15 Questions to ask a web developer to check if they’re gifted or ghastly
by Sam Davis
Looking to hire an agency or individual to build a new website for you? If so, it is important to ask the right questions at the very start, in order to make sure that they’re the right fit for you & your proposed exciting web creation.
If you searched for website designers on Google and Gumtree, you will have undoubtedly found a number of companies that you want to check out before you continue. Whilst you can proceed to check their websites to see what they offer, you’ll possibly find that you’ll come away having more questions than what you had initially – there is so much to consider, and it is easy to get bamboozled with information.
For this reason, I’ve put together an essential list of fifteen questions that you should always ask a web development company before you pick them for the job, as it is important to sort the wheat from the chaff.
1. Can I see a list of websites you have completed in the last two months?
This is key. Do not ask to see a general portfolio of all their work, as they’ll only send you their “best” work which may well consist of projects that were completed by previous developers who no longer work there. You need to ask to see sites that have been finished recently, ideally in the last two months. If they’re any good, the masterpieces they show you should be easy on the eye, have good functionality, be mobile friendly, and you should be able to navigate them with ease.
2. Can you provide me with some templates that you believe could be ideal for my business?
Unless you’re paying north of £1500 for a website, it is fully expected that a web development company will design your site based on a templated framework rather than a blank canvas – so there should be demonstrations available. It is vital that, before you commit to a site, you are presented (free of charge) with a list of suggested ideas and templates that they recommend would be a good fit for your business. Check them out, see how they feel to use, and make sure you’re confident that this is the kind of look that you’re happy to start from.
I do this as standard, as I feel it is important that a client is offered some kind visible solution before the user commits – it’s just common sense. If you’re not getting this from the company you want to work with, ask them why.
3. What is included for the price of the website?
When you are quoted, the web development company should ideally be providing you with an itemised run down of everything that they are offering for the price quoted. Often, they may chuck in “extras” that are actually free which may include “Google Analytics integration”, “website search submission”, or “Wordress SEO” for example.
Don’t feel bad about asking them what a particular service is. Their role is to hold your hand and not hold you hostage.
The above three tools take less than ten minutes to get up and running, and certainly shouldn’t warrant an extra, say, £100 being added to your price – so just be wary of what they are offering, and don’t feel bad about asking them what a particular service is. Their role is to hold your hand and not hold you hostage. If you DO decide to proceed with the company, just make sure they follow through with all the actionable points that they include on the quote – as more often than not, they will be hoping that you are so delighted with your website that you’ll have forgot the extras they initially added to woo you into the deal.
By the way, here’s what I offer with my Website Design packages.
4. Where will my website be hosted?
The hosting of your website is ultra important as it is the place that stores your physical documents, files, databases and emails. You need to be assured that the service that they are using is fast, reliable, has a proven track record, is UK based, has good support available, has unlimited disk space, and that you get your own Control Panel access. Doing your own due diligence for the hosting is a must. They may, like me, use a business reseller account using an existing hosting platform – in which case, you are well within your rights to ask them who they use. Transparency is important for this relationship to thrive, therefore if they don’t tell you, be extra careful.
Whenever I design a website, I offer free unlimited hosting for the first year as it gives the client the chance to experience rocket-fast hosting, which they can then rely on for years to come.
5. Do you charge for the creation of “extra pages”?
6. Will I have access to edit my own site?
There is no excuse to be given a site these days that you cannot edit yourself. It’s like buying yourself a car only to be told that the car salesman is the only one who can drive it around. You should be given complete access to the hosting control panel and your website administration system. If they don’t do this, then there will undoubtedly be charges for any future updates, in which case they will have you over a barrel – so do check in advance. If you own the website, then it should be yours to edit.
Administrative access is provided as standard to all my clients – occasionally, varying levels are provided, which ensures that the website cannot be “broken” – however, if required, I can give full unadulterated access.
7. Will my website my mobile friendly?
It might seem a silly question, but it’s scary how many companies out there are still shipping websites out the door that look awful on a mobile. Ideally, the website they are developing should be responsive, and resize itself to look perfect on any type of device. Separate mobile-friendly websites are a thing of the past, so if they are thinking of going that route, tell them to take a hike.
Website Right only ever create responsive websites, which are fast-loading on whichever device they are accessed.
8. Will I have access to any stock photography?
When you have a website, the company will expect you to have all content and imagery, including digital versions of your logo and any downloads – all to hand. If you don’t have any of this, you need to check in advance whether you’ll be expected to pay to have any stock photography images used on your website. Images can be expensive – just have a look on Shutterstock to see how much they charge.
When I create a website, I provide the client with access to a gallery of thousands of useable stock images – all of which can be utilised by the client at NO EXTRA COST.
9. What are your time-scales for completion?
Web developers are never not busy, they’re always doing something – so it is important to ask when the job will be started, and how many days or weeks that they estimate the completion of the project will take. It is also good at this point to give them a definitive “must be live by” date – so that they have a date to work to, as opposed to a “it’ll be ready in two or three weeks” type scenario. Also, do note that you will need to be providing every single piece of content to them in advance, including write-ups, social media account addresses, images, and any downloadable resources – if you don’t give this to them, they may use it as an excuse for a hold up! When the project is underway, you should also insist that they agree to provide you with detailed updates on the work they have completed as the project evolves. This should be in the form of either screenshots or actual live demonstrations of the website in its current state. Do not solely accept getting written jargon from them which explains where they’re at – this will mean nothing to you, and often means that nothing has been done.
When I create a site for instance, I create short videos which demonstrate how it is looking – I find it is better to be transparent, as it helps to create trust and peace of mind.
10. Do you offer site backups as part of the hosting price?
In my opinion, site backups should be provided as standard and not as an added extra! Your business is your baby, and you should have complete satisfaction that should the worst happen, you’ll be able to restore your site at the touch of a button. Plugins can conflict with each other, code sometimes breaks – issues do happen! Therefore, it’s worth making sure this question is asked at any early stage, because otherwise – they’ll hit you with an extra charge later on, and who wants that?
11. What happens if my site goes down?
As a website owner, you need to know who to contact in order to get your problems sorted. They should provide you with an email address, an online ticket support system address, but most important of all – a phone number. On the majority of occasions, any server outages are controlled by the hosting company, so it may possibly be out of the designers control. However there may well be the seldom occasion whereby automatic updates to your website software can possibly result in it crashing. If this happens, you need to be completely reassured that your developer has the technical expertise to fix it – so ask them what their PHP proficiency is like. Here are 25 handy PHP questions you can ask them if you REALLY want to test them! I got (cue trumpet blowing) 25 out of 25 by the way!
12. Will I own my domain name?
It is vital that you are in control of your own domain name. The domain name is the web address that you type into Google, and this is separate to your hosting. The hosting is the physical server that your website is stored on. When you type in a web address/domain name and hit enter, your computer contacts a lookup database, which guides you to the very hosting server where your website is stored. Without the domain, you’ll have no website, therefore it is important you have access to it via a domain registrar. This means that you’ll be able to renew it, re-point it, and change the registrant should you wish to. Failing to do means that if your domain is about to expire and you have no access to it, to coin an Alan Partridge phrase, you risk being up slack alley.
It is not often I buy domain names on behalf of a customer, as I will recommend where to get one (for free!), however if this does occur, it is purchased in the users name, and is transferred to them when full payment is received.
13. Will my site be SEO friendly?
Quite often you can ask this question to a company, and you’ll often be given the answer “yes” – without any real explanation. If they say they are providing you search engine optimisation (SEO) services, ask them exactly what they are doing. Secondly, it is worth being aware that there are many SEO plugins available on WordPress which are completely free of charge such as “Yoast”. Installing this plugin alone should not constitute “doing your website SEO”. If this is all they are doing, ask them to reduce their price accordingly and say that you’ll do it yourself.
14. What after-sales support do you offer?
It’s worth asking what kind of support is offered once the website has been signed off, and similarly – how much it will cost you. Many may charge you depending on severity of the query, the time it takes, or even may try to implement a flat-rate month charge – either way, you need to know exactly what you could be paying should you need to get help later down the line.
I am currently producing a massive database of searchable videos which I am providing my clients free of charge, which answer many common questions that they may have once a website is purchased. Failing that, I always provide a rate card up front, which details a full breakdown of all prices that I charge for ongoing work!
15. What if I want a shop added?
Even though you may be having a basic site to start off with, it is worth keeping in mind the fact that later down the line, you may wish to add more features, like a shop. Ask how much it will cost to implement a shop, and do ensure that they are building your current website with an E-Commerce ready theme, so that it won’t require a complete rebuild later down the line when that time comes. A website which takes payments will require a number of extra services to be set up, including payment gateways, tax information, product data, delivery pricing set up, order emails and notifications etc – therefore ask for a ballpark figure now, so you have something to go on at a later date, should that day arrive.
By the way, all my sites, whether E-Commerce or not, are E-Commerce ready – ie: built to last!