Do you like drama? Neither do I. I like to work with nice people and provide clean, engaging, and effective websites so that they can win new clients and customers and we can all live happily ever after. I like all of my projects to run smoothly and right on time. I also like sunny days, beaches, puppies, and margaritas. Those things have nothing to do with website projects –but since I’m covering things I like, I thought I’d throw those in too.
I’ve had many web design projects that have gone really well. But, I have also had my share of bumpy projects that haven’t always gone as planned.
My past experiences have impacted how I presently work with clients. I’ve gotten pretty good at asking specific questions of potential clients to form a better understanding of what they need. Part of my job is to help my clients clarify and pinpoint their needs so I can provide guidance as well as assess potential pitfalls.
When you begin working with a web professional (designer, programmer, developer) on a new website or a redesign, you should ask certain questions before jumping into a partnership. These questions will help you find the right person to help you create a website that you love, and help you avoid any unexpected issues or disagreements. Here are my top ten questions you should ask a potential web professional:
1. What are the monthly and yearly expenses related to maintaining my website? What other fees can I expect? Most sites include hosting and domain name registration fees that are paid on an annual basis. Depending on other factors like whether you sell products on your site or use a third-party website builder, you may have additional costs. Your web professional should be able to provide ballpark estimates on these costs, even if they are separate from what they charge you.
2. Can I see your portfolio? Every web professional has a skill set and a style. Make sure the person you hire has the skills you need and that his or her previous work resonates with you.
3. Can my website look like this? Come equipped with ideas and examples of what you want. Most good web professionals can look at a site and quickly assess what it does, how it functions, and about how much it would cost to build something similar.
4. How do you charge for your services? Some professionals charge an hourly rate and others charge by the project. Have a candid conversation about costs, your budget, payment information, and ownership.
5. What is the timeline for completing the website? Your web professional should be able to give you some indication how long a typical project will take, as well as a project plan with timing for completing portions of the work.
6. What deliverables will I be responsible for? In addition to receiving materials and updates from your web professional, you will be expected to review work and provide feedback in a timely matter. You may need to supply content for your website, like images and copy. Your deliverables and input can have a huge impact on timeline and due dates, so it’s important to ask this question up front.
7. What platform/language do you use to build your website? A good web professional should be able to explain to you how he or she develops a site. Some may use HTML. Others may use platforms like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. Still others might use web builders like Wix. A good web professional should be able to explain this to you, as well as the pros and cons of each. Most professionals have a preference or an area of expertise.
8. What will I be able to update myself? What will I have to call you to update? Will my website have a Content Management System? These questions are very important and directly tied to question #7. Depending on the tool the professional uses, you may or not be able to make your own updates. You may also need training to help you make updates.
9. What happens when I want to redesign or expand my website? Will I have to start over? Get a clear idea as to whether your site is going to be easily expandable as your business grows.
10. How do you communicate (text, phone, email)? What is your turnaround time for questions and calls? Get an idea of work hours and communication style up front to alleviate communication issues later.
A working relationship is a two-way street. When you choose to work with someone on a project that spans weeks or months, make sure it is a good fit. Personality, communication, work style, and design style all come into play. Ask the hard questions now to be happy with your site at the end of the project.
Here’s to margaritas, sunny days, and your brilliant business.