Questions to ask BEFORE you hire a web partner

Web So you need to update your website.  Or, build one for the first time.  It’s easy to get blinded by some of the cool, visually spectacular things that can be done on the web.  But let’s remember that first and foremost — your website is a marketing tool. 

Before you hire a web partner, make sure you ask some smart questions and do your homework.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.

Seeing is believing:

  • Ask to see samples of their work within the last 6 months.  Get references.
  • Ask to see the user interface so you understand what is required to make changes.

There are many ways to view a website:

  • Ask which browsers (and versions) they test for compatibility
  • Ask how your site will appear on hand-held devices like Blackberries and Palm Pilots.

You will keep your content fresh if it’s easy to do:

  • Do they use a WYSIWYG software to build sites?
  • If you want to update text, photos, add pages etc. – can you do that yourself without knowing any code?
  • If the web firm has to make the changes, how much do you charge and what is the turnaround time?

Will you be easy to find?

  • How does their construction natively help your site’s search engine rankings?

Your audiences:

  • Will the site be handicap accessible?  (If you receive federal funding, you should find out about Section 508 requirements.)
  • What help, if any, do you give you to attract an audience?

Nuts and bolts:

  • Who owns the site?  Can you move it to a different server if you want?
  • What kind of support are you given after the site goes live?  Is there an additional cost for this?

Keep in mind that you need three different kinds of thinkers to help you design a site:

  • A strategic thinker who helps create the user experience
  • A smart designer who understands graphic design, your brand and how to design specifically for the web
  • A savvy, up-to-speed web developer who can actually construct the site

Don’t get boxed in to thinking that you have to buy all of those services from one firm.  For almost 15 years, we’ve fulfilled the first two roles for our clients — but always hire out the final component. 

Come on marketing pros — what questions did I miss that you know should be added to the list?

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