Questions to Ask a Digital Agency

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50 questions about BI

Questions to Ask a Digital Agency

Harry Bartlett

50 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Firm.

Below is a rather exhaustive and sometimes humorous list of questions from a prospective client we received recently. While many of the questions are basic, I think they help highlight the many variables and options when building a website.

Q. Are you experienced with using WordPress? 

A. Yes, we have worked with WordPress for many years and have built many sites with it. WordPress is a strong brand and has widespread appeal, however from a web development perspective it lacks the flexibility and functionality that Drupal has. If the site has simple information and/or a blog as well as a template is being considered, we highly recommend WordPress. Otherwise we recommend Drupal since it is a superior CMS.

Q. Do you custom design or use templates? 

A. Most all of our sites are custom-designed but occasionally we also use templates when minimizing cost is a high priority. There are some great designers creating templates for WordPress now. And while WordPress is not as functionally capable as Drupal it can be effective for informational websites and blogs. Some of the template resources we like are: Elegant Themes and Theme Forest.

Note templates are deceptive. They always look better before they are used. They still require design time to ensure the template works well with the branding and content.

Q. Are your designs tested with multi-browser and cross-platform compatibility? 

A. Yes we use an application called Browser Stack which allows easy testing with multiple browsers and operating systems. Before we used to jump around from computer to computer which was time consuming and impractical since there are literally hundreds of different browser and operating system combinations.

Browser testing and UX design quality assurance are often one of the most underestimated aspects of web development. Since we have been developing for so long we believe we have a good handle on how to code for different browsers.

Q. Who will own the design when it's done? 

The client always owns the website and we always provide all login information and source files.

Q. Will I own the entire website including full ownership, code, copyright, etc?

A. Yes, as applicable i.e. you wouldn't own Drupal or WordPress code or Google Analytics etc.

Q. How long would the website take to complete? 

A. This varies anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The biggest variables include: how much new content will there be? New content is what holds up a launch more than anything. Also will there be new navigation and information architecture? And last but not least how many functional features are there e.g. blog, e-commerce, etc.?

Q. Are you able to create online shopping carts?

Yes, we often use WooCommerce for simple WordPress sites and Drupal Commerce for more extensive Drupal sites.

Q. Can you give me at least 5-10 examples of any e-commerce websites that you've built? 

A. Yes, see this page on our site with some of the e-commerce sites we have done.

Q. How will you incorporate search engine optimization principles into my website?

A. SEO components typically include custom page titles, paragraph header 1 tags, image alt tags, meta description tags, an XML site map, cross page linking and other things. Every site we build includes the functionality to do these things as well as a XML site map. Otherwise we can develop a SEO program based on a clients particular needs or have more off the shelf programs. See more about our SEO packages and cost and details about our SEO services.

Q. How visible will my website be to search engines such as Google? 

A. The visibility depends on existing page rank and/or the type of SEO program implemented as well as the quantity and quality of content. Unless a website is optimized and new content is added regularly it will not receive a lot of traffic from search engines. SEO is very competitive now. Gone are the days where a few simple optimization techniques produce a high page rank.

You might want to check out our website grading tool, the eValuator. It shows how well optimized a website is.

Q. Do you add keywords and meta tags to each page to that search engines could find me by searching for my "keywords?"

A. Yes, this starts with keyword analysis to determine what the target keyword set is then the most appropriate keyword is added to the page title and other parts of a page as appropriate. We use Moz, Google and WordTracker for keyword analysis.

Q. Will your search engine optimization harm the usability or professionalism of our website?

A. Pages are optimized for real people first and then search engines. We don’t keyword stuff pages or use copy that doesn’t communicate effectively to real people. 

We also do not use any 'black hat' techniques such as link farms that will harm the reputation of a site.

Q. Will I be able to fully maintain the website? 

Yes, though some parts require knowledge of cascading style sheets (CSS), HTML, and the CMS software e.g. Drupal or WordPress. 

Q. What other services do you offer? 

Besides UX design, Internet marketing and web development we also offer logo design, copywriting, illustration, photography and video. See more about all our communications services.

Q. Am I required to host my website with you?

A. No, we actually prefer you use another host such as Linode. These companies provide much more than we can provide for a lower cost.

Q. How long have you been in business?

A. 1998

Q. Are you able to code HTML by hand?

A. Yes

Q. Do you have a contract?

A. Typically we just have a client sign off on a proposal.

Q. What is your experience with building mobile websites? 

A. Most sites we build are mobile friendly using a Responsive Web Design (RWD). We have extensive experience with RWD. Typically there are 4 breakpoints: phone, tablet, desktop standard and desktop large. We use the Drupal base theme Omega and the Sass and Compass frameworks for developing very efficient clean mobile friendly code. We also test extensively to ensure the site works well on mobile devices.

Q. In your honest opinion, what's the most important aspect of a website's design for you to consider it successful?

A. There are several but the two most important are: branding and content. The branding i.e. logo, needs to be well designed, efficient and not take up too much space. The content needs to be great! If it’s weak, for instance poorly written or the photography is low quality then it is next to impossible to have a great design. The quality of the content directly affects the quality of the design.

Q. If I make suggestions on changing the design, and you disagree with these suggestions, what would you do? 

A. We would try to explain why we think another approach is better but in the end we will go with what you like.

Q. If you ever decide to stop doing web development, will I get a referral for someone to replace you?

A. Yes

Q. Will I have full login details for admin access to the website?

A. Yes

Q. Do you provide seamless credit card processing with SSL security?

A. Yes, though this is handled in part by the payment gateway e.g.

Q. Does your shopping cart provide a secure administration system where I can change prices, add, and delete products? 

A. Yes

Q. Is your shopping cart search engine friendly? 

A. Yes

Q. Do I have to pay in full?

A. Not until the project is done

Q. Do you have any hidden fees?

A. Nothing is hidden though there are 3rd party costs for hosting and other providers. Typically the only cost is for hosting ($5 - $20 per month) and stock photos ($5 - $25 per image).

Q. Do you offer any maintenance training? If so, how much maintenance training is included? 

A. This is done by the hour and typically takes 1 - 2 hours.

Q. If I were to have a question about the website after you were finished building it, would you charge for any of the questions asked and would you answer them? What if the problem is software related?

A. We like our clients to be happy and don't charge for simple questions. If more training or support is required we charge in 15 minute increments.

Q. How many total websites have you built in the years that you've owned your web design company? 

A. I'm not exactly sure but over 200.

Q. Do you outsource?

A. We have one freelance web developer we use on a regular daily basis in addition to 3 full time developers.

Q. Do you use tables or frames for layout?

A. Tables only for tabular data, frames typically no.

Q. Do you create wireframes before designing the website?

A. Yes

Q. Do you have a degree in web design, graphic design or marketing?

A. Yes, I have a BFA from RISD, others have degrees in computer science, marketing, digital media, public relations, business administration, graphic design and web design.

Q. What web standards do you follow? 

A. Standards compliant HTML 5 mark up and W3C guidelines as well as sometimes 508 usability guidelines

Q. Will there be an easy way to restore backup when (not if) disaster happens?

A. Yes, this is provided by the hosting company. We make sure that the client is comfortable with the back up plan before it is live since there are multiple options.

Q. Will I talk to my designer directly or a project manager?

A. Both

Q. How will you build a website that will load fast, capture the attention of the visitor within seven seconds and keep them coming back again and again?

A. There are many factors that go into this such as branding, great content, user experience design, coding and server tuning (to increase speed)

Q. Can you design the navigation so that it is clear, understandable, and the visitor will always know where he is in the website and can find what he wants without clicking more than three times?

A. Yes

Q. Are you readily available by phone and e-mail?

A. Yes

Q. Do you have an office? 

A. Yes

Q. What anti-hacker security steps do you take to ensure my website won't be hacked and taken down?

A. We implement all security patches from the CMS (Drupal and WordPress). We follow best practices for generating standards compliant HTML5 mark up. We can also provide more extensive coding to lock down a website. The hosting company also provides security.

Q. How long will it take to provide a first draft of a design, and how many drafts will you create?

A. Typically we show 3 concepts and this takes 2 weeks.

Q. What happens if I don't like any of your drafts?

A. We haven't had the problem before but we typically provide 2 more rounds of revisions.

Q. How many revision rounds are allowed, and what constitutes one round of revisions?

A. We post all work to a project site so it is easy to see how many rounds there are.

Q. Is my website going to be expandable?

A. Yes

Q. You're not going to put up advertising on my website, are you?

A. Nope, not unless you want it!

Q. Will this website be completely responsive, fast, simple and professional?

A. Yes

Q. Why should I use BI and how is BI different from any other web designer? 

A. See below from our website:

  • 15 years of experience, enabling us to understand our clients' business and provide solutions that generate results
  • A comprehensive understanding and ability to deliver the latest website design, development and Internet marketing programs
  • Effective solutions for increasing online lead generation and brand awareness
  • The successful completion of web design, development and Internet marketing projects for over 150 clients
  • A design philosophy that emphasizes clean, efficient visual communications
  • Excellent service, providing quick responses to client needs
  • Reasonable and competitive rates
  • A commitment to sustainability and triple bottom line business practices (people, planet, profit)
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About the author

Harry started BI in 1998 and focuses on integrating best practices in branding, user experience design, Internet marketing, and technology to increase the value of an online presence.
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