20 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Web Design Agency - Part 2

posted by Zack Spear
Read time 11 minutes
It's been a few weeks since we released 20 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Web Design Agency - Part 1. If you haven't read it already, you might want to before you dive into part 2. 
No more intro needed, let's dive into Part 2 of 20 questions you should ask before hiring a web design agency
11. How long until the website is live.
Surprise, surprise. Every website is different so depending on the goals and outcomes required, your website project can vary. Without any huge integrations into 3rd party solutions we typically see the "normal" build be around three months. It might seem like a long time but there is a lot that goes into a custom website design. Learn about our website process for building websites here. We feel that if your website is custom and not a pre-built template that the time involved to create this should reflect that. If an agency is promising you a custom designed and built website to be complete in a month, that should raise a concern. 
12. How do I know if my website will be secure?
Security is such an important part of your website. You want to ensure that not only your data is safe but your site visitor's data is safe too.  Most of us think "I'm just small potatoes, why would I be a target for hacking?" You'd be surprised... in fact, 58 percent of malware attack victims are categorized as small business!(Source: Alertlogic, 2018)
At ICS, If we host a website, each site needs to have Sucuri added to their website. Sucuri is a service that provides website firewalls and added protection to the websites architecture to ensure hacks are prevented before they happen. Along with this, your website should be have an SSL installed (HTTPS). This not only will help your website rank higher since Google's recent release on showing preference in search engines to those that are SSL but also another layer of protection.   
13. Any hidden fees?
This is pretty simple. No. Whichever web design agency you choose to work with they should clearly outline their pricing structure for upfront and ongoing pricing. Typically there is always an initial cost for a custom web design, this can range depending on the requirements of the site. 

After the custom web design process is complete, there is always a hosting fee whether through that agency or through a separate hosting provider, (we use Rackspace) this can range in price depending on the quality of the server and amount of space and resources required. 

A lot of custom websites still rely on plugins to make the site function. The majority of these plugins are free but there are some that might be on a subscription base. This cost should be outlined by your web design agency if the cost is on you the client, or covered by the agency. 

Beyond this ongoing maintenance will either be things you can handle yourself or hire the agency for. Either way, this should be outlined with costs outside of the initial agreement.

Website Quiz
14. References?
Consider this a job interview. You're doing research on the right agency to build your website. You can ask the agency directly for references but go one step further and see who their clients are for yourself and reach out to them on your own terms to see what the experience was like for them. 
If it was negative, learn why. As we all know, you can't please all of your customers. When you see a pattern of several negative reviews then it's time to say goodbye to that agency. 
Be sure to go to Google for the agencies reviews, Facebook and any other partner platforms they are part of. 

15. Is your team local?
In a world where businesses are looking to remote workers more and more its important to get a sense of who you are working with. Do they understand your marketplace? The unique challenges that come with operating in your part of the world? The specific lingo associated with your community? All of this is important when choosing a team to help you market your business.
At ICS we have a core team that's in our local office in Saint John, New Brunswick. These are the individuals you work with day in and out on your project. We also have a remote digital marketer and remote web developer that we use for certain projects when needed as well a sister agency in New York City where we partner on several large e-commerce builds.  
16. Is there a limit to design revisions?
This depends on the agency, its important to have an idea of how much time a design takes before the project starts so you are aware that if you go over the set time to get the design you want it could incur extra costs.  In the initial scope of work, have your agency in question lay out the estimate in hours it will take them to design the site before the build so you can reference how much time has been spent versus billed. Being transparent with your time is the best way to build a solid relationship. 
We never deliver a design that the project hasn't 100% agreed upon before building their website, so if it takes more time then allotted we work with the client to figure out a solution that works for both parties. 
Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.01.17 PM
Here's a screenshot from our prototype tool, MarvelApp. This saves us time on design communication and provides great insight into what the site COULD look like when developed. 
17. What’s your greatest weakness?
Hard question, right? No one is perfect and either is an agency so it's important to ask. This question allows your potential web developer the chance to put their shortcomings on the table for you to decide if that will be a show-stopper or something you can live with. 
With us, it's always been client communication. Not everyone communicates the way you want to, so it's a learning curve to the start of the relationship. Over the last year, we have found great success and improved communication by implementing a customer support chat specific to the client and project. This way everything is in one area, if one person isn't available another person can hop on and chat. It has reduced our deliverable time and made customers much happier with almost instant support.
18. What are your payment terms?
Do their terms meet your cash-flow requirements? Are they flexible?  How many days grace before an invoice is due?
There's no normal here but depending on the size of the project we do 50% down and 50% upon completion. We're pretty flexible so depending on the client and relationship we will come up with a payment plan that works for both parties. In terms of hosting we always bill out on the 1st of every month with a 30-day payment window. This is pretty standard industry wide. 
19. Will you maintain the site post-launch?
This is important, as the website evolves you will likely need changes to happen. We love to give our clients control to maintain these items going forward. At the same time, if this isn't something they want to do, we're always here to help. We understand that in some cases it's best left to the professionals! Asking your agency in question if a service level agreement is an option. This can be a great way to ensure availability from your agency. 
20. How long will my website last?
A website can last as long you want it to if maintained properly. A good website should grow and evolve as your business does this means maintaining and upgrading as you evolve should be part of your strategy. We typically see a website lasting 30-36 months. Since technologies are always evolving there are always new requirements needed in order to keep up with best standards. 
The life span also is dictated by the platform you choose to build on. If you are having a custom built Wordpress site, you should be able to evolve with this build and make changes as the times goes on. If you are choosing a platform like Wix or Squarespace, you are limited to their specifications. 

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