It’s official: you need a new website. Maybe you’ve found some promising web development companies on Google. Or, maybe a colleague has recommended the team that built his company website. It’s time to do some homework and ask a bunch of questions before signing on the dotted line.

Before hiring a website development company, ask them to show you their portfolio and to provide an overview of their experience. This overview should include industry experience, design experience, and technical experience.

Find out if they know your industry

Make sure to ask the company specifically about the industry your business serves: Do they have any previous experience in this particular industry? How much experience? Ask them to outline their history with your industry and explain how it will help them successfully market your business online.

Ask to see their design portfolio

Ask yourself whether their portfolio appeals to you. If you see a design you don’t particularly like, feel free to ask them about it. You may find out they recommended something different for that particular client, but the client was set on something else.

A company’s portfolio is not always an accurate representation of their best design work. Colour palettes, content, budget, and other client-dictated constraints may have limited them. But keep in mind there’s still a possibility the company simply isn’t strong in design.

Always consider technical proficiency

A portfolio may consist of many aesthetically pleasing designs, but you need to know if these sites are functional and technically sound. This is a trickier thing to gauge than the quality of a design. Don’t be afraid to ask them to explain exactly what you’ll be getting from the site. Will it be responsive and work on desktop, tablet and mobile devices? Are they building the site from scratch or simply choosing a theme from WordPress? The former takes more technical know-how and will cost more.

If you’re confused by a quote, ask them to break down each step they’ll take when building your site from the beginning. If they’re technically proficient, it won’t be hard for them to explain each step.

Get a sense of their working style

You’ll be working together closely as your website comes together. It’s important that you feel comfortable with the company’s level of communication and willingness to collaborate.

If you’d like to be involved in every step of the process, a web development company may take the time to educate you on what kind of websites are available to you, as well as communicate how they plan on bringing that website to fruition. As an example, perhaps it’s important to you that you’re able to edit your own website content once the project is finished. They should then take the time to explore this priority further, outline which technologies are available to you and factor all this into the plan.

On the flip side, if you don’t want to collaborate and be asked hundreds of small questions, take the time to find out if the company can own the project and run with it based on limited input from you.