Media Junction former Head of Website Development Jeffrey Smith, had led the team that built 70+ HubSpot COS websites since it was introduced as well as hundreds of custom Wordpress and HTML projects over the last 18 years.
When you are planning a website redesign on WordPress or HubSpot, how can you vet the critical skills of the team bidding for your project? Just ask these 3 questions.
Whether you are just getting starting on your research or are about to sign on the dotted line to kick off your website project, take a minute to make sure you've asked your agency these 3 questions.
(It will either put your mind completely at ease to sign off and get going — or the answers may raise red flags you'll be glad to know now.)
Question 1. Who's Really Building The Website? You Know, the Actual Coding.
Many fantastic inbound marketing agencies build and run great HubSpot programs for their clients, but don't have coding or developer resources on staff. And in most cases, it's fine - once the website and templates are built to full mobile responsive standards you can play with this and extend massively. That's the whole point of HubSpot - it makes it easy on the marketer.
And WordPress? Anyone can launch a WordPress site in minutes and start blogging. But... using WordPress as the foundation of your marketing and sales programs requires more nuanced web development skills than grabbing an off-the-shelf theme and reskinning it with new colors and a bunch of plugins.
And sometimes, that's all agencies do, and from our vantage point, that's not coding. And you need coding.
When doing a complete redesign or building a new HubSpot COS website from scratch, you need to know exactly who is coding it because it will have a lot to do with how easy it is to operate as a marketer.
- It will affect how easy it is to deploy your smart content and smart CTAs or drive a persona path (a buyer's journey).
- It will affect how well your site adapts and grows with you and your business.
- It will have a critical impact on your inbound marketing platform - and even how it will score on a standardized test of marketing excellence when you run it through Marketing Grader.
- And not all the elements are completely mobile responsive, and require an adept and experienced hand to perfect them (especially the email templates).
- You can gain missing functionality with better coding or extra plugins, but many plugins carry a measurable page speed performance hit along with their functionality, and some come with free malware! (Try explaining that to IT).
- Even if you avoid the bad plugins by hosting at WPEngine, if you upgrade a plugin without confirming what version of JQuery it's using vs your Marketo munchkin, you could crack your marketing automation.
- So having a trustworthy AND experienced developer to call on to build your site is a pretty important consideration when you award your project.
When you ask your prospective agencies "Who does the code?" please know this: A vague answer is not a good answer.
For example, our team works on projects with clients who engage us directly to do their website design and build, and we also work with a select list of really fine inbound marketing agencies who "white label" our services. But it's never a secret to the client.
So ask, and make sure the answer you hear inspires confidence, maybe even pumps you up a little.
Question 2. What happens 2 months after your website launch and your intern breaks something? Plugins fail? Will your website design agency fix it?
As a former marketing director who learned this the hard way, if you hire a freelancer who just fancies up a WordPress theme, you might have hired a designer (not a coder), and this person doesn't have the skills to fix broken code stuff.
And things will break - so find out if your website redesign team has a support program and ask:
- What exactly can and can't they fix down the road?
- Can they do updates and new templates too?
- How long will fixes take when something is broken?
- Will they help even if your intern did it?
- How much do fixes cost - is it retainer-only support or can you call them for short hourly stuff?
When we build a site, we make routine fixes in 1 - 2 business days or even faster if it's urgent. We charge for the first hour for small stuff, or actual time if it takes longer. It costs whatever time it takes - simple. Also, since we know how we built our code (and we know we are supporting it for the long haul) it usually doesn't take that long for us to get you going again.
And if something bad happens on Saturday, we can and do find someone to fix a big problem as quickly as possibly. (You're welcome, Frank.)
If you don't have programming and support skills on staff at your company, finding someone to fix your website after it breaks is not encouraged. Assume stuff will break - you need to plan for it and your agency should help.
Just confirm whether the team building your new site offers support. Maybe they don't—but they will point you to people who will. Do a reference check and interview the support team before you sign the website proposal. This interview may also help to validate the coding skills of the agency.
Question 3. How many websites have you built? Can I have links to 10 of them?
You wouldn't hire a jumbo jet pilot with 2 hours of flight time, or a doctor who's never performed a delicate eye surgery. The same logic applies with website development: In general, more experience means more expertise. There are so many important variables to website performance and things change monthly or faster, you have to stay active to keep up.
The Media Junction team is constantly evolving our skills to adapt to change in mobile platforms, Google algorhithm updates and SEO, design, social integration, HubSpot future release items, marketing strategy, marketing automation, changing user behavior, UI/UX, advanced functionality and API integrations, and more.
This constant exposure and iteration produces continuous performance improvement in our website builds. We maintain and expand our library of proprietary code we've built to improve various website elements including mobile-friendliness.
Within the HubSpot environment specifically - since it is a proprietary platform - it's crucial to have a development group with a lot experience and expertise on the platform.
Hire someone who does WordPress or HubSpot websites regularly. Then check their references to confirm they deliver quality work and not just a high quantity of it.
- How easy is the site to use?
- How long did your project take?
- Did the delivered website meet or exceed your expectations?
- Have you achieved the marketing results from the website you planned for - or were they better or worse than expected?
- Would you recommend working with them?
- Would you have them build you another website?
As you prepare to sign up as a new HubSpot client, your agency partner is there to train you and support you. So you aren't just hiring for a website launch, your partner plays a big part in the return on your investment in the platform, onboarding and getting your team up to speed.
These 3 questions will help you confirm that you've chosen someone truly terrific and your project will be a big success whether you are using HubSpot, HTML, WordPress or a hybrid of them!