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5 Questions You Should Ask When Interviewing a Website Development Agency

You've finally decided to bite the bullet and jump headlong into creating and launching a brand new website for your company.

Now you need to interview and hire a web design partner that can build the right site for the right price on a tight timeline.

With limited in-house knowledge of the web development process, you're nervous about making the wrong hire and throwing your hard won budget dollars down the drain. 

What questions should you ask when choosing a website development agency? How can you increase the likelihood of a good hire and a successful web design?

Well, Illumine8 Marketing & PR is here to help. Here are 5 questions you should ask when interviewing a website development agency. These questions will help you and your team weed out the pretenders, narrow down the contenders and make the right hire for the right price.

Is your entire website development team in-house and what's their collective experience level?

You'll want to get a clear sense of what the website partner you're interviewing can do and how their team is structured. For example, you'll want to uncover the following pieces of information early on in the interview process:

  • Are there aspects of the project that will be outsourced, and if so, to what other companies?
  • How long has each website project team member been working in the field?
  • How long has the team been working together?
  • Who is our main point of contact for the project? 

Do you have any experience building websites for companies in our industry?

Building a website for an e-commerce-driven business requires a different set of skills and strategies than creating a website for an HVAC and plumbing company.

See what examples the agency provides; you might discover that they only specialize in one field and that your industry is completely new to them.

If that's the case, how will the industry learning curve impact their ability to deliver your website on time and within budget?

If they have worked within your field, ask for references so you can contact these clients to get more information. 

What is your pricing structure? 

This question is very important to ask early on in the process. The last thing you want is to be surprised by what is and is not included in the website development agency's fees. The agency's response should include answers to the following questions:

  • What is your overall payment schedule? What is your deposit and how do payments correspond to project deliverables?
  • Do you charge by the hour or is their a flat fee?
  • If we exceed the amount of allowed changes, are their alteration or change order fees?
  • How do you handle website changes post launch? Is it an hourly fee, will we have control via a Content Management System (CMS) or is there a monthly maintenance retainer?
  • How do you handle website hosting and what are the associated fees?

These last two questions are critical to understanding the total cost for your website. If the website agency retains control over website changes post-launch--i.e. you don't have access to the CMS or it's so complicated your team cannot use it--you could see costs skyrocket over time.

What CMS do you deploy and how user-friendly is it?

There are a host of CMS options out there. Some are called Open Source, meaning the code used is widely available and there are many upgrades and plug-ins available for free. WordPress, Joomla and Drupal are a few examples of Open Source CMS platforms.

A proprietary CMS uses code that only the CMS creator can access and manipulate. This requires you as the website owner to constantly go back to this website agency for changes.

Another important consideration is how a website partner's CMS of choice matches the skill set of your team members that will handle website changes.

Some back-end interfaces are more complex than others; some are very user-friendly. It's imperative that you explore your options to reduce headaches and increased costs down the road.

What is your view of UX?

If they don't get excited about discussing their UX design philosophy, you should probably move on.

A strong website development agency will be all about UX, otherwise known as designing for the user-experience. In other words, how can we develop a website that delivers a great experience to a company's potential existing customers? 

UX design is not "design for design's sake". It's not building the most complex website that looks wonderful but is utterly confusing and frustrating for the user.

You want to hire a website development firm that understands your business, gets your audience behaviors and tendencies and delivers to that audience the best possible digital experience of your brand.

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