Getting a web design project launched down the right track is really about half of the entire project.  As different as one website is from the next, one thing stays static for all different kinds of web design projects—big and small, simple and complex—better planning always equates to better end results.

Here are 6 questions you’ll want to give some serious thought to (and discuss with your designer) before proceeding with the production phases of the website design project:

1. What’s the difference when it comes to pro vs. amateur web designers?

It’s always a good idea to go through the vetting process with each of the designers you’re considering working with.  You might get a few lowball bids by developers that would seem to have some knowledge of web development, but when push comes to shove, simply don’t have the experience or professionalism to ensure a smooth project from start to finish.  Ask all of the right questions to weed out the amateurs from those experienced in producing better-than-satisfactory results for projects similar in caliber to yours.

2. What is the price and how do payments work?

If you think a web designer is being a little bit forward by wanting to discuss payment details and amounts quite early in the process, please know that they’re just trying to keep you up to speed in that department so there’s no sticker shock or surprises later on.  Experienced developers can usually get really spot-on when it comes to estimating the scope and price of a project, but there needs to be a contingency plan in place if the scope should need to be escalated along the way.  Make sure you’re on the exact same page as your web pros when it comes to pricing and payments before ever thinking about beginning production.

3. What is the purpose of the site?

You’ll want to really think about this one and ensure your designer grasps it very well too.  Unfortunately, it happens all too often that an organization decides to create a new website just for the sake of needing a new website.  But what goals should the site encompass?  Who should it attract, how will it bring visitors in, and what will the site do for the visitors once they are there?  By nailing out these essentials before going any further in the design process, the site can be custom-developed to accomplish these extremely important goals—rather than trying to address the concerns and retrofit the site once it’s too late.

4. What features and content will the website offer?

Once goals of the site have been carefully planned out, the next step is understanding and setting up a precise plan of action to accomplish them.  This is where the site’s features and content come in.  What needs to happen in order to achieve all of the goals set forth?  It might be writing a well thought-out section of quality, SEO-optimized content; it might be adding relevant maps, databases, or subscription forms.  It’s all about fully understanding the feature set required to make your site perform the way it should.  Working with your knowledgeable, experienced designer, really sit down and get these aspects of the site right…right from the beginning.

5. How will you bring in your visitors?

Every site has its own unique approach to visitor acquisition.  Some sites will be more like online brochures that serve as a place for offline referrals from phonebooks, offline advertising, and similar sources to land.  Other websites will be developed around a philosophy of attracting a ready-to-purchase, niche-oriented audience from the search engines.  Whatever the case may be for you, just be sure to figure it out upfront.  This way, the developer can work in all of the necessary components from the ground up.

6. How does ongoing site maintenance work?

Maintenance is sometimes the very last thing you want to think about before the website is even designed to begin with.  But it’s still important to ask the question here.  After all, maintenance can play a huge role in how you’ll want to create your site.  For example, if you’re building a new e-commerce enabled site, would you want to have the ability to go in and manage your portfolio of products yourself…or will it be necessary to pay your web developer to add, edit, or remove products from your online shopping system?  Same goes for adding or editing website content—do you want to pay hourly developer fees just to add a new article; or would it be better to integrate a content management system (CMS) in to the site’s structure right from the beginning, so you can make your own updates and changes with no additional developer fees required?

Getting these details, along with all potential wrinkles, completely ironed out at the conceptual phases of the project always makes for a more efficient and more smoothly-implemented project.  Remember, it’s inevitable that better planning can only lead to one thing—a better website for you!