KEY questions to ask a website design company during the initial conversations. Gather pertinent information and protect YOUR investment!

there are a few KEY questions to ask a website design company

As with many services, the information you receive can vary widely from vendor to vendor. Designing a new website is an important investment in your business, and it’s important to have all of the information! Scroll on down for some questions to consider.

Who Owns my website?

Is it optimized?

Are there extra costs?

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Designing a new website is an exciting commitment to grow your business!

But we also realize it can be an overwhelming process to find an experienced and affordable service provider. On top of that, unfortunately, agencies can use certain strategies or just simple fine print, to distract you from or blatantly hide the truth. For a typical small business owner, you have no idea all that goes into designing a website. On top of all of the moving parts when building a website, believe it or not there are quite a few predatory practices in the marketing industry. Use these questions to get honest answers!

The process of designing a new website can be an added stress on top of running your day-to-day business dealings, and a common lack of understanding can lead to BIG problems down the road.
Before you select a website design company or a marketing agency, it’s important to have a basic understanding and ask the following questions! Print this page and take it with you to the meetings when you are interviewing website design companies!

Questions to ask before you hire a website design firm and/or a marketing agency;

Who owns my website / domain?

This may seem to be a silly question, but it’s important that your website and domain remain under your ownership. There are contracts and clauses out there that can stipulate terms and details that take ownership away from you for a period of time, or indefinitely upon termination of services. This should NEVER be the case. 

Who owns my website content?

If you are paying a vendor to design a website for you, and even to write the content, you still OWN the content. A website is an asset to your business and if a vendor or contract tries to stipulate that you do not own your website content and design after termination of services, this is a serious red flag.

Will my website be optimized for SEO best practices?

Many vendors do not include the basic SEO elements in a website design proposal, if you will not go on to be an SEO / marketing client. This is unfortunate, because they know that they are providing you with a product that will never perform. It’s like selling you a car, without the engine.

Every one of our website design proposals includes the fundamentals of SEO optimization (including basic technical SEO components that are necessary for your website to perform well).

While website maintenance and SEO organic optimization strategies are ONGOING processes, the basic fundamentals should still be included in any website design project.

Is there a “buyout” on my contract?

This is a major red flag. A buy out can stipulate that if you terminate services, you must pay the vendor a fee to keep your OWN WEBSITE.

Again, if you are paying a vendor to design a website on your behalf, you should own the product at the end, period. If you paid the website design services, there should be no buy out fee beyond that.

This and other predatory contract clauses can far exceed the initial fee, and unfortunately are common practice especially with large, multinational companies that target small businesses.

Will my website be optimized for Google Core standards?

While Google Core Vitals standards do encompass quite a bit beyond your website design and even optimization best practices, there are still fundamental items that should be put into place and included in your website design project.

Google Core Web Vitals can also be heavily impacted by the type of hosting you choose, which for larger sites needs to be a robust service.  

This company focuses specifically on my industry, isn’t that best?

This answer can be a bit of a mixed bag. If you interview a website design or marketing company that focuses only in your industry, it’s still important to ask all of these fundamental questions.

There are agencies that focus on legal firms or dentist offices for example. They offer a templated site, access to databases of content, etc.

Unfortunately they tend to cost a premium price, and can fail to include the basics that ultimately make a website SUCCESSFUL.

I really like this company, should I bother getting more estimates?

YES! Always “shop around” so to speak. Talk to other business owners or your local chamber, and get recommendations for other marketing or website design companies to speak with. Just like many other goods and services, prices and quality can LARGELY VARY.

If you do not feel overwhelmed and completely 100% informed, you definitely need to seek additional estimates. This process is overwhelming and there is a lot of detail to share and explain.

In one instance, a non-profit organization paid in excess of $15,000 for a very basic website, with a company that “specialized” in their industry. The end result did not turn out well. There were major functionality and usability issues.

When they came to us a short time later, unhappy with their initial project, the cost to redesign and launch a new website did not exceed $3,000. In addition, our project included the fundamentals of organic optimization, and was significantly more well thought out and thorough. That is a HUGE difference in price, for a much better end result.

Are there any extra costs aside from the website design proposal?

Typically, the answer is yes. When you design a website, you will need to pay extra for add-on tools, which in WordPress are called Plugins. This can be for premium features, enhanced security, etc.

The hosting, domain and email items outlined below are also additional costs.

Your website design proposal should outline the cost for the website design, and the cost for any additional items. Pricing should always be completely transparent, and you will ideally pay for these items directly with your credit card, to avoid an unnecessary fee or mark up.

Why not Wix? Why not Google Sites? Why not Squarespace? Why not Show it?

There are a slew of website design services out there marketed towards small businesses and non-profit organizations. These services are typically marketed as user-friendly, DIY solutions, and usually on the cheap (for starters, at least).

Unfortunately many of these services have significant restrictions, and do not allow for proper optimization necessary to allow your website to rank in search results. The same holds true for tools offered through the hosting companies, like Go Daddy, Ionos, etc. Further, once you dive in you’ll find there are expensive up charges for support and premium features. It’s important that your website is both visually appealing and functional.

Before you invest in a DIY tool and spend the TIME and MONEY, we definitely recommend talking to some local service providers and getting a website design proposal for your project.
If the goal at the end of the day is to attract more business from inbound marketing, these services will not cut it!

Website, hosting, domain, SSL, email - What’s all this?

Your website is only one piece of the puzzle. Think of your house. You have your home, plus the land it sits on. You also have an address, maintenance fees, etc.

  • Your DOMAIN is the name/words in the address bar, such as everbrandstudio.com (Your address)
  • Your website is the actual item that people see when they go to WWW.YOURBUSINESS.COM (Your House)
  • Your hosting is the service that gets your website out into the world (The land your house sits on)

These three are required to get your website out into the world. There are a variety of services available to utilize, and they range in price typically dependent upon the quality of the service. (Shared hosting vs. dedicated server for example).

  • Your SSL is a security certificate that ensures your website is secure for visitors and allows it to show in search results. (HTTPS in the address bar)
  • Your email (Name@YOURBUSINESS.com) can be managed as part of your hosting or separately, say for example through an IT company.

All of these elements are necessary to getting your website live, for potential customers to visit. There are log ins associated with the services that provide each of these items, and there are fees associated with each of these items. 

You should have a clear and transparent list of pricing, log ins and ultimately ownership over these items. This is so important, I almost typed it twice. (Unless you are contracting a third party to host your website and/or email, and the contract stipulates terms and cancellation details).

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