs. For example, while healthcare websites might need extra layers of security, remodelers and architects might need a structure that supports 3-D HD video portfolios.
If you buy a website from someone who doesn’t know your industry, you’ll have to guide them through the details. And let’s be honest—you don’t time for that.
4. Are your website designs custom or built from templates?
There are two types of websites built from templates: ones that have the same rough structure and shared source code, and ones that are cookie-cutter lookalikes from header to footer.
Is using a templated design wrong? No—not at all. There are templates out there proven to encourage action and provide a frictionless experience. Many foundational elements of a website’s source code are open building blocks other websites use.
The trouble comes when it isn’t distinguished if your website is custom or templated from the get-go. We’ve heard horror stories from business owners who paid for a website that ended up looking exactly like their competitors—they didn’t know the website wouldn’t be custom. When they tried to customize some areas, they were charged astronomical extra fees.
A good web development company should offer both templated and custom options, depending on the needs of your specific industry and business.
5. Who is responsible for creating my website content, and are they based in the U.S.? Do you bring over any existing website pages and content?
Your website will need volumes of great content, and it needs to be written well. Some cheap web developments companies will give you 100 landing pages to start with—but they’re all full of thin, cookie-cutter copy scraped from other websites.
It may seem like something you can sacrifice in favor of a lower cost, but that’s a mistake:
- Compelling copy draws 7.8 times more site traffic and produces brand recall which brings higher engagement rates
- 60% of consumers said poorly written website content would stop them from making a purchase with a brand, with 39 percent categorizing sub-par website copy as extremely annoying
- 62%of B2B buyers say they can make a purchase selection based solely on digital content
Another reason to hire high-quality website copywriters? Google knows how to spot quality content, and it’s rewarded with higher spots in the search results.
Can you find reputable, high-quality content writers internationally? Of course you can. If you’re an international business you’ll need native language-speaking writers based in each country of operation.
But if your business is based in the U.S. and the U.S. alone, U.S.-based writers will be your best bet for quality content.
6. Will my website be mobile-friendly?
More than half of all US online traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets, and 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. If that’s not enough to convince you, Google also ranks mobile websites higher in the search engine results.
A mobile-friendly website:
- Is responsive or built for mobile-first viewing – Making your website responsive means that the layout and display of the page automatically change based on the size of the device screen.
- Is easy to navigate and find key information – Your contact information and services/products should always be easy to find on a mobile screen, and your navigation should be minimized.
- Has easy-to-click buttons – If people can’t click your buttons with their fingers, they aren’t big enough.
- Has fonts that are easy to read – You should use a font and font size that is large and clear enough to be read from a smaller screen.
- Has compressed images and files – Website speed is key, and large images, files, and videos can significantly slow down your mobile website.
This goes the same for your mobile application development company. Your app should function flawlessly regardless of device.
7. Will my website be secured (HTTPS)?
Not only does your website need to be mobile-friendly, but it also needs to be secured (HTTPS).
Here’s why: a hack now happens every 39 seconds. Consumers are bombarded day in and day out with horror stories of stolen identities and data breaches. As a result, 85% of them will abandon a purchase if a website isn’t secure, and 82% won’t browse a non-secured website at all.
Google wants to provide the absolute BEST search results for its users, and that includes helping them avoid dangerous connections by ranking secured websites higher in search results than non-secured websites.
In 2018, Google took an additional step and started labeling non-secure websites (websites without HTTPS or an SSL certificate) as such in the search bar. Secure sites are now labeled with a green “locked” symbol, and unsecured websites are labeled with a “not secure” label.
8. How do you optimize your websites for search engines? Will you preserve my current SEO rankings?
Having a website is pointless if no one visits it. Consider this:
- 97% of people go online to find local goods and services
- 93% of those people start their online experience with a search engine
- 97% of people don’t go past the first page of search results
Basically, if your website isn’t on page one of Google, no one’s going to find it.
While there are more than 200 actual search ranking signals, here are the ranking signals your website developers need to add or transfer if you want your company to show up on the first page of Google:
- Security (HTTPS vs. HTTP)
- Mobile-friendly structure
- Schema markup
- Webpage content quality
- Webpage content length
- Page speed
- Quality backlinks
- Optimized images
- Domain age
Ask your potential web development company how they optimize their websites for all the above factors and how they plan on preserving your existing search authority.
9. How many rounds of revisions do I get with a custom website?
Every web project needs revisions. However, you should be able to nail down how many rounds of revisions are included. Some website design companies will cut you off after two or three rounds, and then you’re stuck.
If they’re experienced and know what they’re doing, your website designers should be comfortable accommodating most of your revisions (within reason—you can’t say “let’s go in a completely different direction and start from scratch” three days before the launch date).
10. How much and how often will we communicate?
Miscommunication or lack of responsiveness can kill your website project. The most successful web design projects require collaboration lists and clear expectations. Set communication expectations early, otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Ask how much involvement your team will have with the agency, who you’ll be communicating with, and how often you’ll speak.
11. Do I have full access to my website, and what level of control will I have? How much website maintenance is included in your price?
It’s helpful to know who has FTP access, CMS access, Analytics access, and AdWords access. Make sure to get all the “who has what and who does what” cleared up before launching into full-blown project mode. Are they going to finish it and never touch it again? Can you count on them to make necessary updates? Are you signing on for ongoing webmaster services? Be sure to nail this down before proceeding.
12. What are all your fees and payment options? How do I determine the right budget?
Web design isn’t one size fits all—there are no cookie cutter solutions, at least not from the best companies. Be sure you understand your options and every single aspect of your payment plan. Otherwise, you might have work withheld because you “didn’t pay.”
Here’s what goes into the cost of a website:
- Hosting – This is the service or company providing space on the internet for your website. Hosting providers include WPEngine (our recommendation if you have a WordPress website), GoDaddy, InMotion, and others. Hosting is charged monthly and typically costs $7 and up.
- Domain name – This is shown as www.yourcompany.com, and is usually a yearly payment.
- Design – Some designs are free, other cost money.
- Plugins and extensions – Typically, the more plugins you want, the more expensive a website gets.
- The complexity of design – The more customized your website is, the more expensive it will be.
Make sure you know exactly how much you’ll be spending or else you’re in for a rude awakening at the end. The best web development companies will help guide you through this process and give you an honest answer as to what would work in your budget.
Looking for a Trustworthy Web Design and Development Company in the USA?
Since 2007, Blue Corona has specialized in custom, sales-driving web designs and is one of the best web development companies in the U.S. Our web development company services range from highly customized, enterprise-level web portals down to affordable web design services for small businesses. From design to content, our team will handle it all to give you a turn-key website:
- Hosting and coding
- Graphic design
- Advanced analytics tracking
- Search engine optimization
- Existing content import
- New content creation
- Lead form creation and tracking
- Website compatibility across all browsers and devices
- Integration with social media pages
- XML sitemap creation and submission
If you’re interested in services from our web design and development company, contact us here!
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About The Author: Betsy is Blue Corona's in-house Digital Marketing Specialist. When she’s not directing Blue Corona's corporate digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring with her wife, diving into the latest marketing trends, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
View more blogs by Betsy McLeod