So, you're looking to hiring a web designer and you've booked a web design consultation to discuss your project. Finally, after all the thinking and research you’ve done, you're talking to someone that has the ability to bring your ideas to reality. Or can they? Even if they can, are you a good fit to work together in the first place?
That’s what this blog post aims to answer. Almost all web designers and developers give free consultations to potential clients. But that doesn’t mean they are of equal value to you, as a client. To get the most out of a web design consultation, you need to ask direct questions that get to the core of your project.
Let’s take a look at what those questions are and why you should ask them.
1. What services do you offer?
This one seems counter-intuitive. We design websites, of course! Sure. But most web design agencies also offer digital marketing and branding services. Things like paid social ads, SEO optimization, content marketing, PPC management, logo design, video production –the list goes on and on.
It's important for you to ask this question if you are interested in those types of services. Why? Because it simply makes more sense to have the company that creates your website to also handle your marketing, if you're looking to outsource that, of course. That’s because when you take a step back, your website is really just one piece of your entire digital marketing strategy. It probably just doesn’t seem that way since its the most visible one and has a unique role.
But trust us, it is. Your website should be at the nexus of all your digital marketing efforts. It's how you generate leads through your website and ultimately increase your revenues. So it would make sense that the same people that craft your website also craft your entire digital marketing strategy. If you agree to terms, they’ll already know all about your business, industry, competitors and overall strategy. This makes them the one best suited to handle the digital marketing that will allow you to really get the most out of your website.
2. What does your process look like?
This is might be the most important question on this list. If you're done with the call without knowing this, it just means you didn’t get enough out of your web design consultation. You want your web designer or developer to have a professional process in place. This process should be well-reasoned, efficient and be centered around you. When evaluating their process, make sure they are able to not just explain what they are doing, but why they are doing it.
Anyone can create a process. But it takes a true professional to actually put together an efficient process that increases the success of projects. The mark of an effective web design process is one with an efficient workflow that regularly requests and implement client feedback. So, how do you know if the web designer you're talking to has this kind of a process?
The main thing to look for is that there are safeguards in place that ensure you are on the same page and you will have input. For example, in our projects, we don’t move on to the next phase without client approval. If we’re in the research phase, we don’t move forward until the client has signed off on the strategy and design brief. If we’re in the design phase, we don’t start developing the website until all of the wireframes have been approved.
A process like this ensures you are kept on the same page as your designer through each individual phase. It also makes it possible for you to easily cut ties if the project isn’t working out. That’s because it will be clear what work has been done and how much you will owe for it.
Lastly, this also greatly reduces your risk because you have a clear cut exit strategy. Of course, you hope that never happens. But it's important to know.
3. How long will it take to get my site online?
This is a key question to ask just because of how important your business website is. Sometimes, a client's current website needs a revamp so bad that their top priority is speed. We get it. That’s why we're going to give you the most honest answer we can, which you are sure to love: it all depends. On what? The scope of your project.
It all comes down to how big of a project it is. The more web pages, graphics, and functionality you need, the longer it is going to take. It’s hard to determine this during the consultation. You may have no idea what you need, which is completely understandable. That’s why you are talking to a professional for guidance. The way we determine this is by having our clients fill out a thorough discovery document which defines the scope of the project. We have them do this before we send any proposals or contracts.
This way, everything is accounted for and we can give an accurate quote. Still, it’s worth asking –even though you will probably only get an “it depends” type answer during the web design consultation.
Ask about when they are available to start working on the project to ensure your calendars align. You could also ask them the timeline of past projects to get a ballpark figure.
4. What assets will you need from me?
Creating a business website is a team effort. During a web design consultation call, you should ask what assets you will need to provide. Quite honestly, it might be more than expected.
The things your web designer may request vary. Most will want the usual of brand style guides, photography, graphics, content and so on. But some may ask for or detailed analysis of your businesses financials or customer information that you may not have on hand.
You should ask these questions so you can get a good sense of what your responsibilities as the client will include. Deadlines work two ways, so it's important you know ahead of time what you will be responsible for.
5. How much time do you spend researching my business, industry, and competitors?
Great websites aren’t built in a vacuum. They are built by analyzing the entire macro and micro environment affecting your business. From there, you can create a strategy that is aimed at the right audience, increases website traffic and produces the results you're looking for.
That’s why you need to ask how much time is spent analyzing your business and industry during a web design consultation call. The research phase is the most important part of the project. The insights discovered during this phase impact the direction of the entire project. It’s s essentially the foundation your website is built on. You need to make sure it's a strong one.
6. Can you also create a logo for my brand?
If you are creating a website from scratch for a new business or redesigning an existing one, chances are you could be in the market for a logo too. Logos are incredibly important for brands. A great logo will communicate the value of your business before someone even knows what you do.
A great logo is what separates the good brands from the great ones. To increase your chances of creating a great logo, it is very helpful to have the people that will be doing your website also create the logo. Going this route will ensure that the overall design language of your brand is consistent. It will also mean that the logo and website are working in tandem to communicate the same message.
7. What Platform will my Website Be Built On?
Another critical question that you must ask to get the most out of a web design consultation. Why? Because it has massive implications for the future of your website and how much flexibility you will have once the project is complete. You want to make sure that your website is built on a fully featured platform with no limitations. You're hiring a professional after all, and they should be building your website with professional tools.
For most clients, that means a website built using WordPress. It’s the best overall website builder, and it's easy enough to learn once the website is built so you can manage it yourself. Trust us, WordPress makes small business owners live easier. There are other good website building platforms like Drupal or Webflow. Whatever your web designer uses, make sure you and your team can work with it post-launch.
If you hear them say they use Wix or Squarespace on the web design consultation call, you should know what you're getting into with those two platforms. It's likely that your main options will be between WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace. Fortunately, we have a post comparing and contrasting those three platforms.
8. How much input will I have during the project?
Like we said earlier, you want to make sure the web design process is centered around you and your business. Discovering this should be one of your top priorities during the web design consultation. By asking how much input you will have during the web design consultation call, you’ll know immediately whether or not their process is.
Now, you shouldn’t demand full, 100% creative control. We’re big believers in the Steve Jobs hiring philosophy: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”. But at the end of the day, it is your business and your brand. You know it better than anyone.
Ultimately, the brand position you take needs to be one that you’re comfortable with. If you're not, there’s no way you are going to be able to successfully execute on the potential of your new website to bring in new business. You simply won’t be a believer in what you're selling.
To avoid this, make sure there are at least a few design meetings where your feedback is requested. The web designer should be able to explain the rationale behind every decision made, and you should have the ability to respectfully push back. Also, make sure that the contract allows for some design revisions. It’s unlikely they’re going to produce exactly what you're looking for on the first try. Make sure that you are allowed an explicit number of revisions, or the cost will quickly rise.
9. What happens if I want to expand the scope of the project?
Halfway through the project, you may realize you want or need a bigger website. Your web designer may even be the one that suggests it. This is a common occurrence. Sometimes, no amount of due diligence during the research phase can foresee that. It shouldn’t be a big deal.
But before you sign on with a web designer, make sure you know what the policy is requiring increased project scope. Most web designers will happily quote you a new price for the new deliverables. However, some may charge an extra fee on top or not accept it at all past a certain point. Whatever their policy is regarding project scope, make sure you know it.
10. What’s Your Pricing Model?
Nobody likes to talk about money, which is why we saved this for last. However, it is necessary to get clarification on their pricing model during your web design consultation call. There are three main types of pricing models web designers use: hourly, value, and milestone.
Hourly pricing is just what it sounds like. The web designer has an hourly rate and they’ll bill for however many hours it takes to complete your project. They’ll generally use a time tracking app to keep everything transparent.
Value pricing works out as a flat rate for the entire project. Instead of charging you hourly, they charge you a set price for the value they are bringing to your business by creating a website for it.
Milestone pricing is like a hybrid of both. You will be billed after completing each major phase of the web design process. For example, you may be invoiced after the Research, Design, Development and Launch phase.
Choosing which pricing method you prefer is ultimately up to whatever makes the most sense for your business. There’s no right or wrong way. Some web designers even employ a mix of all three. Either way, make sure you get the details during the web design consultation.