Your company needs a new website. You own or work for a growing business, and your site needs to look and act accordingly. It’s easy to see which firms out there create great design, but that’s not all you need. Here are five critical pieces to a high functioning website that your firm should excel at:

Content Strategy
Even if you haven’t engaged your design firm for copywriting or content creation, content strategy should come with the contract. While you know your business, they should be the experts in positioning your message online. Being told “no” a few times and presented a different solution is good; a lot of head nodding is a red flag.

Usability Consulting
Usability is content strategy’s first cousin. The same principles apply here – you may have ideas on building the user experience, but your agency should have statistics and experience to back up their recommendations.

And by “mobile” we don’t just mean “responsive.” That very well might be the answer, but the important thing is that your firm puts in thought into the mobile solution that they recommend. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution on the web, for mobile or anything else. Be sure to ask about compatibility - a promise of “all devices, all browsers” is another red flag that something might be missing.

Mind the Admin
This is an often-ignored aspect of websites, especially early on in the process when everyone is excited about design. A lot of attention is paid to interactivity on the front end – and rightfully so – but none is given to the back end. If your internal team needs to manage the site after launch, you need to know how it will be built. We talk to a lot of companies who had cool features built in years past, but never used them because it was such a hassle to use their admin panel. Make sure the site management will work for the person on your team that will be maintaining the site.

Keep the Vision
Your site’s finished. Drop the details, take a step back, and ask the question, “Does it do what it’s supposed to do?” You’ve spent months in the trenches, and if your agency has done their job they’ve kept the bird’s eye view intact. But by the time the site is built you’re stuck with the firm, and then what? Before choosing, make sure to review their portfolio for cohesiveness as well as design.

Of course, if this were a complete list it would be much, much longer. The main point is to do your homework up front, turn over some rocks. These are just 5 rocks you can turn and get off to a good start.