6 questions every web development agency should ask new clients
The global health crisis is having a profound effect on the demand for web development services. A 2021 industry report by DesignRush, based on insights from 500 agencies, indicates that 91.2% of website development and design agencies reported higher demand for at least one service.
This shift in the business landscape, propelled by changing consumer behaviour, is an opportunity for web development agencies to win more work. However, those who succeed, will understand that accepting every job is not necessarily the route to success.
Web development projects can fail for a number of reasons. The most common is when the final product does not match client expectations. It’s these contracts that risk becoming unprofitable and reputation damaging.
Projects that allow you to do your best work, explore your specialisms, and charge more, should be prioritised. Easier said than done, right? To help, this article focuses on the questions to ask to establish if a project makes sense for your company.
1. Do you understand what you want to achieve?
Unless you’re building a website that your client wants and needs, the project will run into trouble. Getting their input through a detailed planning exercise will establish if the client understands all the implications.
From the outset, the client should be prepared and have a good understanding of their objectives, the audience they are targeting, the content they need, how the website should be organised, and its functional and technical requirements.
2. Can we agree on a budget for the work?
There are different approaches to setting a budget, but they should all take account of the need for flexibility. By starting with an estimate, instead of a pre-contract fee, you give yourself room to move if there are any changes to project requirements. We don’t want late changes but we should accept they are possible if scope creep becomes an issue.
How you bill depends on the nature and scale of the project, but in general it’s advisable to set milestones for payments to be released. You could even consider asking for a percentage upfront, that way your cash flow will not be affected.
If a client is not comfortable with an estimate, give them a project price with the proviso that it should contain a contingency. In both scenarios you should get written agreement from the client that they are prepared to accept additional charges for tasks outside scope.
3. Are all the requirements defined and agreed?
The planning phase is when all ideas, opinions and needs should be heard. Any changes after that will have to be made in the design and development phase, which can cause complications and delays.
Without addressing all issues during planning, scope change is more likely with the resulting impact on timeline and budget. Set out a scope of work document or contract that states exactly what has been agreed and what the timelines are.
4. Have all stakeholders been involved in decision making?
Before you move to the next phase, check again that all decision makers are happy to proceed. By now your project manager should have established a single point of contact. Dealing with one person streamlines the process, avoids confusions and encourages the client to self-organise.
Clarify that all stakeholders have had buy-in to the decision-making process. If management doesn't make time to get involved at the beginning, the risk of scope creep increases.
5. Do you have a plan to provide content?
To keep the project on track, the client should know what’s expected of them. Whether it’s reworking content from an existing site, lifting and shifting it, or starting afresh with a new offering, not having a plan for the delivery of content can delay the final product. The client should be clear that it's their responsibility and understand the impact if the schedule slips.
6. Are you interested in additional services?
Websites grow and change over time and it’s normal for new features to be added and services to be required. Now that all the hard work has gone into establishing the relationship, don’t be afraid to put yourself in the picture for additional work.
It could be adding something complex like an e-commerce function or offering something simple like a search engine optimisation (SEO) audit, a news feed, or social media integrations. Add-ons that are repeatable and easier to deliver will help increase turnover and maintain your margins as you seek to win new business. Consider adding a full list of these services to each proposal.
For your clients, creating or updating their website is a major undertaking and can be a large capital outlay. It may be common sense but setting realistic expectations and having the right conditions from the start will help everything run smoothly.
Unfortunately, web development projects do fail. With many moving parts that need to come together, errors can cause delays, increase costs, and even derail projects.
That’s why the preparation of the client will be key to the overall success of the project. To avoid communication problems and plan effectively, ask these questions and set up a winning outcome for both the client and your web development agency.
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