Deciphering the complex language and nuances of web design can be overwhelming for most organizations. Here are a few important questions you should be asking to make sure you’re getting the most out of your web design agency:

1. What type of research is conducted before a web design project?

A web design should ultimately bring you closer to your audience. To do this effectively, web designers need to understand who they are building the website for. Conducting industry research is another key component that helps designers take a look outside the box and find out what others are doing. As it is important to not duplicate their efforts, this type of research research can help designers make sure your business is a step ahead in industry trends.

2. How will the website redesign help me with my business goals?

A good web design agency will not only make your website look good, but will also drive more traffic and help you achieve your goals. Often, the goal of a new website is easy to measure, such as “increase donations” or “build awareness”. However, if you are looking for a measurable return on your investment, make sure these goals are discussed with your web design firm. Measurable goals may include things like, “increase website traffic by 20% in 3 months” or “reduce bounce rate on Page X by 15%”. Identifying these goals from the beginning stages will help you better measure your web design ROI and help guide your designers efforts.

3. What services and fees do you include?

Websites are a living, breathing machine, which means it’s going to need maintenance over time. Make sure to ask specifics of what your web design agency covers. What happens if there’s a bug after launch? Do you own the rights to the source code? These are important types of questions to ask in order to avoid any unpredicted costs in the future.

4. Will I be able to make updates to my website?

There are a lot of content management systems (CMS) on the market. An “open source” software is created and maintained by the developer community at large and is often free to use. This means there is typically more people who know how to use it. “Proprietary software” is owned by a specific company and is often custom, meaning that only the creators know how to work with it. Typically this is much more expensive and risky.

Widely-used solutions like WordPress and Drupal offer ease-of-use and provide all the functionality you need. Be careful of a proprietary CMS developed by your design company; you can end up trapped in it if you want to make a change. Find out what content management system your website design agency uses to determine what website updates will look like post-launch.

5. What is your approach to usability?

Your web design agency’s answer in regards to usability will be a prime indicator of their skills. Typically it is usability, over visual design, that determines the success or failure of your website. If a user finds your website confusing, it might as well not exist. It’s important to make sure your agency is working toward user-centered design to help you reach your goals.

6. Will my website be search engine optimized?

People search for practically everything online, which is why it’s absolutely critical for your website to represent you effectively in search results. Make sure to ask your web design agency how they plan to make your website “search engine friendly”. When SEO best practices are properly implemented from the web design stage, there is only an opportunity to move up in search rankings.

7. What am I required to supply?

Typically clients will supply the written content, images and branding assets to their web design agency. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the image requirements (sizes and formats) to avoid delays during the web design process. If you are feeling stuck in this phase, make sure your agency can direct you toward a good photographer or copywriter.

8. Will my website be responsive / mobile-friendly?

According to SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report, roughly 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. Basically, if your site doesn’t look good on mobile, it’s not helping you. It’s safe to say if your web design agency is not designing your website for all devices, you should seriously considering taking your business elsewhere.

9. Do I own my website and domain?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of agency’s popping up, especially those specializing in specific industries such as dentistry, legal, medical, etc., who offer monthly fees to host their clients website. Typically, these cheaper options that are hosted by other website don’t actually belong to the business owner, but instead the hosting company. Make sure you own your website completely as it will save you a lot less headache down the road.

10. What kind of training will be provided once the website is finished?

So your brand new website is launched – what happens next? Some web design agency’s allow for a free support period, or offer training sessions to help you get acquainted with your new website. It’s important to find out what types of support you’ll be receiving, especially if you plan on making any changes after it goes live. After all, it’s your website – you should know how to use it.