12 questions for website agencies

Choosing a web development agency to delivery your new eCommerce site can be a difficult and lengthy process. The ultimate aim is to understand your business’s requirements and match them to the most appropriate supplier.

First: understand your business requirements

Having a thorough understanding of your eCommerce business requirements before approaching agencies puts you in a much stronger position than leaving it for the agencies to understand for you – I will address ‘creating a business requirements document’ in a seperate post.

Create a brief requirements document, which you should continually add to.

Create a business requirements document for your new website, which you should keep up-to-date.

To summarise, your requirements will encompass the following:

1. eCommerce goals (simple, measurable, quantifiable bullet points) >
2. eCommerce strategy (how you will achieve those goals) >
3. Tactics (the functionality required to achieve your eCommerce strategy & goals).

These business requirements will help determine the agency best able to help you achieve your business goals. Building a requirements document is also a very healthy process; leading you to a better understanding of your business’s capacities and its requirements for the new eCommerce site.

Questions for prospective agencies

These questions are for suppliers to answer after meeting your top-level needs (eg: they have a demonstrable history of delivering successful eCommerce websites and have clients relevant to your business)  and long before you have requested a quote.
1. For how many of your current clients do you provide a managed transactional eCommerce platform service?
In one column, place a list of the technology platforms you are considering (eg: Shopware, Magento, etc…); the supplier can list the number of clients they currently have in the second column.

2. For how many of your current clients have you delivered the following?
This is a list of tactics derived from your business requirements document. The following are examples of the kind of functional requirements you may have…

  • Click and collect functionality;
  • 3rd-party retail website search merch’ (eg. Klevu, Searchspring, SLI, Fredhopper, etc…);
  • Different muti-language & currency websites;
  • A transactional B2B website;
  • High-standard mobile-first transactional website design;
  • Complete website design;
  • On-going SEO consultancy…..

3. For how many clients are you currently creating e-commerce platforms?
This gives an idea of the agency’s current resource commitment and their potential to meet your requirements.
4. In which markets do your current clients operate? (eg: Banking, fashion clothing, Music….)
Underneath provide 2 columns: 1 named “Marketplace” the second column should be used to provide a number (of clients the agency has).

5. Which services do you fulfil internally or externally?
Provide a sample list of services your site will require, both through the build process and after launch. Examples:

  • Development;
  • Design;
  • eCom consultancy;
  • SEO consultancy;
  • Client training;
  • Mobile website optimisation.

6. Do you allow clients to retain full ownership of the entire website and website platform?
eg: So the site can be transferred to a different service provider, if necessary.
If you can get this written into your contract, along with a short break clause period, your business will have more leverage and a level of insurance for the lifetime of the agency contract.

7. Special questions
Here’s your chance to ask questions related to particular priorities that emerged from your Businesses requirements. For example:

  • What experience does your agency have of delivering & maintaining mobile-optimised websites?
  • What experience does your agency have of Delivering B2B websites?
  • How does your agency go about full redesign projects?
  • Which business/Enterprise management systems do you have experience of integrating with?

8. What are your hourly fees for…?
A useful way to compare pricing and potential technical abilities.

  • Back-end development;
  • Front-end development;
  • Interface design;
  • Project management;
  • Client management;
  • Q&A testing.

9. Please give estimates for the time it typically takes to complete delivery of the example tasks for your existing clients.
This information will help you understand an agency’s experience of day-to-day practical tasks and imply their technical understanding – it may be that your tasks can be satisfied by the eCommerce platform you plan to use. It will also help you understand if the agency operates within your budget.

  • Changing the company logo in the universal Header;
  • MailChimp ecommerce site integration;
  • Integration of 3rd-party search merch’ (eg. Klevu, Searchspring, SLI, Fredhopper, etc…);
  • A single edit to the CSS file (eg: to change a hyperlink font colour);
  • Add dynamic Google remarketing code to product pages;
  • A single edit to a Robots.txt file (eg: to restrict access to a set of pages).

10. Where are your development resources and your business’s different offices located?
This will help you understand the agency’s structure, potential workflow and decision-making processes.
11. Will our development phase Account manager remain after launch?
A common problem in technical projects is staff churn. Knowledge is lost and new working relationships must be built.

12. Who owns your company and are you able to provide a company credit rating?
If the agency is expected to provide on-going support and development services, it’s important to ensure the agency is in good financial health.
Featured image photo by Mari Lezhava on a Unsplash.

I’m a freelance eCommerce consultant.  Since 1998, I’ve  provided businesses with short- and long-term management and consultancy services. I run ecommerce departments or focus on specific ebusiness, emarketing, marketplace and other commercial projects, to help you grow your online business.

Learn more about me or get in contact.