Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Web Designer

When you’re buying a car, a house or any other important item, you ask lots of questions. You spend hours doing research online. You ask your friends their opinion. You don’t want any surprises after you make your purchase.

Before you make the decision to hire a vendor to build you a website, you’ve got to take your time and ask questions of them. It’s not printer ink you’re buying for the office. You’re buying something that you intend to use to grow your business that will cost thousands of dollars. And if you don’t know the answers to some simple questions about the process, you could end up having to spend a tidy sum more to fix problems that shouldn’t have come up in the first place.

Who owns the domain name? The answer to this question should always be “You do”. If you’re getting advice from the web designer on choosing a domain name or it’s part of the package, you must ensure that the name on the registration information is yours, the business owner’s. The domain name is a brand asset, just like your company logo…and the rights to your logo lie with you, and not the graphic artist, right? (See what I did there?)

If the working relationship goes sour between you and the web design vendor, you are in a good position because you own the domain name and it’s in your control. You can then easily have a new vendor build you a website on the same domain name without having to chase down the previous vendor or get a new domain name.

When I started out as a full time web designer, I did this the wrong way. I registered some of my clients’ domain names on my own name because it was the easy thing to do. Now I know better and I’ve actively transferred a number of them over to my clients. If you’re reading this and you already have a website, ask your web designer today: “Whose name is on our domain name registration?”

What’s the cost and what are the terms? This is usually the first question that people ask. Different vendors have different pricing structures. Some charge a flat fee per job; others charge an hourly fee. Some vendors may even charge you a lower ongoing monthly fee instead of a one-time payment. Some vendors have payment plans.

If the vendor charges an hourly rate for development, they should be able to give you an estimate of the number of hours involved in developing your website.

Besides the cost involved to develop the website, there are other fees that typically arise. These may include web hosting, website maintenance and email management. It’s very important to know what ongoing updates for your website cost. Some vendors may charge an hourly rate or a fixed rate. I offer my clients a choice of an hourly rate if they’re not going to do many updates or an annual update package if they are.

When asking the cost of designing a website, the vendor may say that the fee depends on the project. While they may not be able to quote you a fee straight off the bat with few details, they should be able to give you a ball park for a typical website or say that their fee for building a website starts at ‘X’ dollars.

Web hosting is a fee you pay to keep your website on the internet. Think of it as renting a space on the web, like renting an office space. You could manage your own web hosting, but if you choose to let your web design vendor do it, make sure you know what the ongoing costs are.

What exactly am I getting for the fee? As they saying goes, “The devil is in the detail.” When the vendor quotes you a fee, they should be able to tell you specifically what you’re getting for that fee. For instance, to sweeten the pot, they may throw in items like customized email addresses at your business domain name (like [email protected]). This is when you ask the vendor “What if I need more email addresses? What’s the cost of setting them up?” Or maybe you want to manage your own email addresses in-house with the help of IT support.

As part of the actual website, what does the fee cover? Typical things the fee should cover include legally sourcing and editing royalty-free images for use on the website, a fixed number of pages that they create, regular reports of visitor statistics, social media features and basic search engine visibility. You can also agree on other features like an interactive Google Map tagged with your location on the contact page.

Equally important is what the fee does not include. Typically, the fee would not include supplying the text content that goes on the site. A web designer would usually leave this to the client, though they may offer to run a spell check or fix some glaring grammatical errors they notice.

If you ask for additional features after the development has started, you need to find out if there’s a change in the cost or if it’s still included, but be aware that changing the scope of a web design project usually involves an increase in fee.

As we say in Trinidad & Tobago, don’t buy “cat in bag”. The answers to these simple questions will give you a good indication of whether you should hire a particular web designer or not. You wouldn’t buy a car before you see the mileage or give it a test drive, would you?

This article deserves a part two because there are many more questions you can ask before you decide to hire a web design vendor. Look out for it in an upcoming issue.

Sherwin Ramnarine helps businesses increase revenue from their websites. Download the free guide “Profitable Business Websites” at or send him a message at [email protected]