Looking for an eCommerce Web Development Agency? Ask These 9 Questions First

Finding the right web development agency to build your eCommerce store can be an overwhelming process.

How do you know if they are honest…or experienced?

How do you know if you’ll be satisfied with the results in the end? And what happens if you aren’t?

Chances are, you have about a million and one questions and concerns running through your mind as you’re making this decision.

So in order to facilitate the decision-making process, we’ve provided you with a list of those questions that you must ask every web design agency that you interview. The way that your interviewee answers these questions should help you decide whether or not they’re the right fit for your business.

And because we know that you’re just dying to know, for each question, we tell you how we would answer, if you were interviewing us.

So without further ado, here are the nine questions that you should ask:

1. What type of help is available post-development?

Why you should ask this: Post-development, questions are inevitably going to arise, so you want to make sure that you’ll have support in case you need it.

At eScale: For clients who just want us to build a website, we’ll answer any questions free of charge up until six months post-development. If there is a small change to be made, we will normally do it free of charge; otherwise, we charge by the hour.

And for clients who are part of our Continual Optimization program, we offer around-the-clock support, maintenance and optimization. In other words, we continually work to improve the store and ensure that it’s optimized for sales and growth.

2. What kind of training do you provide?

Why you should ask this: You don’t want to rely entirely on your developer. It’s important to know how to manage (at least basic) things yourself, as well.

Find out if the agency provides any sort of tutorials or training once the website is complete, so you’ll know how to manage the store on your own.

At eScale: We make sure that each of our clients can easily manage their products, orders and fulfillment on their own. We also offer custom video tutorials so they know how to manage their site. Finally, we’re there to help guide them if, for example, they have a question regarding an order or want to know why something happened.

3. How many custom templates or pages should I have in order for my store to look the way I want it to?

Why you should ask this: Every eCommerce store has certain standard templates, like the product page, cart page, checkout page, order confirmation page and of course, the homepage–but they aren’t always customized, which isn’t exactly ideal from a branding and user standpoint.

The more custom templates your store is made up of, the more specialized (and on-brand) each of your web pages can be. At the same time, the more custom templates you have, the more costly it will be to create your store. So the answer to this question will largely determine the price of your website.

At eScale: First, we carefully examine the type of eCommerce store that we’re dealing with. We discuss with the client what they want to achieve with their site and how they want it to look. Then, we create an outline of what we plan to do, which we present to the client. From there, we can make any necessary tweaks.

If the client is on a tighter budget, we recommend creating fewer custom template pages, since, just like homes can always add on an extra wing, new custom templates can always be added to a website later on.

While it’s impossible to predict the exact number of hours that it will take to build an eCommerce website, and therefore the exact cost, we are always upfront and as honest as possible in our evaluation.

4. Do you customize mobile and desktop separately?

Why you should ask this: By now, creating a mobile-responsive website is a given; you’d probably be hard-pressed to find an agency that doesn’t create a mobile-responsive website. But here’s the thing: many agencies will only design for desktop, and then try to squish that same design onto one screen for the mobile version.

The problem with this is that, even if it looks okay, you don’t want to have the same design on mobile as you do on desktop. Mobile users don’t have the patience to spend a lot of time on your site, so you want to design your mobile version so that it’s as easy and simple as possible for your user to navigate your store–and make a sale.

At eScale: We customize mobile and desktop differently. We design eCommerce websites for how they will appear on the screen in which they’re viewed.

Take a look:

5. What eCommerce platform do you use and why?

Why you should ask this: Every eCommerce platform is different, so it’s important to know what your developers will be working on.

WooCommerce, for example, allows for much more customization than Shopify. So if you want to have a highly customized eCommerce store, then you’ll probably be better off with a platform like WooCommerce. But if your customization needs are more basic, then a platform like Shopify could fit your needs just fine.

At eScale: We use WooCommerce and Shopify. Both platforms have their advantages and disadvantages. Some clients come to us already using a certain platform.

But if a client comes to us and isn’t sure what platform to use, we’ll discuss their business needs and what they want to achieve, and then decide on a platform that’s best suited to meet their goals.

6. What will the web design and development process be like?

Why you should ask this: This question can help you find out how organized the agency is. If they have their stuff together, they’ll be able to give you a detailed explanation of the processes and procedures that they follow.

At eScale: We have a very extensive process that we follow. We start in the discovery phase, by first gathering all of the information that we need about the client, their business goals and what they are looking to do. Next, we create a sitemap draft, which is a plan for the website (like the site’s architecture or an outline of all the pages on the site).

We then create wireframe prototypes for each of the custom templates on the site, with a priority being placed on user experience and general goals of the page over graphic design. Based on the client’s feedback, the website then goes to final design and development.

After that, we load everything onto the eCommerce platform (WooCommerce or Shopify); get shipping set up properly; integrate with fulfillment; and set up all of the shipping settings and tax information.

Finally, the last step is to QA the site; only once it meets our (and our client’s) standards of excellence, do we launch it.

7. What kind of testing and quality assurance (QA) checks do you perform before launching the website?

Why you should ask this: With your typical website, the testing and QA step is an important one. But with an eCommerce website, the testing and QA step is extremely important. After all, the last thing you want is for your website to be launched, only to find out later that your orders are being fulfilled and shipped, but you’re not receiving payments. Or that your customers aren’t receiving order confirmations and updates.

Whatever agency you work with, make sure that they have a thorough testing and QA process before launching the site.

At eScale: Before launching any eCommerce site we build, we place test orders and refunds to make sure that everything goes through properly. We make sure that we’re able to receive payments and that order confirmations go through properly.

Bottom line? Our extensive QA process helps prevent any potential mishaps (or even catastrophes) from happening.

8. Do you specialize in building eCommerce stores?

Why you should do this: Building an eCommerce website isn’t like building your typical website. There’s a lot more to consider–and a lot more at stake.

If the agency has an extensive track record in building eCommerce websites, you’ll want to find out exactly what kinds of results they have delivered in the past (their portfolio) and how pleased their previous clients were with those results (testimonials).

If the agency has no track record to speak of yet, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go with them. After all, every business has to start somewhere, and as long as the team members have experience, there’s nothing wrong with choosing an agency that’s new to eCommerce. But make sure that they give you a reason to take a chance on them.

At eScale: We have over eleven years building custom eCommerce websites. And we know how to create an eCommerce store that’s able to scale, both from a web standpoint and from a marketing standpoint.

9. Can you show me proof of your previous success?

Why you should ask this: For obvious reasons, you’ll want to find out what kind of eCommerce websites the agency has created in the past. Review some of the case studies on their website. Check out their portfolio.

At eScale: We don’t have anything to hide! Check out our portfolio—not to see what you want your eCommerce store to look like necessarily, but to see our level of excellence and the types of works that we have produced over the years. Take what you see with a grain of salt, and recognize that we will build your website to best fit your audience and needs.

Want to interview us? Go ahead. Put us on the spot.

Mary Blackiston

Mary is the Content Marketing Specialist for eScale. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, rock climbing, blogging, traveling, and soaking up as much eCommerce knowledge as she can.