Congratulations, you’ve decided to boost your small business’s digital marketing with a new website! Now comes the process of selecting the right website design firm to build a website for you. This selection process is important because a high quality website design is an investment for your business – both financially and strategically – and it will be imperative to have a website that will be flexible and functional in the coming years
To help you sift through the plethora of web designers available, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask a digital marketing agency before signing on the dotted line.
Questions about the Website Design Process
1. What is your design philosophy?
No, this is not an esoteric, “meaning of life” question. Asking this question can help you get to the core of the design agency’s understanding of websites and their strategic purpose. At Ingenium, we believe that your website is the heart of your digital marketing strategy and so must be designed to compellingly share your brand story and drive conversions. If you don’t like an agency’s philosophy, you’re not going to work well together, and you’re not going to like the end product.
2. What is your web design process?
Getting a clear answer to this question will help prevent frustration later on as you and the agency work together. A good design agency will spend time getting to know you, your business, your current website design, what is and isn’t working with the current design, your business goals, and more before they even start laying out the home page. And they’ll be able to give you a flexible outline of the process.
3. What kinds of research will you do on my business?
A quality design agency will take the time to perform basic audience analysis, learn your goals for your website, and what action the website needs to drive. Websites are more than a promotional flyer for your business – they’re your primary conversion driving tool. A website designer who hasn’t performed basic research into your business isn’t going to produce a product that will generate leads.
4. Will you implement my marketing strategies?
As a strategy-focused digital marketing agency, we highly recommend asking any agency this question. For our clients, we include a mini strategy consultation in our website design process so we can consult on the strategy behind the website and so our clients have the best opportunity for success with their website. If an agency does not understand what problem your product or service solves, then your website won’t do a good job setting you apart from competitors.
5. How much will the website cost?
Don’t expect to get a solid answer during the first sales conversation. It’s typical for an agency to create an estimate after the initial discovery call. But it’s reasonable to expect either a definite “we charge x per hour of design” quote or a “ballpark amount” based on other similar website builds they have completed. If you’re concerned about a project staying in your budget, look for a company that provides clear scope, a complete project quote, and an expectation for add-on services if you request a change order.
A website design agency should be able to give you options for a design and payment plan within your budget. However, if your budget is small (e.g. less than $2,000), you might need to adjust your expectations for the number of pages, amount and type of content, etc.
6. How many pages will my design have?
Before signing a contract, a digital marketing agency should be able to give you a solid idea of the number of pages included in your design quote. We give a specific page count and basic sitemap so that the client knows exactly what to expect..
7. How many rounds of edits/revisions are included?
Even if you love your website wording when it’s on a Word Doc, it’s very likely that you’ll want to change things once you see it laid out on a designed web page. It’s important that you and the agency be in agreement about how many rounds of revisions can be made and how extensive the revisions can be. For example, they may allow for two revisions – one after the first draft and one after the final draft. They may create a wireframe to lock in the basic design and then allow for only text revisions once the web pages are built. We allow for two or three revisions depending on the complexity of the project. Whatever the case may be, the agency should be clear on this from the start to prevent any frustration and surprise additions to your final invoice.
Questions about the Design
1. Do you build custom sites or use templates?
Asking this question can also help clarify website design quotes. If you have a quote that’s significantly lower than the others, the odds are that the agency is tweaking a Wix, SquareSpace, or Shopify template for you. If you have a quote significantly higher than the others, the agency may be custom coding a site from scratch. The first will often not give you a website that is flexible enough for what you’ll need as your business grows. The second is excessive for most small businesses.
For several reasons, you don’t want to work with a digital marketing agency that tries to force your content to fit into a premade template design. If you’re going to invest in a new website design, you need to work with an agency that’s going to make your investment worthwhile by customizing a site to reflect your brand and showcase your products and services.
For six reasons why you should invest in a custom website design, read this article we wrote on small business marketing with a custom website design.
2. What platform and builder do you use?
Ideally, you want to work with a designer who uses WordPress as their platform. The backend is fairly intuitive to use and it allows for good SEO optimization. You should also determine what builder the designer is using (e.g. Elementor, Divi, or Beaver Builder). Some builders are more intuitive to use than others. If you want to be able to make website tweaks after the website launch (copy changes, photo changes, etc.), then you should look for an agency that uses a builder that’s intuitive. We prefer Divi because it is flexible and easy for our clients to use.
3. Can we see portfolio examples and contact those clients?
Definitely ask to see prior work. An experienced digital marketing agency should include websites for a variety of businesses in their portfolio. You can even ask to contact those clients to determine how well the agency and client worked together, satisfaction with work quality, and more.
4. Who will be hosting the site and providing updates?
Find out what company is hosting the website, and make sure that monthly updates are made to WordPress and plugins (not updating leads to websites breaking and being vulnerable to hacks).
5. How do you boost SEO?
Do they do keyword research, insert structured data from schema.org, and track SEO rankings for your website? Regardless of whether you’re pursuing a hard-hitting SEO-focused strategy, websites need to be SEO optimized. (Learn more about SEO for small business digital marketing.)
6. What website security do you provide?
Your website needs to be protected from potential hacks – especially if you’re setting up e-commerce and processing credit cards. We use WordFence and RECAPTCHA to provide security for our clients’ websites against malicious traffic.
7. Who owns the website design once the project is complete?
If a digital marketing agency does not give you admin access to your website’s backend and other associated platforms like Google Analytics, run away! Too often, design agencies will hold your website hostage and require you to work with them alone for updates and changes by not giving you full access and ownership over the website. You should only sign a contract that gives you legal ownership of the website so you can have full admin access, terminate and add users, and transfer the website to another host later on if need be.
Questions about Project Management
1. How long will my project take?
Your chosen digital marketing agency should give you a general timeline for the launch of your website. Similarly, you should let your agency know if you need a definite timeline for launch. Obviously, launch dates frequently change for unforeseen reasons. But starting with a launch date can help prevent the project from dragging on indefinitely.
2. What communication channels do you use?
Open communication and client project updates ease project frustration. We use ClickUp to allow clients to track design progress and communicate what we need from the client. We communicate with video call, email, and/or Slack depending on the client’s communication preferences.
3. What will I need to provide for this project (copy, photos, etc.)?
Some website quotes require the client to write the copy, provide photos, or work with a third party for video production. Ask what the design agency needs from you and make sure it’s clarified in the contractual project scope.
4. Who will be working on my project (in-house vs outsource)?
You’ll want to find out if your website’s designer works in-house or outsourced. If the designer is outsourced, you’ll need to find out if they’re a regular subcontractor who has a long term relationship with the agency or a temporary sub-contractor. A temporary subcontractor could make it harder for you to reach the designer if you need more design work done in the future, need to access design files, etc.
5. Who will be my primary point of contact?
It’s important to meet your primary point of contact during the sales conversations, and not just meet with the sales team. You want to make sure you can trust the person directly responsible for managing your website project. He or she needs to understand your business’ target audience and sales process in order to guide the design process to achieve what you need. Depending on the size of the digital marketing agency, this could be a project manager, account manager, or website designer.
Questions about Post Website Launch
1. What training/support do you offer after launch?
This question is particularly important if you would like to maintain the website yourself and make future tweaks (copy changes, photo changes, etc.). Our company provides a training video post launch for you and your team. We also provide basic support to make sure our clients understand where the settings are for each component of their website (menus, pages, posts, forms, etc.) .
2. What happens after the website is complete?
With this question, you have the opportunity to learn about additional services the digital marketing agency may provide like email marketing, social media marketing, and more. If you’d like to outsource your digital marketing, post website launch is a great time to start retainer services. An agency that only offers website design and a small offering of retainer services may not meet your business’s digital marketing needs.
Grow Your Business with a Quality Website Design
Asking these questions will help you find the best digital marketing agency to design your new website. If you’d like to ask us these questions, we’d love to have a conversation with you about your digital marketing and website design needs.
We invite you to schedule a conversation with one of our consultants to get started.