16 Questions to Ask a Website Development Agency

Design & Development

Building a new website is a large undertaking, and can feel overwhelming if you haven’t gone through the process before. With a simple Google search, you’re going to find thousands of companies that claim they can design and develop a website that will drive traffic and generate leads across multiple budgets.

There are a million logistical questions you will want to ask a potential partner. What CMS do they develop in? Can they integrate with your ERP? Can they launch in a specific time frame you have in mind? It’s a good idea to gather the requirements that make your project unique (e.g. software, timeline, project specifications, etc.) ahead of time. 

But how can you determine what it’s actually like to work together, and that it will be a strong partnership? We’ve compiled a list of key questions that will help you not only understand the agency’s competencies, but also what it’s like to work as a team. Your website project is an all-hands-on-deck effort, and you want to feel assured that your web partner is the right extension of your team.

 We’ve compiled these into three important categories:

  • Preliminary Research
  • Project-Specific Questions
  • Ongoing Support

 So, let’s get started.

Preliminary Research

These are the questions that will help give you a sense of how the agency you are interviewing operates, what their team is like, their values, and how you will work alongside them.

Do you work in-house or outsource your projects?

Some website agencies that list web design and development as a service don’t have the expertise or necessary staff in-house and therefore will outsource some or all of the project. The agency you are interviewing may not explicitly let you know this, so it’s a good idea to ask about it in advance.

In-house staff is not necessarily better than outsourced staff, however, it can make things easier. Adding a third-party in the mix may lead to communication challenges, project delays, and even additional costs. If a potential web partner plans to refer your project to outside support, it’s important to know who they’ll be using, how long they’ve worked together, and what they will be working on. Keep in mind, you’ll want to do your due diligence and research the partner they use as well.

What does your project team look like?

A website project can take anywhere from 3 months to a year depending on how complex it is, which is why it’s good to understand the makeup of the team and who you will be working with. Is there one person who will serve as your direct point of contact? Review their LinkedIn profile or bio page if they have one, or, better yet, ask the sales representative if that person can join on a call so you can get acquainted. 

Ask about other critical team members, specifically developers, designers, and marketing specialists. Is the same person tackling all three elements of the project, or is there a dedicated specialist for each one? It can be a red flag if one person is “doing it all”. It’s likely that they excel in one of those areas, but might not have the necessary experience in the others.

What kind of research will you do on our business?

To find out how much the website partner understands your industry, or will put the time in to understand it, ask them about the research they will do upfront. Will they factor in your competitors, for example? What about your audience? How well do they understand your user demographics, the way they navigate your website, or how they make decisions?

Listen for answers that suggest they do the above type of work, and don’t just execute but also lay the strategic groundwork for your website and what it ultimately needs to achieve for your business. While they may not be the most familiar with your business or industry at the beginning, showing a dedication to learning it, your customers, and the marketplace is a huge plus. 

What sets your solution apart?

Just like you wouldn’t hire someone without understanding their unique strengths, don’t choose a website partner without knowing what makes them stand out. Sure, they might have experience with your desired ERP integration or cater to your industry. But what truly sets them apart from the crowd?

Frame your website partner selection process like interviewing a top candidate. Give them the chance to showcase their competitive edge. Can they clearly articulate what makes them the best choice for your project? Strong communication is key here, as it reflects their ability to understand your needs and effectively translate them into a successful website.

Can you provide references or a portfolio of work?

Perhaps you have already done a bit of this research ahead of time, but check out any case studies on the web partner’s website, or their social channels to see if you can find any recent project launch announcements. This will give you some great insight into their design work and the types of customers they have worked with. 

If all that is compelling enough to reach out, it’s still a good idea to ask them for specific project examples that may mirror some of the elements you are looking for, and provide references from recent project launches. A similar question you may ask is, “how did you handle XYZ” in the past? Do you have examples?

What does success look like to you on this project?

You probably already have an idea of what success looks like to you, and all you need to do is relay that to the website partner, right? While it is important they clearly understand the purpose of the website project and what you are trying to accomplish, they should have some vested interest.

Ask them what would make them proud of this project. Maybe there are pieces of the project they’ve never done before and are excited to implement. Or maybe you’re an industry they’ve never worked with, and they want to build their knowledge and portfolio. This is a great way to gauge mutual enthusiasm for the project.

Project-Specific Questions

In addition to gathering specific requirements for your project that will measure a website project’s experience and competency in certain areas (for example, ERP integrations, varying CMS development, translations, etc.), you will also want to measure their “soft skills” that are critical in launching a website. 

How do you ensure we stay on track for budget and timeline?

A well-performing website should go through a six-step process: Research, strategy, design, development, launch, and review. For specifics, ask your prospective web design companies about their project management workflow. What’s the process of each stage? When should your company expect progress reports? Listen to make sure that the communication is frequent and includes details about where you are in the project.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that a project could go over budget, specifically if additional functionality is requested during the project development, or a new page template is needed. Ask your potential website partner what would happen if that situation arises and how they handle it. Your website partner should be transparent if they think a website could go over budget before that happens, so you can decide as a team how to approach this. 

For example, do the additional features absolutely need to be developed right away with the website build, or can it wait until after launch? There may be ways to work around budget increases or phase out less critical parts of the project.

What’s your process for optimizing the website for organic search?

Search engine optimization is critical to any well-performing website and should be included from the very beginning of your development, not added in later.  Ask the prospective web company about the experience their SEO team has, including if they have any certification. Then, surprise the agency by asking even more detailed questions about their SEO strategies. What page speed do you aim for? What kind of planning do you put into creating title tags and descriptions? Are your websites mobile-friendly? With over half of web traffic coming from mobile devices, and considering Google’s mobile-first indexing, having a mobile-responsive site is imperative for businesses.

You should also listen for whether they will review your current page traffic and how users currently arrive at their site. Are there certain keywords or pages that yield high traffic and conversions? While it’s normal to see fluctuations in traffic after launch, it’s imperative that they look at this so you don’t suffer extreme losses to your most business-critical pages.

How do you handle ADA compliance or cookie consent?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was established in an effort to end discrimination against individuals with disabilities and to make all public places accessible, including websites. Whether you’re a small mom-and-pop shop or a large corporation, your website could be a sitting target for an ADA lawsuit. With nearly 20% of the population living with a disability, and 71% of those users immediately leaving a website if it’s not accessible, it is important to optimize your website’s design to create a better user experience for all of your visitors. 

Listen for how they ensure that this is part of the process. What accessibility guidelines do they follow, and how does that impact things like page design or functionality? They should also provide examples of cookie consent – what does that look like on the website? How can users opt-in or opt-out? A good website partner will not just understand the importance and regulations, but they will have recommended best practices. 

How does your company manage site security?

In 2023, manufacturing companies were the target of nearly a quarter of all cyberattacks worldwide. This is a higher share than other leading industries, like finance (18%) and professional services (15.4%). For most businesses, security and maintenance are critical factors in a website’s performance and success. Some opt to have their web company host their website to avoid managing the process internally. It’s important for your organization to fully understand what kind of security measures will be taken to prevent intrusions. Along with hosting, your web agency should offer any plans for website backups and maintenance of the CMS and plugins to ensure ongoing performance.

Listen for how they keep software used to build the website up-to-date with security patches. This includes the content management system (CMS), plugins and server software. They should mention regular vulnerability scanning of the website to identify potential weaknesses, as well as data encryption protocols like HTTPS to secure communication between the website and visitors. 

Can you show us a demo of the platform and admin experience?

This is such an important question that we don’t often get asked. If you are building your website in a new CMS, or adding functionality, like eCommerce, you will want to know how easy it is to work within the software’s backend and perform actions on your own, like adding a new page or product. This will give you a sense of how user-friendly the platform is, and how well you will work with it once the website is handed off to you. 

Remember, you want to look for a partner who will help you build something sustainable and that can grow as you do. To put it into home-building terms, you’ll need a developer to build the structural integrity of your website. But when it comes to “interior decorating”, you will want to have control of things like adding new content, swapping out images or text, building a new page off an existing template, etc. Thus, getting a preview of the backend of a website can help you understand how easy or difficult it will be to do those things. 

What will our involvement be in this project?

You will likely be pretty involved in your website project. If you get the sense that after you kick off the project, you won’t hear from them for a few months when they show you a finished website, you might want to steer clear. 

That said, you do want to know just how much is expected on your end. It’s probabl that your website development team will want feedback on various aspects of the project, and how quickly that feedback is given will affect the project timeline. Common things you might need to provide input on are content, images, SEO feedback, and design feedback, to name a few. 

What challenges do you foresee with our project or what makes it unique?

This might sound like a curveball question for a website development agency. The right website partner won’t foresee any roadblocks or challenges, right?! 

The truth is, a thoughtful response to this question can be incredibly revealing. For one, identifying challenges upfront demonstrates they’ve gone beyond the surface level of your project and have considered the intricacies involved. It also indicates they have set a realistic budget and timeline that acknowledges these potential challenges, which can help avoid surprises down the road. Lastly, a good response to this question will show that they have not only identified challenges but have thought about potential solutions, highlighting their problem-solving skills. 


The last set of questions we recommend asking deals with what happens after the website is launched. These questions will help you understand how involved they will be with the website, or what happens if you identify anything that needs updating. 

Will I own the website once it’s launched?

Believe it or not, ownership of your website is not always a given. Some agencies build websites using their own custom Content Management Systems (CMS). These proprietary systems can lock you in, making it difficult (or even impossible) to make changes without going back to the original developer.

However, if you choose to work with a partner that develops in an open-source platform (for example WordPress or Drupal), you are not beholden to the development team that built the website. That website is yours, and if you need to seek developer support later on, you can find any number of developers out there who are familiar with that software. These platforms also have a variety of themes and plugins you can add on later to adapt as your business grows.

Lastly, find out if the domain name will be registered in your name and whether the partner requires hosting on their servers. If so, ask what that ongoing contract looks like.   

What are the ongoing costs and the process for upkeep and maintenance?

Websites are living entities, and while it would be nice to just “set it and forget it”, a few things may require routine maintenance, and, therefore, expenses. 

Expenses may include website hosting, domain name renewal, security patches, plugin updates, and keeping the content on your website fresh and engaging. The process for upkeep and maintenance will vary depending on your chosen website platform and your technical expertise. Some agencies offer ongoing maintenance packages, while others might require you to manage these tasks yourself or find separate providers. Be sure to discuss these ongoing costs and the maintenance process with your potential website development partner to ensure a clear understanding of your long-term website investment.

How do you help us promote the launch of the new website?

Your website’s launch day is a cause for celebration, but the real work starts now! To ensure your new website reaches its full potential, you need a solid launch strategy. A good website development agency should be invested in your success, even after launch. They understand that a stunning website alone isn’t enough. Look for a partner who offers launch promotion support, demonstrating their vested interest in your project. This can include providing social media assets (images and videos of the new website) and email templates to help you spread the word. 

You may also want to inquire about what services they offer in terms of attracting a new audience. Ask for more information about their capabilities in ongoing SEO, paid advertising, and social media marketing to help build brand awareness and your pipeline. 

Wrapping Up 

Building a new website is an exciting yet complex undertaking. By asking these questions, you move beyond technical specifications and delve into the “human element” – the partnership itself. A successful website project hinges on clear communication, mutual understanding, and a shared vision. The right agency will not just build a website; they’ll become an extension of your team, ensuring a website that reflects your brand and fuels your business growth.

Take action: Armed with these questions, confidently embark on your journey to find the perfect website development partner. Remember, the ideal partner isn’t just about ticking boxes; it’s about finding a team you trust, a team that excites you about the possibilities your new website holds

Have any questions for me? Feel free to shoot me an email at cspaude@topfloortech.com or reach out on our contact us page.