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Discussion – 


NOT Hating The Hired {DIGITAL} Help – 8 Questions You Should Ask

Vertigo Studio started out as a specialist boutique design agency but has evolved into a full-service digital agency.

As we assist an increasing number of organisations with their websites and general online marketing, one consistent surprising theme has emerged: the ongoing poor experience clients have with their suppliers assisting them with their websites.

“My freelancer disappeared to India for 3 months, and we have no way of contacting him – can you assist with these urgent updates?”

“We have been unhappy with the service our web development company has provided to us, but they want to charge us an exorbitant amount of money to provide our data to us in a form that we can use in another content management system.”

“My web development company are smart people but getting them to do anything the way that I want it is such a struggle.”

The above are a sample of real-life comments from clients that have asked us for assistance after struggling with other suppliers.

I thought it would be useful to put together some questions that you should ask your prospective web development, web design or marketing company/freelancer.

What is your company’s approach with respect to servicing customers?

+ If the prospective supplier can only talk about design or development issues and have no awareness of account management or customer service, consider this a warning sign.

The web industry has many many smart and talented people, but only a small subset of them genuinely understand how to service a customer.

What type of continuity guarantee can you provide us?

+ There are some excellent freelancers in the industry – but ensure they have alternative plans in place should they get ill, go on holiday and so on.

Additional tip: should you engage a freelancer, ensure that you keep copies of all logins, passwords, registration details etc. The number of new customers that come to us unable to provide details to access their systems is frightening.

What are your (your agency’s) strengths – weaknesses?

+ The digital space has evolved into a very broad and very deep environment. There are VERY few companies that are leaders in all aspects of online marketing.

If they say they are experts at everything, be suspicious. Some of the more common areas of online marketing include online strategy, creative concept, web design, front-end web development, back-end web development (open source, proprietary, Microsoft, etc.), search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, social media, email marketing, online brand development, online viral marketing, online videos, streaming media, online audio… to list but a few.

It is important to understand the strengths and limitation of your web design and web development resources.

During the development lifecycle of a project, how do you maintain ongoing communication?

+ Again, an outfit familiar with servicing a client effectively will be able to offer a complete answer to this question with ease and offer a variety of ways that they stay in touch with you.

How do you scope out and quote – charge for projects?

+ Personally, I think that suppliers should have a good enough understanding of their own capabilities and make it their business to understand the project thoroughly, thereby making it straight forward to provide a fixed cost quote.

A per hour charge creates price risk for the customer yet advantages the supplier if they take longer than they should. A professional web development agency should be able to provide a fixed cost and assist the client in understanding what the boundaries of the project are – providing additional options should the project need to move beyond the initial scope.

With respect to the content management system (CMS) that you use, is it an open-source system or a proprietary system? Are we easily able to switch to another supplier if required?

+ Open source systems provide the client with maximum flexibility to switch between suppliers. Clients need to tread very carefully with proprietary CMS systems as they can potentially lock the client into a working relationship that can make it difficult to seamlessly transition to another supplier.

How does search engine optimisation (SEO) factor in your web projects?

+ Search engine optimisation is vitally important with respect to websites. Any capable web development or design agency or freelancer should, at the very least, have an understanding and awareness of the basics.

What suggestions can you make to improve our web site?

+ The answer to this question will help separate the more “literal” type agencies and freelancers – those that can action a list of instructions – from those with a more “strategic” bent that can assist you with constructive input.

The online industry moves so rapidly that it is vital that every organisation has an internal or external resource that can provide ongoing input into the digital strategy.

I have witnessed companies that are leaders in their fields waste a huge amount of time and financial resources by partnering with an inappropriate digital agency or freelancer.

The internet has emerged as a significant platform with respect to sales, marketing, workflow and communications. The choice of supplier can either assist in compounding the success of your organisation in a significant way or bog you down in dealing with frustrations.

Hopefully, the above questions can help you in finding the right partner for your needs.


Anton Psak


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