7 essential questions to ask an agency before building a new industry website, to avoid massive cost blow outs.

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I appreciate that you are not a web developer, nor I’m guessing have you yourself managed too many website projects. So it probably feels quite intimidating attempting to successfully navigate your organization through the process of a new industry website build and also take responsibility for the budget you’ve been given.

It is an important job you have. The quality of the resulting industry website and what you end up paying for the project will be directly affected by the quality of your questions before you appoint an agency or developer for the project.

Here are a few questions you may want to add to your process of selecting a web developer or agency for your industry website build.

What is your process?

  • You’re looking for a realistic, proven process they have used many times before to achieve good results, on time and in budget

How do we ensure the quote you provide is the final price we pay?

  • It is unreasonable to think that everything you may end up needing on the website will be defined in the initial scope of the project. The project scope defines what is included and sometimes, what is not included. In my decade of experience managing website builds, something always comes up. Depending on who you are working with some agencies may have some room to work with you on small things that might be added along the way. Some partners, however, will be very rigid. Neither is right or wrong. You should just understand who you are working with before you start working with them so you don’t end up with some massive bills for scope creep.

Can you give us some examples of what might be excluded from the scope of the project?

  • Expanding on the previous point; just ask them what you can assume is include and what is definitely out. You are not the expert here, they are. So ask them to provide some concrete examples from recent projects that demonstrate either their flexibility during a project, or rigidity. As I mentioned, neither approach is right or wrong. If you’re getting a really low quote, there’s a good chance there isn’t a lot of fat in the quote for the agency, so they may need to be rigid with items that would normally qualify as scope creep. If, on the other hand, the agency has a lot of room in the original quote, you might get a bit more tolerance to work with you on new featured that are required that pop up.

What components of the project are complete in-house and what is outsourced?

  • This is just a case of you, the client, understanding what skills and resources the agency have in-house, and what they rely on outside the agency. I wouldn’t necessarily say one or the other is bad. An in-house team is probably more likely to be responsive and in control. You don’t necessarily need access to the developer – after all, you wouldn’t really be able to have a useful conversation with them – that’s what a project manager is for. An out-source project is arguably more difficult to support ongoing as well. If your site goes down and you don’t have a local team to deal with it, it does increase risk and potentially slows down the resolution of any issue.

Will you build a custom theme, or base it on an existing theme?

  • Customized Theme Pros
    • A fully customized theme is better for performance. This is because, only what is needed, is included.
    • Your developer will have more control over the code that is output to potentially help with SEO.
  • Customized Theme Cons
    • It will cost more to develop.
    • It won’t be as easy for you to make edits along the way. Not with much flexibility, anyway.
  • Based on a theme Pros
    • It will be easier to make changes to and customize your site ongoing
    • If you need a new feature, if it exists inside this theme, it’ll probably be quicker for a developer to use add that feature than to hand-code it themselves
    • It will be cheaper than a customized theme
  • Based on a theme Cons
    • This will often include a whole bunch of features you don’t end up using, so it can slow the site down to some degree.
    • It can be more difficult for developers to do more complicated things inside a theme.

Can you demonstrate a recent project where website speed was a high priority, and how you achieved a best practice result?

  • Do not, I repeat, do not skip past this question. There is so much wrapped up in this one question that demonstrates competency, care, and knowledge. Not all developers have it, nor necessarily need it. But if you want a scalable website that can cope with traffic growth, streaming content, and multiple users logging in to access content and resources, while retaining a fast website that Google likes – you most definitely should ask the question.
  • The trouble is, the response might be overly technical. To answer this question it is difficult not to get overly technical quite fast. You want it in as plain language as possible. If they start talking about cloud hosting (e.g. AWS, Google cloud etc), ask what the other options are and why they end up choosing that one (not a bad option either).

How do you manage backups, hosting, security, support, and maintenance? And what extra or recurring costs are involved?

  • It’s important that a backup protocol exists. If there is a catastrophic problem with the website, you want to know you’re covered.
  • If there is a problem, how does the agency manage support? How quickly are they onto it? What days of the week/year are covered in the support agreement?
  • Re: hosting. You want to consider
  • If we decide to move the website to a new developer, or agency, what would the process be with you?
  • Best to get this one in writing. The incumbent can often be quite difficult to deal with when something goes wrong in the partnership, or you just decide to make a change.
  • Find out what the costs would be.
  • Is it easy for them to transition the site to a new developer?
  • How would they work with them?

Need help with your new industry website build project?

For nearly a decade I’ve built websites and project managed them. From business highly customized websites for business to learning management systems, to regional tourism organizations consumer and industry websites.

I no longer build websites for clients. But I can be an advocate on your team to help navigate you through the process for your new industry website build. I’d love to in fact.

If you would like help with strategy (before you take the project to a developer) or if you would like help to manage the project to avoid one of the many ways a project can blow out or not end up like the vision you had, contact me for a quick chat to see if we align.


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