A Template for Website Success: 10 Questions to Ask Your Next Web Designer

July 31, 2018

When your website needs a redesign, or you just want to blow it up and start all over again, you will need to find the right person or team to get the job done. After evaluating your resources and deciding that outsourcing is the way to go, how do you go about finding the right team for the job?  A standard approach to identifying vendors is the request for proposal (RFP).

While the RFP process is effective for some projects, in our experience designing websites over the years, we have learned a better way to find the right client-designer match.

The key ingredient to client/designer harmony is fit. A thorough RFPs is a good start but relying solely on an RFP to find the right client/designer match is like relying on Tinder to find the right relationship for you without ever going on a date. A traditional RFP lays out requirements and expectations in a contract-esque form, leaving it to various vendors to decide if they can agree with your terms. This helps narrow down the pool but it’s not enough to know if it’s actually a good fit.

There are important questions that need to be asked and answered before committing to a partnership with a design and development house. We recommend an equally thorough get-to-know you session before committing to a working relationship. While finding the right fit is the most important part, you also must discern if the skills, experience and capabilities are there as well. Here are ten questions to help you get started:

1. Describe your strategic process

Ideally, you already have a comprehensive marketing strategy in place and will be ready to provide clarity about how you want the website to function using your strategy as a foundation for messaging and content.

A strategy is informed through a solid discovery process. Ask each team the following: How do they plan to get to know you, your organization, your brand, and your benefits? Capabilities won’t matter if the team can’t grasp who you you truly are and what your brand represents because this is the foundation of a solid marketing strategy. Having each team describe their strategic process will help you be able to tell if they plan to go deep or keep things surface.

2. Describe your project management workflow and who will be my POC?

When you get into the weeds of the project, your primary point of content will be your lifeline. You really want to know that this is someone who will listen to you and advocate for you to the design and development team. You want a project manager who is a clear communicator and a good listener, someone who will be timely, proactive and who will advocate for you if necessary.

3. Will I be able to see the website as you are creating it?

We love home improvement shows on TV. Ever noticed how some of the designers kick the clients out until the project is complete and others allow the clients occasional look-ins to check on progress? This is usually up to designer discretion. Most creatives agree that micromanaging is not only frowned upon, it’s downright destructive to the creative process. Be sure that you define your expectations and how involved your team would like to be before the work begins. If you want to be more hands-on than your design or development team prefers, you may need to find a better fit.

4. How many revision are included in your quote and how do you manage scope creep?

There are some people who don’t really know what they want until they see it. We understand this, and are willing to work with our clients and make adjustments on the fly — to an extent. However, not all design shops are like this. Be sure to get clarity on the revision and scope creep requirements to be sure you and your designer are on the same page.

5. Do you work by project or by hour?

This is where budget is very important. If your design or development team works by the hour, they may be more than happy to accept all of your scope creep and revision requests because you’re paying for them! Teams who work by the project may be willing to accept some scope creep but will very likely cap it at a minimum in order to keep the project on schedule. Either way, know how the work is billed before agreeing to a contract.

6. Will my site be custom or will you use pre-made templates?

Budget and time are often the determining factors to these answers. Templatized sites are usually more affordable at a quick turnaround. If you require a lot of custom work that a template can’t handle, you will want to know if your designer has the chops to build sites from scratch. Some of the cheaper shops can’t cut it, or can figure it out and it will cost you! Be sure you and the designer both know what you’re getting into before you begin.

7. Will SEO factor into the design process?

If you ask the designer or team about SEO and they do not have a clear cut response — run. This is a basic best practice in today’s web development world and if the team you are considering hiring isn’t up-to-speed, your website won’t be either.

8. Do you outsource any of your work?

We said before that you want to make sure the vendor you choose is the right fit for your brand. Imagine being in conversations with a shop that you feel really understands you and your brand, but the final product completely misses the mark. It could be that some of the work was outsourced.

9. Who owns the site’s graphics/artwork once it’s completed?

The is an expectation you want to set before committing to a relationship with a designer. There are pros and cons on either side of the decision, but if it is important to you to have the original graphic files and artwork associated with your site, you will need specific clarity on that before signing any contract.

10. What was your favorite/least favorite project?

This is a really insightful question to get to the heart of the design and development team’s style. If they say their least favorite project was designing a financial services infographic and you run a family-owned financial services firm, this designer may not be right for your project. While a goth designer may have the creative prowess to design meaningful and memorable graphics for a preschool, that unicorn is a diamond in the rough. Your often better off selecting a designer who comes closer to your brand’s flavor and style.  

We hope these questions will help you find the perfect design and development team match for your web design project. As you know, web design is our speciality. We would love to answer all of these questions for you and discover if we are the right fit for you.

Cross & Crown

About Cross & Crown

Cross & Crown is a team of creatives who are passionate about solving problems through design and technology, taking what is there and making it better. Based in Chambersburg, PA, we strive to help educate, advocate, and thrive in a digital world.

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