By Foster Commerce
May 2, 2023
Paying someone to develop a custom website can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.
If you’d like a comprehensive list of questions to ask before building a website, you’ll love this guide.
We put together this list of 55 questions you can use to vet platform and developer requirements. We've based our questions on over a decade of experience building websites for growing brands.
The five priority areas we cover are:
Let's get started!
Security against hackers
Undoubtedly, the first thing to consider when building a website should be choosing a platform with strong security measures.
Read the platform's security FAQ and speak directly to sales representatives so you can ask any questions.
Here are questions about platform security that we suggest you begin with:
1. Has your platform experienced any security breaches?
2. What are your security measures and practices?
3. What do you do when a security breach occurs?
4. Where do I find out about security breaches?
5. What if I need special security considerations?
6. Is your platform vulnerable to security breaches through reliance on plugins or integrations with third-party software?
Our preferred platform, Craft CMS, shines when it comes to back-end security. In addition to employing security reviews and audits, you can fully customize Craft.
From a security viewpoint, custom development is an advantage because it gives you more control.
You can hire developers who write custom code that is secure, and remove the need for apps and plugins from third-party developers that may introduce vulnerabilities.
Ask your developers about their security standards and practices, including:
7. How do you ensure that all new code is secure at its core?
8. How do you plan to protect my website from hackers?
9. When you build or attach new infrastructure, how do you mitigate risk?
10. How are you alerted to risks or vulnerabilities in code?
11. Who monitors risks and informs me about them?
When it comes to security, taking the time to research the best platforms and development practices is worth it.
Speed & mobile performance
On average, modern website visitors expect a page to load in two seconds or less.
Meanwhile, the use of mobile devices is expected to increase to 18.22 billion by 2025, making a mobile-friendly website critical.
Generally speaking, platforms that you can customize are faster. This is because, if developed well, they aren’t as bogged down with unnecessary bloat, third-party plugins, or apps.
We prefer Craft CMS to build websites because of its flexibility. Craft allows us to develop the features a client needs without sacrificing performance.
To understand how a platform will help you achieve page load speeds, ask the following:
12. Does this platform have mobile-optimized themes available?
13. Will the platform require multiple third-party plugins or apps?
14. Will the mobile experience be significantly different from the desktop version?
Of course, speed and performance also depend on the quality of development
Ideally, developers optimize page load speeds for whatever circumstance.
For example, they should code to anticipate temporary spikes in traffic due to weather, newsworthy events, or holidays.
Questions to ask your development team about speed and performance include:
15. How do you build for optimized speed and performance?
16. How do you build to optimize for mobile?
17. How do you ensure my website’s performance won’t degrade over time?
18. How do you ensure site speed regardless of spikes in traffic?
19. How do you monitor dips in performance?
20. What do you do if the site slows down?
It's common to think about speed and performance for website visitors. However, we should also consider the marketers and authors who use the back end of a website on a daily basis.
Ease of content marketing is an essential consideration when building a successful website.
Ease of content marketing
The Digital Marketing Institute predicts content marketing will remain a popular strategy for businesses in 2023.
So it makes sense that brands using platforms where adding and publishing content is simple will be competitive.
That’s because when a site provides a good author experience (AX), marketers can respond quickly to trends, ensuring brand relevance.
For example, our preferred CMS, Craft, was built with the needs of authors and other creative professionals in mind. The back end is entirely customizable and can be designed for intuitive use by marketers.
To discover if a platform meets your marketing requirements, ask questions such as:
21. Is there a difference between the speed of the back end vs. the front end?
22. Does this platform support omnichannel marketing?
23. Are content previews available?
24. How many steps are required to update a piece of content?
25. What kind of content entries are available to us?
26. What limitations to the organization of content are there?
Interview developers and ask them how they plan to ensure a good author experience:
27. What CMS do you suggest we use, and why?
28. How will you gather our company's AX requirements?
29. Will you recommend a content strategy?
30. Can you create a content migration plan for our company?
31. What integrations will we need to manage content marketing?
32. How do you do content modeling?
33. How do you ensure the back-end performance is optimized?
Learning why developers prefer one CMS over another can help you see the benefits and drawbacks of each.
And asking how they support the needs of content marketers will reveal if they're the right team for the job.
A strategy central to effective content marketing is SEO. And it's critical if you plan to use a content-first approach to gaining traffic.
In addition to increasing organic traffic, leads, and sales, a solid SEO strategy can drive down acquisition costs.
When researching platforms, look for features that are friendly to SEO. For example, ensure the platform has the ability to create HTML pages.
Specifically, check that you can add content important for on-page SEO such as alt-tags, meta descriptions, and HTML headings.
The availability of these fields can impact where your content is likely to appear in search engine results. It can also influence things like the likelihood of getting a featured snippet.
Here are a few questions to consider when vetting platforms for SEO:
34. How much control will we have over page optimization?
35. How much control will we have over the content design and structure?
36. Will this platform allow intuitive ways of managing our SEO strategy?
37. Does it easily integrate with tools that allow us to gather SEO audits and reports?
How your site is organized is another important aspect of good SEO. Site organization influences how a shopper moves through your website to find your products and services.
If you have a complex website it's best to ensure visitors to your site can locate the main and subpages quickly.
Generally, the fewer clicks required to find a page from the homepage or the main navigation, the better.
So, when developing your website, ensure the site architecture and navigation are logical. If your website's navigation doesn't make sense to you, it probably won't to your audience, either.
Ask your development partner how they optimize SEO for your website with questions like:
38. How will you organize the menu and submenus to ensure ease of navigation?
39. How will you determine a URL structure?
40. How will you help us with SEO audits and reports?
41. Can our site be easily integrated with other SEO tools?
42. How will you develop the back end to make it easy to use and manage when it comes to SEO?
Craft’s flexibility makes it especially SEO-friendly in the hands of knowledgeable developers. This is another reason it's our preferred CMS.
Composable & flexible systems
An often overlooked consideration when companies vet a CMS is the platform's flexibility.
A flexible back end allows your website to grow with your business. A flexible front end can improve marketing, lead generation, sales, and monthly costs.
Together, they act as a cohesive system.
Brands with flexible websites can better do things like:
adapt to new marketing realities
win new opportunities more easily
improve the visitor experience
Craft CMS is our platform of choice because we can develop headless and composable websites. Craft’s flexibility enables us to meet our clients’ development needs as their businesses change.
Below are a few questions we suggest you ask when vetting a platform's flexibility:
43. How flexible is this platform as a whole?
44. Is this platform headless, or can it be developed to be?
45. Can this platform be customized to meet business needs now and in the future?
46. Is this platform composable?
47. Can the back and front ends be changed independently?
48. How much can I expect to pay in monthly fees to get the flexibility I need?
49. How long will I have to pay those monthly fees?
Having a flexible platform is essential, but you want to be sure your developers can make it work for you.
Here are a few questions to ask about your development team's approach to building flexible websites:
50. Can you advise about the best front-end stack for my business?
51. Are you able to create headless websites?
52. Do you make composable websites?
53. Can you code to reduce future development costs over time? How?
54. What happens if I need to add more functionality after my site is built?
55. Which platform or platforms are you experts in developing?
It's worth it to think seriously about the cohesion and flexibility your website needs now, and into the future.
After all, your website is an investment you want to grow as your business does.
Did we miss anything about what to look for in platform and developer requirements when building a website?
Let us know and we’ll add it to our list!