When a client approaches an agency or a freelancer for a new project, there are many unknowns for both parties involved. If you are a business owner or researching potential reworks of your company’s site, you should be prepared to answer a few questions from your developers.
It is important to note however that websites come in all shapes, sizes and formats and it’s impossible to list every possible question here. Instead, you should use such questions as a guide to what you might expect when you begin searching for developers.
When you are well prepared, it’s much more likely to find a good team that will work with you. Furthermore, being well prepared and organized helps things go smoothly.
Often, when a client is unsure about the direction, the stack of the site, the direction, or the overall process, the build of a new website can turn into a bitter experience for everyone. So, a good understanding of the development process is also a major plus when launching a new project on time and forming a good long-term relationship between the client and the agency/freelancer.
The Website Brief Basics
There are a few obvious things you need to prepare before contacting developers. One of the major ones is Budget. Depending on that, you can narrow down the list of people you will contact. If your budget is under $2,000, maybe it could be more realistic to work with a freelancer. If you are going above that, you might find some low-budget agencies to hire.
If you can budget $10,000 or more, you are more likely to get replies from larger companies that specialise in more than “just building a site” who also work towards growing your business too. The budget also dictates whether you receive a pre-made theme/template or a custom built one. Keep in mind that trying out low-budget solutions might end up costing you more in the end.
The next important thing is the deadline. This is also a major factor when initially contacting a development agency. A large site built in two weeks is rarely a lucrative offer for such agencies. What is “large”? Well, often that depends on the agency and the type of built, but anything bigger than 3-4 pages with a few integrations, custom post types, and the migration of databases would definitely go into that category; especially when there are less than 10 work days to complete it.
Common Questions From Web Agencies/ Freelancers
You’ve probably now reached a point where the agency/freelancers is offering you its services since they have cleared up any unknowns on the build itself. This is another major step required in order for the agency to prepare an estimate of the final cost of the work.
Here is a list of questions agencies/freelancers might ask you:
- Is there a new design and will the agency create it? Who are they going to work with?
- What browser and devices are to be supported? It’s important to know where the focus is. In general everything should be well supported, but depending on the deadlines and budget, this information will help prioritize.
- What existing integrations are already in action? This is a very important question that might change the estimates tremendously. Integrations mean services like MailChimp, some payment systems, APIs to third party services and more. These may need to be implemented again and often the developers would need access to dashboards or have to work with someone that knows the technicalities of these tools.
- On what server is the site running? More technical questions, this one focuses on the stack of the current site. PHP, MySQL, Nginx/Apache and more. All of this is important for the new build as well as the migration of the site.
- Access to portals like the hosting provider, domain registrar, CDNs, media provider and more. You might be required to share such information in order to allow the developers to migrate the old site to a new hosting.
- How many viewers per month? It is a question that looks at the scale of the existing site. Depending on this, different approaches in optimization and performance considerations might take place.
- Is there a shop? It’s possible that your site has a shop (ecommerce) and that it might be running on a service like Shopify or WooCommerce that has to also be migrated and reworked. Sometimes, it could be on a separate site and it has to be merged into the main one.
- Who is the decision maker? It’s a common question that is important to the whole process of building a new site. Would there be a person available to answer questions from the developer, would there be major changes or “Oh also add that thing”.
The list above could serve as a guidance to what you could expect to hear from an agency or a developer. Most of the questions will help them figure out the full scale of the job if there is no clear scope written down. Many site owners approach agencies without having any of that information in place, which results in long discussions where the developer tries to understand everything. All this often results in an estimate that is way out of the client’s budget.
Everything above are a few questions that might be asked before signing a contract. Once all of this happens and both parties are happy with the state of things, actual design and development can begin.
Questions During the Initial Design/Development Work
Sometimes not every unknown is found during the initial discovery phase. Sometimes, trickier problems appear during development when the codebase of the existing site is examined and there are issues unknown even to the site owner. This happens to both small and larger sites, especially when the person that contacts the agency/freelancer is not completely familiar with the functionality of the site but has been tasked with finding a company to rebuild it.
This is where discussions can become harder as it’s a matter of prioritization: If a large component “pops up” that has to be implemented, should it be done before going live or is it something that can be postponed? This is also a tricky subject to brooch especially when a set price for the services has already been signed off on. To reduce the stress on both parties, it’s a good idea to spend extra time with the developer to make sure that the scope is defined as tightly as possible before signing the contract.
Excluding the questions above that might be asked during this phase, here are a few more an agency/ freelancer might ask:
- How should element X look like on a tablet? – This is often a question when a designer has not been provided a design for a specific viewport.
- When are we going to get access to Y? – This is another common question, especially when a developer needs access to a service that has to be connected to the new site.
- Images on the blog will get cropped – More of a statement as there aren’t many solutions – design sometimes changes the aspect ratio, so some blog photos might be cropped.
- Is it okay to slightly deviate from the design? – A very common question (or sometimes statement) from the agency when the design is not very precise. You should expect slight differences as “pixel perfect” is not a very productive way of thinking.
- Should we update you every week? – This is something that can come up a few weeks into development when most of the work becomes visual and a client can start seeing progress. This is also when many questions on the new build and its usage will arise.
There are many steps that take place when building a new website. Often, the agency or freelancer can guide you throughout them, but that doesn’t mean that it would be a laid-back experience as there are many details that need to be made clear in order to produce a good final result.
Before you get in contact with an agency or a freelancer, you should try to answer some of the questions above. This will make it easier for you to find the best fit for your needs.
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