Grilling Your Website Design Firm
Thinking about launching your own online business. Maybe a website about the services you offer, or an online store, maybe a blog, or something custom made like a membership site that caters to a certain niche, or a brand new type of website?
Undoubtely your first challenge is the planning and website development. And with more than 600 million websites on the net and more on the way it is crucial to your success that you have a great website that gets noticed.
Here are some questions you need to ask if you're thinking about hiring a website development firm.
Are they familiar with Fluid Web Design (also known as Responsive Web Design)?
Fluid website designs work by automatically resizing your website so that it fits better on devices with smaller screens such as iPhones, iPads, Android, etx.
Are their websites cross browser compatible?
XHTML / CSS are important to make sure your website works correctly on different browsers because not all visitors have the same browser. If a website looks great on the browser on your computer but odd on your visitor's computer then you risk alienating and losing potential visitors. CSS and XHTML are vital when creating cross browser compatible and accessible websites.
According to W3Schools Browser Statistics, as of May 2013:
- 51% of visitors use Google's Chrome browser
- 28% of visitors use Firefox
- 13% of visitors use Internet Explorer
- 4% of visitors use Safari
Are your websites optimized to load fast?
Here's a good tool by Google called PageSpeed Insights that can help. There are many tools that you can use to test website load times such as Pingdom at Website Speed Test
Make sure your website is optimized because it can dramatically increase your website load times and its a great way to make sure that your visitors stay and look through your website. If you have visitors but your website is still not performing to your expectations then your website firm should be familiar with Website Conversion.
You can verify your websites' bounce rate, which is the amount of visitors that leave quickly, by logging into your analytics account. If you have a high percentage of visitors that leave within the first few seconds then you should really consider optimizing your website.
Which web programming languages do they work with?
If you plan on having website features such as Comments box, Newsletter Sign Up, Shopping Cart, Online payment system and other common website features then it is necessary that your website development team is familiar with atleast one of the many web programming languages.
A few years ago I would have said there's no one right programming language but since then a lot has changed. PHP has gone on to become a very dominant programming language in combination with MySQL database.
I know some might disagree but I would say make sure your website is built with PHP because there are a lot more web programmer and hosting companies familiar with PHP then any other language.
Some common web programming languages include ColdFusion MX now owned by Adobe, ASP.NET by Microsoft, JSP by Sun Microsystem, PHP, and Perl - One of web's first server side language.
Who will maintain the website?
This will vary depending on the website. Some web design firms offer monthly maintenance package, others hourly rates and then there's also CMS, Content Management Systems, which allow you to make the updates directly on the website. A very popular CMS is Wordpress which is easy to use and used widely by a lot of popular websites. It's good to find out before getting started what your costs will be.
What happens if there's an issue after the website is done?
Each website firm will have their own policy but it's a good idea to make sure that if it's a design related issue then they should be able to provide you with support for it.
Do they charge any other monthly fees?
What are their hourly fees incase you have an issue with the website and what's the average turnaround time?
What type of analytics software will you use to track website stats (traffic, visitors, conversions, etx)?
There are 2 free ones that are available that are very good with analytics. Google's Analytics and StatCounter.com. Also if possible ask your webmaster to generate an XML Sitemap and setup a Google Webmaster Account.
Is the website SEO optimized?
SEO is Search Engine Optimization which is optimizing a website so that it ranks high on search engines. Now although you may not be promoting your website right now with SEO, it's still a good idea to have it properly On-Page optimized so that google and other search engines can at the very least see what your website is about.
A few other questions to consider:
- Do they provide support for issues such as malware infection or other future issues that might arise?
- If you plan on promoting your website online then also ask them if they provide SEO High Ranking Services
- If it's a large website then making sure it's undergone a thorough testing to make sure everything works as agreed to on the website project plan
- If your website accepts payments then find out about security features (make sure it includes SSL & to not store credit card numbers on your database?)
There are many other questions to consider but to find out if a website firm is right for you visit one of their portfolio websites and then contact the website owners to ask about their experience with the website design firm.
About The Author
Sameep Shah runs
WebsiteDesignHouston.net where he hammers away B2B / B2C websites for businesses in and around Houston area. When he's not working on websites he's busy writing informational content. He was also recently sourced in an INC.com article.