Things to Ask Your Web Designer

So, you’re shopping for a web designer? Here are some basic questions to help you make your decision.

There are still many businesses that are just starting to work on their first website.

How long have you been in business? Is this your primary business or is this something you do as a “side-line’?

This is important, you want to choose someone who has been doing this full time and who is focused primarily upon designing and developing web sites. The internet and web are changing daily – and there is more to making a web site than being able to use FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

How do you charge for your services? By the hour, by the page, by project quote, or some other way?

Knowing what you’re going to be charged and when makes budgeting possible. You should have a budget in mind for your project, based on your business plan and your research into the market. A plan now will save you time and money later.

What’s in the proposal?

The designer should provide you with a detailed written proposal or contract. It should include information about the scope of the project, what’s included, what’s not included. It should detail what happens if the project scope changes, and how that will be billed. The proposal should also include a time line for the projects completion. You’ll need the timeline to coordinate your other marketing efforts.

A word about the time line of a project. All projects experience a certain about of scope creep, or delays. Scope creep is where you add to the scope of the project after you’re in the middle of it – can we add Feature Y to my site? Also, know that you can help the project stay on track, by responding to your designer’s questions and communicating with them about any changes or updates you require.

Most proposals also include a payment schedule, typically an installment is due upon reaching a specific milestone of the project.

Do you have a portfolio, or can you show me live examples of your work? Are references available?

Seeing examples of a designer’s work can give you ideas, and also demonstrates their abilities. Also view their site – although I can say that a busy design shop may not update their site as often as they’d like.

What other related services do you provide – such as hosting, marketing, etc.

This can be important to your plans. Some shops do design only, but no programming, some do programming, but not design. Others do only marketing or search engine optimization. Some cover all those areas and more. You’ll need to know so you can budget and decide what’s the best fit for your business.

More questions: What steps do you take to:

* make sure my site loads fast
* make sure my site works with major browsers
* optimize my site for search engine results
* help me market and promote my site
* organize my site for navigation

Finally, when you’re talking to the designer, are you comfortable with how they explain things? Do they talk in plain English or are you struggling to understand the concepts? If you have trouble understanding, sometimes this means it’s not a good fit. You should be able to ask questions – this is your business.

This entry covers interviewing a designer. I’ll be writing more about how to prepare your request for a quote, including some of the questions you should be ready to answer.