Website development is the process of building a website or application for the internet. It can range from building a simple feature for an existing website to creating a complex web application from scratch.
For many business owners, partnering with a website development or agency is the best way to build a website or app that does exactly what they want. But the market is crowded and can be hard to navigate.
To find a good fit, here are 12 questions you should ask a website development agency or developer before hiring them.
Questions to Ask a Website Development Agency
What types of websites or applications have you developed for your clients?
Can I see what you’ve developed for some of your other clients?
What technologies do you use?
How do you measure the success of your development projects?
How will you help me meet my goals?
What monthly deliverables can I expect if I retain your agency?
How much will this project cost?
What’s the estimated timeline?
How will I be involved in the development process?
How will we communicate throughout the process?
Do you provide hosting, security, and maintenance?
Will it be possible for me to edit the website or application?
1. What types of websites or applications have you developed for your clients?
Ideally, you want to work with a website development agency or individual who has experience developing projects similar to the one you’re requesting.
For example, if you need an ecommerce website, then working with an agency that’s exclusively built business sites might not be a good fit. Or, if you need a WordPress website, then you likely want to work with a developer who specializes in that CMS. Or perhaps you need a full stack developer, or someone who specializes in backend development specifically.
Whether you’re asking for an API, mobile app, extranet, or website built on a specific platform, try to partner with an agency or developer whose past projects and skills align with your specific project and needs.
2. Can I see what you’ve developed for some of your other clients?
Don’t just ask to hear what projects the website development agency or individual has worked on — ask to see them. Any professional firm or developer will have a portfolio to show you.
Being able to view their work, navigate around their sites, or test a plugin or other advanced functionality they created will provide invaluable insight and help you make a more informed choice if they’re a good partner to work with on your unique project.
3. What technologies do you use?
Asking what technologies an agency or developer uses will help you better understand their expertise, development process, and whether they’re a good match for your project.
It’s okay if you’re not familiar with many programming languages or frameworks. You’re just looking for someone who’s familiar and comfortable with a technology that will support your project.
For example, if you want a WordPress website, then the agency or individual should be comfortable with PHP. If you want an Android app on the other hand, then you want someone who uses Java or Kotlin.
You can typically find this information on their website and then ask them to go more in-depth about their experience with ReactJS and Angular, for example.
4. How do you measure the success of your development projects?
In the world of website development, you can measure success through a number of website metrics like:
Average time on page - How long visitors tend to spend on a web page
Bounce rate - The percentage of visitors who load one page on your website, then leave without interacting with the page or visiting any other ones.
Conversion rate - The percentage of visitors who complete a desired action on your website.
Those are only a few of the metrics they might use to measure success. What matters is that they use metrics in the first place, and that those metrics align with your goals. If the agency or developer responds that they measure success in terms of meeting a project’s deadline and budget, then that’s a red flag. You want them to be able to meet your deadline and budget, but also to help you meet your goals, whether that’s attracting, engaging, or converting visitors.
5. How will you help me meet my goals?
Let’s say your goals include having a website that’s fast-loading. In that case, make sure the agency or developer can specifically explain how they will develop your application so it’s optimized for speed. If they can’t, then they likely don’t have the experience or skills to meet your project requirements.
If you’d like to see a proven record of how the agency or developer has met previous clients’ goals in their development projects, check their site for case studies.
6. What monthly deliverables can I expect if I retain your agency?
Deliverables are essential for establishing client expectations and staying on track in terms of scope, timeline, and budget. Deliverables can include:
Competitive analysis and audits
No agency or developer should expect to end an introductory call and hand over the final product the next time you talk. Instead, they should plan to provide monthly deliverables (or whatever cadence you agree upon) throughout the process so the end result pleases everyone.
7. How much will this project cost?
It can be difficult to find an agency or developer who publishes their pricing on their website. Oftentimes, you’ll have to reach out for a quote.
Once you’ve discussed your project scope and needs more in depth, it’s a good idea to check back in about the cost. It may be different from the initial quote if the scope is bigger than the agency or developer thought.
It is essential to discuss costs before hiring. The best of the best agencies and developers won’t be the “best” for you if they don’t fit your budget. And pricing is important for not only evaluating but comparing agencies and developers.
It is also a good idea to ask about their pricing model. Do they charge a one-time fee or monthly retainer or by deliverables? Since website development is an ongoing process, it might make more sense to go with an agency or developer that charges by deliverables or results achieved instead of a one-and-done fee.
8. What’s the estimated timeline?
You want to work with an agency or developer that can meet your budget and timeline. If they check off all your boxes, but can’t complete the project in the time frame that works best for your business, then you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Discussing a project’s timeline before starting is also important for accountability. It holds both you and the agency or developer accountable for scheduling meetings and calls, providing any required resources, and meeting deadlines.
9. How will I be involved in the development process?
If you’re hiring a website development agency or developer, you likely don’t want to be involved in the actual development process.
But just because you’re not writing the code doesn’t mean that you have no role in the process. This website or application is meant to represent your brand after all.
So you should look for an agency or developer that plans to regularly provide status meetings and progress reports and allow you to review wireframes and prototypes throughout the process.
It could also be helpful to use a tool like Atarim and onboard an agency using it. Collaboration software tools like this make it easy to leave feedback on the actual website or application, monitor the entire progress, and communicate directly with the agency.
10. How will we communicate throughout the process?
Establishing how you’ll communicate is essential in any partnership. When partnering with a web development agency or developer in particular, you want to ensure you’ll be communicating throughout the process so you can check in, ask questions, and know about any challenges that may affect the timeline or budget.
If the agency or developer seems unwilling to establish open lines of communication, that’s a red flag.
They should also be open to communicating in ways that you’re most comfortable with. For example, if you prefer phone calls and the occasional meeting, and the developer prefers to communicate via text, you may get frustrated throughout the process. You’ll likely be better off with an agency or individual whose communication preferences align with your own.
11. Do you provide hosting, security, and maintenance?
It’s important to clearly establish the agency or developer’s scope. Are they limited to development only, or do they provide hosting, security, and maintenance?
One answer isn’t necessarily better than the other. You may already have hosting, security, and maintenance covered with a content management system and only need help building the website. Or, you may want an agency that can handle everything for you.
In that case, look for an agency or developer that offers full-cycle development services and ask them to define it so you know exactly what to expect.
12. Will it be possible for me to edit the website or application?
It’s important to understand how much control you’ll have over your website or application as it’s developed — and after.
If your contract with the agency or developer ends once the website or application goes live, then you’ll need to be able to make changes and updates yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to be prepared to retain their help to maintain the site.
Finding the Right Fit
Picking a web development agency or developer can be stressful and time-consuming. But asking the right questions can help ease the process and ensure you find the right partner for your development project.
Originally published Jan 3, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated May 09 2022