Are you putting together an RFP or evaluating a web development partner? Here are 9 key questions to ensure you have the right answers to.
Number 1: What CMS platforms do you work with?
Building on a content management system (CMS) ensures your website will be easy to edit for your team. Perhaps you are already familiar with using a CMS and want to ensure your new website is built on the same platform. The most common CMS platforms are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify.
At Noble Intent Studio, we typically build our websites on the WordPress platform. WordPress powers 40% of all websites and 64% of all CMS-based websites.
Building on a well supported platform ensures security and longevity. It’s important to build your site on a platform that many development partners would be familiar with. That way, you don’t lock yourself in with one vendor on a proprietary system that no one else would be able to update in the future. (We’ve seen it all!)
Number 2: Are your websites mobile friendly?
90% of the global internet population uses a mobile device to go online. 47% of website traffic in the U.S. is from mobile devices. These statistics in mind, ensuring your website is mobile friendly should not even be a question.
Mobile-friendliness isn’t all about user experience. It has a direct tie-in to SEO as well. Around 2015, Google announced they’d give ranking boosts to sites that were mobile friendly. It wasn’t long before the tables turned and you no longer got a boost if you made your site mobile friendly, but instead got a demotion if you didn’t.
In our years of website development since 2011, we’ve never built a website that wasn’t mobile friendly. Ensure your web development partner not only has a plan for mobile users, but also understands Google’s technical requirements for mobile as they pertain to SEO.
Number 3: Are your websites accessible and ADA compliant?
Making a website accessible means making it usable by everyone, regardless of ability. When a website’s content is available to everyone and usable by anyone, website accessibility is achieved.
A big concern for business owners in regards to accessibility and ADA compliance is lawsuits. But achieving website accessibility for all users will not only result in ADA compliance and protection from lawsuits. It will also result in better SEO, reaching a broader audience, and a better user experience for everyone.
Whether your priority is brand reputation, search engine optimization, conversions, revenue, customer service, or simply not being at risk of lawsuits, designing for accessibility is a must.
At Noble Intent Studio, we’re passionate about website accessibility and strive to create a more inclusive internet with each website we design and build. We’ll give you the tools and solutions you need to provide users of all abilities with an incredible website experience—and get bottom-line results for your business in return.
Number 4: Do you require we host the website with you or can we use our own hosting provider?
The website host, or server, is where your website files physically live. There are many different price points and features when it comes to website hosting. Depending on your needs, the costs could be as low as $15 or in the hundreds of dollars per month.
Some vendors will require you to host your website on a server they manage, and they may upcharge for this by a lot more than it is actually costing them. More than just the unnecessary extra cost, what happens when you no longer wish to work with this vendor or they go out of business? We’ve had a lot of clients come to us whose websites are tied up on someone else’s server that they can’t access. For these reasons, we always recommend third-party, cloud-based hosting providers. That way, you control access and billing to your server now and in the future. Most cloud-based solutions have the same managed features such as backups, security, and support that used to be a selling point for vendors to upcharge for.
At Noble Intent Studio, we will suggest a third-party hosting provider that fits your needs, set everything up for you, and then pass the control of the server to you. Then, you can control who has access to your server and website in the future.
Number 5: Do you provide on-going maintenance and support?
Along with hosting, some vendors rely more on recurring revenue from maintenance and support contracts than the actual build of the website. If a website vendor you’re evaluating has a low up-front investment, but high costs for required maintenance contracts or hosting, that might be a red flag.
Monthly maintenance contracts could range anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per month depending on your needs. Retainers like these can sometimes be a great fit. But, they aren’t always necessary for small businesses or large firms who have their own in-house teams for ongoing website management.
You should decide how much ongoing maintenance and support you need. Then, ensure the web development partner you select fits with that need.
Number 6: What browsers will be supported?
Websites in development should be tested prior to launch. This quality assurance (QA) step ensures usability across all browsers and devices. Ask your web development partner what their QA criteria is?
At Noble Intent Studio, we base our QA criteria on past website analytics for browser and device types for traffic numbers greater than 1%. We typically do not support out-of-date browser versions unless user data shows there is a need to do so. (Looking at you, IE11!)
Number 7: What considerations will be made to maintain SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is usually a key consideration when investing in a website. Whether you already have great SEO or you’re looking to improve it, it’s important to ensure any current SEO is retained when launching a new version of your website. We see this step left out too often. It can cause huge setbacks in SEO for established websites.
If you have an existing website, it’s important you plan to migrate your existing content and urls to your new structure. Deleting pages without migrating the content and redirecting your old URLs to your new ones will be highly detrimental to your search ranking.
Our protocols at Noble Intent Studio when launching the new website are rigorous. We map old URLs to new URLs, set up forwarders as needed, and ensure no 404 errors occur.
Number 8: What will the acceptance criteria be for speed and performance?
Considerations should always be made for the speed and performance of your website. This is important for user experience and SEO. Google’s “Core Web Vitals” that rolled out in May 2021. These help Google determine a website’s rank based on load time and other page experience factors. Be sure your web development partner will be testing your new website against Google’s latest parameters for performance.
Number 9: How long will the project take to complete?
The time it takes to design and build a website varies widely depending on the scope of the project. Keep in mind the size of the agency you are evaluating. Large agencies have big teams who can get things done more quickly, but also have higher price points. On the other hand, a one-person shop will be more affordable but will take longer.
Our typical timelines range from 1 to 3 months for a small website. But, timelines from 6-9 months for a large or complex website are not unusual.
These questions don’t cover everything you’ll need to know about a potential web development partner. But, we hope they will give you a good start. In addition to the more technical questions like these, be sure whoever you partner with is a good fit with your team as well. Afterall, you will be working side by side for a few months on your new website!