10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Agency
You’re in the market for developing a new real estate website. You realize a professional, modern website provides a critical first impression to many of your prospective investors, tenants, and industry contacts, but you don’t know exactly where to turn for the project.
With the multitude of agencies, self-service tools and freelancers, there are enough options to make your head spin.
So, where do you start?
To assist with this quandary, consider the following 10 questions as you move forward to select a real estate web design agency for your next project.
It’s paramount to know what you’re getting into and what you are paying for, ultimately.
1) How long have you been in business?
“A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs
While a developer may have a lot of talent and ability to create your perfect website, they may lack the experience to see the project through to the finish line. Experience, especially “diverse experience”, provides lessons that are not illustrated on any chalkboard or in any books. It’s one of the few things money can’t by directly.
There are always unique situations that arise for any website project. A developer who has “been there and done that” will be able to face the challenge and provide expertise to overcome issues, as they see the project holistically and understand all of the specific details and moving parts involved in manifesting the entire image.
You are not just buying a website, you are purchasing a service, and with it a lasting relationship with the people who are creating your digital presence.
2) What expertise do you have in our industry?
Commercial real estate (or residential real estate) is an intricate industry with a unique lexicon, themes, and pain points. A company with CRE experience possesses the ability to speak in the vernacular and understand your specific challenges.
Qualifying the particular experience of a digital marketing agency will most likely save you time and frustrations in the long run, as they will already have a clear understanding for what you want to achieve and what your clients (investors, tenants, brokers) expect.
Of course, every project has its nuances, but it is one less thing to worry about when communicating the specifics of your company and/ or property website.
3) Do your designers and developers work in-house?
This is a very important element to clarify. Why? Because if a marketing company has to constantly communicate with another external source in order to get something done, then you are increasing the likelihood of something getting lost from point-A to point-B, even if it’s a simple change.
It’s akin to the telephone game we all played in grade school. The message starts out the same, more or less, then eventually evolves to something totally different by the end of the line.
Finding a company with in-house developers and designers will limit the confusion when generating your website. It’s more efficient and effective to have all of the moving parts under one roof.
There’s also that intangible factor of synergy. A company with an in-house team has chemistry, and a collective empathy for what must be done. This chemistry only comes with working together over time.
4) What else can you offer besides web development?
Your prospective web agency can create a website that is exactly what you want, and they can do it within your budget, what then? Can they provide effective marketing solutions to generate the traffic the website merits? Do they have the means, or knowhow, of measuring those metrics and providing consultation for how to best navigate the ever-changing waters of the Internet?
It’s essential to find a company that is well versed in SEO, for starters. If a property webpage for vacant space is optimized with SEO, the property has a better chance of being found by tenants and/ or investors. Additionally, if the company has digital marketing experience, they can also help tailor custom Google AdWords campaigns to use keywords and attract potential customers efficiently.
Furthermore, if you’re investing in those campaigns, hopefully they are showing you the results of those dollars. A digital marketing firm that generates SEO and marketing reports will show you where your dollars are going, why your dollars are going there, and what the outcome of your investment is. They also will be able to tweak and alter the campaigns to perform better and better, ideally.
You don’t want a commodity, you want a strategist that can provide you advice and offer a full breadth of capabilities.
5) Who manages technical issues?
This is similar to question #3. Are issues resolved by the team that you now know through building this professional relationship? Or are you subjected to call an 800 number only to be put on hold and transferred 10 times to finally get that comma in paragraph 3 of the Home page changed to a period?
It’s not pessimistic, but rather realistic to say that issues will arise. It’s the complex nature of technology; there are kinks and unpredictable elements that present themselves. It’s all a matter of having experts readily available to tackle them effectively.
This is part of the relationship you build throughout this process. It’s essential to look for a team of experts who have your back when duty calls, even if it’s something as simple as changing a comma to a period.
This segues perfectly into the next pertinent question…
6) How can I make updates to the content?
Say you just want to make a simple change to the website’s content. Do you have to go through gatekeepers in order to edit your own site?
Hopefully, the company you choose will not only build your site with a user-friendly CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, Drupal, etc., but also provides the guidance for you to make your own changes if need be.
You want to have full autonomy to make rapid and easy updates to your site without delay or frustration. If you’re dealing with roadblocks to make simple changes, you may miss an opportunity to add salient content right away or make updates that are vital to your business.
Make sure you at least have some control to do so, without the overwhelming responsibility of taking down the site somehow with an erroneous edit.
Both are more than attainable if you choose the right company using the right tools for your website.
7) Can you walk me through the development process?
Web development shouldn’t feel like you’re at a magic show. You see the results, but you have no idea how they got there.
Make sure the process is transparent and illustrated, so you know exactly what’s going into the page and how it is getting there from start to finish.
This adds to the idea of building a relationship. One that is honest and clear will lead to a healthy, more fruitful product for both parties. Yes, you should feel confident and comfortable with the fact that they are the experts and they will manifest what you envisioned, but don’t be afraid to inquire about the process.
8) Can you provide examples of previous work?
The company you are investigating has the experience, the knowledge, and the services you’re looking for, or so they say.
Do they have proof of the pudding? Do they have prior real estate websites they can send over, so you can do a proper inspection and know what you’re going to purchase?
This couldn’t be stressed enough, make sure they show you what they can do. Don’t just trust the words, as much as they seem to line up with your needs.
Additionally, this will help you see exactly how your property or company website will look and feel. You can tangibly visualize the end result, and that will hopefully be an incredible professional, clean, modern website that perfectly represents you and your real estate brand.
9) Do you work with templates or will you build us a custom site?
Take note: if the site builder is using templates, then an important question to ask is, “how many other companies are using the same one?” If your website is the carbon copy of many other sites online, then it will surely get lost in the fray. While the logo and other elements will be true to your brand and unique, the structure of the site (and the fact that many others are using it) will limit the potential of your site and ultimately the potential of your brand.
On the flip side, if the site is custom and built from scratch, the site will be tailored and optimized for you. If you’re hiring a company that not only has experience in real estate websites, but also offers digital marketing and understands SEO, then the site will be specifically designed to attract your ideal tenants, investors, and buyers from the very first line of coding to the finishing touches.
It’s all a matter of what your priorities are. Having a website custom-made for you will probably cost more, but in the long run, your final product will very much represent exactly what you want and be an original website in an Internet filled with copy/ paste websites.
You deserve to stand out among the digital crowd.
10) How do you base your pricing? What about additional work?
Lastly, but certainly not least, comes the cost of the website. How much is this website going to weigh on your overhead?
Does the company you’re researching have a basis for what they charge? Cost per hour of development? Cost per project, regardless of additional items? If issues or unforeseeable elements arises or customization is needed to the property site, what can you expect as a bill for the time spent?
All of this is important to the bottom line. In fact, it may be the single most important factor in this procedure. You are willing to spend X-amount in order to accomplish this goal. It’s what you are getting in return that will make it worthwhile.
That is why these questions are so important to illustrate when you’re in the market for a commercial real estate website.
Take time to ask pertinent questions in order to know what you are purchasing, who
Remember this: your website is an investment, and if done right, you will see the returns. Whether it is attracting more serious investors, better quality tenants, or more viable buyers, the efforts you put into the process will pay out eventually.
Find a company that not only has the creativity and experience to get the website done, but a professional with the right depth of experience with whom you’d like to have a lasting relationship.