I’ve talked previously about what nonprofits (and other folks) should include in their website RFPs, but I haven’t talked about how you can evaluate those responses. So here’s a crash course to get you started!
1. It’s not just your initial costs when it comes to investing in your website! Ask what your ongoing costs are.
Oh, this is a biggie and one that’s often confusing for people. There’s no right way to price website design and development, some agencies prefer to keep upfront costs lower, and the require maintenance plans, while others—like us—charge a flat fee and have no requirements of our clients after a project is completed.
Others still bill by the hour, or in complex hybrid methods, so be super clear on what your initial costs will be, what the potential is for extras and what the ongoing costs are. I’ve seen websites for as little as “free,” but they require multi-year contracts of monthly subscriptions. (Which may appeal to some people.)
Ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand about the fees involved in your website design project.
2. What is the process to update both content and technology?
This is a HUGE question that I wish more clients would ask—for us designers, it’s often obvious, so we may not remember to discuss it with you or include it in your proposal. Will you need to retain someone to update plugins? How easy is it for “low-tech” users to add basic content like staff bios or blog posts? Are you using managed hosting like Flywheel or will someone need to update your WordPress software for you? There’s no right answer here, but be aware of what the answers are, and weigh what makes the most sense for you.
3. What is the ownership structure of the site once it’s launched?
I’ve run into this more than I care to name, clients who don’t own their website and who no longer—often due to no one’s fault—know how to contact the owner, often a former designer who may not be working in the industry any longer. We recommend that all clients own their websites and have access to their domains and hosting.
But, at the same time, it’s not unreasonable for website designers to retain hosting ownership until the final invoice is paid. So, make sure you understand the process for handoff and what’s expected of you to take over ownership of your beautiful new website!
4. What’s NOT included in my website design process?
This is another excellent question I wish most clients would ask about in detail, as it’s a frequent point of friction in the design process. Is copywriting included? SEO? Graphics? Stock imagery? Is there a restricted page count and how are pages counted? If you’re working with a Squarespace designer, do they count index pages and regular plain pages the same way or differently? Will the designer throw in a logo as part of the process or is that an add-on? What about backgrounds, textures and icons? These vary from agency to agency to ask.
Also, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking your designer during the course of the project if you’re unsure if something is included! I’m always thrilled when clients do, as I feel awkward having the, “Hey, that’s not included in your project” conversation.
5. How do licenses etc work for the site?
Our policy at SMCo is to allow clients to use our licenses for themes, plugins and other tools if it’s something we have an agency license for. If the client needs something specialized (forms are a biggie, but so are membership plugins and the like), the client is responsible for those licenses. However, some clients may prefer to acquire their own licenses, so talk to your designer and be clear on those costs!
Got questions about planning your website? Schedule a strategy session with me (Sarah, website consultant, designer & strategist) and ask me another about how to work with a website designer!