When buying a car, a house, a service or a computer there are certain questions you may wish to ask to check that the product you are going to get will be of a high standard or to check that your service provider knows what they are talking about.
A website is no different. Unfortunately as in many industries, there are a lot of ‘cowboys’ or those who do not know what they are doing or are unable to provide an adequate end product or service. A good idea to test out their knowledge is to ask them a few questions, preferably face to face or over the phone so that they can’t ‘google’ their way out of it…
At the very least they should be able to answer these questions:
Can you explain to me how a content management system works?
What browsers do you test the site in?
What markup language will you be using?
Will the site’s code be w3c valid?
Will the site be table based? (if they say yes, run away!)
Can you step me through the process of designing and building the site?
What server side languages will the site use (if any)?
Most web designers, unless they are fully focused on the design and have nothing to do with the coding should be able to answer any of those questions. If not consider someone else. (i.e. Webgrafter!)