What CMS is the agency using for their own website?
First have a look at the website of the agency. Is it built with Drupal? If this is the case then it is a pretty good indicator how passionate the agency is about Drupal. If not, Drupal might just be a side gig.
The best way to sniff out the CMS that’s powering the website is using Wappalyzer. This way you can easily see if a website is built with Drupal. Beware that sometimes wappalyzer won’t return any results in the CMS column. In that case the website most likely is headless and can still use Drupal as an underlying infrastructure. In that case it’s best to just straight up ask the agency if they use Drupal for their own website.
What other Drupal websites have they built?
The agency should be able to provide a list of at least five other Drupal websites they have developed. It doesn't need to be exactly in the same industry your business is in. Just make sure they made some Drupal websites. And if you’re looking to get a community built it’s a bonus when they already have something similar included in their portfolio.
What is their knowledge of existing Drupal modules?
If you want an agency to design and build a Drupal website for you it’s because you have a problem. This can be something like:
- I want to attract more customers with my website
- I need to share files privately with my customer
- I want users to search through thousands of nodes
Before you contact an agency it’s important to have a detailed description of your problem. With this you can ask the agency how they think they can solve this problem for you. This doesn’t need to be a step to step guide, but more of a global overview of what techniques, modules or custom code they think will be required.
Hopefully your problem is a common use case and can be solved with existing modules. Ask for a list of modules the agency will be using. If the agency has difficulty providing a list with modules this should be a red flag. They either are not experienced enough knowing what modules are available or they want to solve everything with custom code ignoring already existing technology which can be costly, spiking up the price of the proposal.
If the agency knows Drupal, they know how and where to host it
What does the agency recommend in terms of hosting? Do they provide their own hosting or do they have a partnership with a specific Drupal hosting company? Ask if they can provide a site which is hosted on their preferred Drupal hosting and run the site through a speed test such as Google PageSpeed Insights. Apart from the fact that the website should score well overall in the test, it’s important to check the response time of the server. The so-called Speed index should be below 3.4 seconds because this is a pretty accurate indicator on how fast the hosting actually is.
Accessibility needs to be priority
Accessibility is becoming more important and needs to be a part of the project from the start. Gone are the days that accessibility is just an afterthought. Not having an accessible website is excluding a lot of people properly using your website. So if you’re looking for an agency to design and build your Drupal website make sure that Accessibility is baked in into every project. The easiest way to see if they can follow WCAG guidelines is by inspecting their own website with tools such as provided by WAVE. They don’t have to have a perfect score, which can be hard sometimes, but at least they should make an effort and preferably mention somewhere that they do.
To wrap it all up
So your next Drupal agency preferably uses Drupal for their own website, has a track record of building multiple Drupal websites and knows it’s way around Drupal modules, Drupal hosting and accessibility.