Guide to Interviewing a Web Development Agency
Plus: Free Bonus Interview Guide
If you follow our content, you probably know that we aren’t big fans of the traditional RFP process. It’s inefficient, time-consuming and impersonal—and after all that, you probably won’t get the really good firms to participate.
Just like with anything where you want to find a quality match, such as where to attend college or which hotel to stay at on vacation, you don’t want to start by considering literally anyone who meets the general description. Instead you’ll want to go into your web development agency search with a strategic two-pronged approach:
- Cultivate a list of agencies who have the expertise you’re looking for
- Interview them like you would a job applicant for an important position
- Look at their “resume” – check out their website to make sure they do what you need at a high level
- Screen them – look for immediate non-qualifiers such as location, design quality, or team size
- Interview them – address all the specifics of your project and how they can deliver on your requirements
It can be a bit daunting to think about everything you need to cover. In that case, you’ve come to the right blog post.
The trick to a good interview with a potential web agency is to prioritize your questions so you have a better chance of getting the important ones answered without being railroaded by a salesperson. To do this, bucket your questions into two categories: Need to Know and Nice to Know.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
NEED TO KNOW
These are the biggies, the requirements, the real dealbreakers. Asked correctly and they will tell you just about everything you need to know about the agency to make your decision. You don’t have to ask all of these; to some degree, you’ll have to use your intuition to guide you. But, these provide an excellent starting point for going deeper than surface-level qualifications.
What’s your positioning?
Are they everything for everyone? Are they a website specialist for small businesses? Are they a marketing generalist that dabbles in digital? You have to be comfortable with the level of specificity.
How big are you and where do I fit in your client base?
Depending on the size of your website project and ongoing maintenance, you’ll want to know that they can handle your needs. It’s also good to figure out whether you’re one of several similar-sized clients or if you’re a small fish in a big pond. This can tell you a lot about the level of service you’re going to get.
What is your philosophy about websites?
Every agency focuses on something. Some tout their creativity, others their technical prowess, and still others hang their hat on being a low-cost option.
Can you show me case studies for similar clients or projects?
It doesn’t have to be an exact match of scenarios, but seeing how an agency approached a similar client or project will tell you a lot about what they can (or can’t) do for you.
What’s your culture like? What are your employees like?
You’re going to spend a lot of time working with and communicating with the agency team. You want to make sure you will get along with the people.
What is an ideal client for you?
Leave this open-ended—the way they answer will tell a lot about them. They might talk about communication style. They might talk about the type of businesses they like working with. It’s really up to you to interpret if what they say fits with what you want to hear.
Advanced: what’s your tech stack?
You may not understand the answer, but this is important to know. Know what stack they’re comfortable with, whether any of it is proprietary or open stack, and whether it integrates with your third-party systems (like a CRM, shopping cart, etc).
NICE TO KNOW
These questions are also good to know, but likely aren’t dealbreakers for choosing an agency.
How do we work together?
Ask about their project management process, including PM systems, status meetings, communication styles, etc.
What does your approach look like?
Every web development agency has different steps and timelines. Ask them to outline theirs briefly so you know what to expect.
What is your creative process like?
Is creative in-house or will they be bringing in contractors? How does the creative process fit in with the overall approach?
Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with?
It’s perfectly fine to ask about the background and experience level of the web team you would be working with, especially if they have particular experience in your industry.
Do you offer any guarantees or risk-sharing?
We’ll admit that Skyhook is a bit unique in that we offer a monetary guarantee for our work. See if the agency is willing to put their money where their mouth is.
What kind of post-launch support or services will I receive?
A website isn’t “done” when it launches. See what kind of follow up support and ongoing maintenance the agency offers.
We developed this list of questions based on a few different factors, from the horror stories we’ve heard from clients to the questions our best clients asked us before signing on. Any web development agency worth their salt will have solid answers to the majority of your questions. And if they don’t—well, it makes the decision that much simpler for you.