5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Web Design Firm

December 8, 2008

When people are deciding whether or not to work with us on a web project, we get asked a ton of questions.  We really don't mind answering them, because we respect that the client is doing their due diligence and usually the questions are great and a lot of fun to answer. 

However, some questions are certainly better than others.  In fact, we often get asked about things that don't matter when selecting a web firm.  There are some really great questions though that should be asked during every pitch in order for a client to make sure they're working  with a vendor that they can trust.

How will I update the content on my site?

Too often organizations get their sites hijacked by web firms or ad agencies that charge them for every small change to the site.  You paid for the thing, you should be able to update your content and build on it without paying your vendor for every tiny change.  We solve this issue by putting all of our sites on NMC's content management software - be sure to ask your vendor if they have a CMS or how content will be updated.

What do you think of our current site and what would you change?

This question is a great way to get an idea of how the agency thinks and their plans for your site.  Also, it's quick and easy way to make sure they've done their research on your organization and checked out your site.  Listen closely to their strategy for your site and the explanations the agency gives for what they would change and why.

What is the process and turnaround time if we select you?

I've heard many horror stories where an organization will select an agency that blew them away during the due diligence process, but then the relationship quickly hits a rough patch as the agency is slow to respond and deliver.  Set the expectations up front and even get them in writing. 

Know things like when you will see the first draft of the design, their typical launch timeframe, etc.  We promise clients that they'll see a first draft within seven days of completing our Creative Brief.  This is a quick timeframe, but we pride ourselves on our speed and ability to deliver - make sure your agency can do the same.

How and for what will we be charged for in the future?

This one aligns closely with #1, in making sure that your site doesn't get hijacked by the developer and you have to pay out money for every change or phone conversation.  Make sure you know up front what you will be charged for in the future - some agencies will charge for simple phone calls about strategy while others don't charge unless there's a substantial new addition to the site. 

We've previously wrote about our no-charge approach to web design customer service, but we still do have to charge for large new aspects of a project.  Our clients know upfront that we'll give them an hour estimate for a new project and then bill by the hour.  Be sure to know whether your vendor will charge per project, hourly, etc.  By asking this question, you'll ensure that everyone is entering a happy relationship where you aren't hit with unexpected costs and the agency is confident that you know their billing policy.

Who will be my primary support contact?

This question is important to know who you'll be dealing with on a day to day business at the agency.  You may love a firm's CEO, but if you can't stand your project manager/account exec, it probably doesn't make sense for you to be working with that firm.

Hopefully, you can speak with your contact before you actually begin working with the firm, in order to ensure that you get along well and they're a person you're excited to work with.  You're investing a lot of money in your web design firm, it should be a pleasurable process, and that all starts with your project manager.

By asking these questions, you'll be setting expectations for the future of the relationship as well as getting some very important details about the firm that you're about to make a significant investment in.  Don't be shy about asking web firms questions - they should easily know all of the answers to your questions and should have done enough background research.

Any other questions that you think should be asked before a project begins?  Ever not ask the right questions and then pay the price through a poor working relationship with your web design firm?

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