During the phone calls I have with potential clients, I am starting to notice some of the most important questions are getting missed. It leads me to wonder, how many other calls you have with designers and if you are asking the right questions. Price and time are the obvious questions to ask.

However, most forget to ask about the design services because they feel they don’t know much about it.

Here are 8 questions I believe should be discussed on the discovery call so there are no surprises in the end.

1. Are you a Developer or a Designer? I am not knocking a developer nor a designer because they are both good for different things and most of the time, they intertwine with one another. However, I believe you should know what your designer and/or developer is capable of creating and if their expertise falls in line with your project requirements. Don’t fall victim to the “designers don’t know how to code” because most of us have coding skills just not full stack coding as a developer would.

2. Can you build the site responsive (so it will work on mobile devices and tablets)?  I honestly feel that this should be the second question asked as far a the design goes. We live in a digital world where we are quick to pull up our phones to view a business

3. Is your content management system (CMS)/technology proprietary or open source? What types of licensing fees are there? OPEN SOURCE! OPEN SOURCE! OPEN SOURCE!!! I can’t stress this enough! This is perfect for the small business or entrepreneur who plans to update and maintain their website on their own. Having an open source website allows for flexibility yet have the option to have a designer/developer implement code where needed. The best content management open source, in my opinion, opinion is WordPress because of the flexibility and all the options you have readily available.

4. Do you offer a warranty? If so, how long is the warranty good for? Maintenance plan? Service Plan? Hosting? What are those costs? Having a website is like having a house! Your website is going to require maintenance and support. Daily the internet is growing and your website must be able to stay compliant to get noticed. Also, there is a lot of hacking going on and viruses being installed on websites. Your website functionality depends on your keeping the grass watered. It is best to prepare your self for ongoing maintenance or at-least sit with a designer whom can help you get the basics of your website down to keep it up to date.

5. How do you base your pricing? Will this be hourly, or flat-fee based on the project? How frequently do your projects go over budget? What is your payment policy? Is there a clear procedure for billing for extra features or work outside the project’s initial scope?  These questions somehow get missed when speaking. Don’t assume that your designer knows the budget you are working with and can read minds. Don’t assume that projects don’t go over budget, because they can and will if more is added on that was not originally in the scope. Please ask these questions to get a better understanding of the price breakdown from your designer.

6. What is your estimated timeline to build this site? While this is an excellent question to ask, I want to remind you to keep in mind that timelines can go longer depending on many circumstances that can arise on the designer side and/or the client side. However, I urge you to ask this question especially if you are planning around your launch. You want to get as close as possible to the date.

7. Can you walk me through your design process? Every designer process is different. Be sure to ask this question to all designers you speak to so you understand the next steps following the consult and into the design phase.

8. Will I have access to all my design source files for internal use? I’ve come across some designer who holds the source files so clients return, it guarantees some kind of incentive in the future if you need a different file size, etc. I personally, do not provide my customer with my .ai files but I do provide the .eps, .psd, .jpeg, and .png files at the conclusion of the project, which are all useful enough that my clients are able to do whatever they please with their designs. Not asking this upfront will leave you unsatisfied in the end.

Some of these are hard questions to ask up-front but I believe that asking these questions will release a lot of tension during the design phase and avoid confusion and/or misunderstandings down the line should you decide to go with a designer before asking these questions.

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