I build websites for small businesses, but I also take over management of websites built by other designers/ developers.
This is often because the relationship between the previous website manager and the client gets strained because there is a lack of trust, poor communication, an inability to make changes or the cost of the changes becomes exceedingly high.
So much time, money and effort can be saved if you choose the right web designer/ builder in the first place and that can be done by asking some of these important questions.
Am I going to be locked into a hosting platform which I cannot take full control of?
Every website needs a hosting provider, this is a service which stores all your website’s information.
Some web developers will lock you into a hosting platform in which they cannot or will not give you the login details of.
This makes the process of walking away from that developer a lot more difficult, effectively locking you in like a gym contract.
And because you don’t have control over it, they can charge you exorbitant fees which you will be forced to pay otherwise your website will be down.
What platform are you going to be building the website on?
There are many platforms in which a website can be built. Wix, Squarespace, WordPress or coded from scratch.
The platforms which your developer uses will massively impact the look, management ease and the maintenance cost of your website.
Whichever platform they tell you, they will try to sell you on why that platform is best, but it is wise to get a second opinion from another developer.
Perhaps they only know how to build a website on Wix, even though Wordpress is better, perhaps they plan to code the website from scratch even though that will make the website difficult to manage.
As a general rule, for small businesses, Wordpress is the best platform to use. (That’s Wordpress.org not Wordpress.com!)
How easy is the website going to be to manage?
Another sneaky way developers lock clients into working with them is making websites hard to manage, and particularly hard for non-technical or other developers to manage.
This could be through making the website unnecessarily code heavy or using a theme which makes customisation very difficult.
Making a website very code heavy does have advantages, and most big business-like Telstra and ANZ will have websites coded from scratch.
That is because they can afford to have a large team of programmers working fulltime on maintaining their website.
Small businesses don’t have that luxury so having a website that is easier and lower cost to manage is very important.
I have seen customers be charged thousands of dollars to make some minor changes which I know if built in a way which was easier to manage could have be done for under $100. Seriously thousands of dollars! I’ve seen this many times!
What kind of SEO techniques are you going to use while building my website?
This is a question I have noticed has not being asked much as I have enhanced the SEO of many websites built by other developers.
Going back and redoing old SEO work uses much more time, effort and money than doing it right first time round.
An example of this is giving images SEO friendly file names, to go back and rename already embedded images takes a lot more time than having them named correctly the first time.
It’s important to not simply ask ‘Will you build my website with SEO in mind?’ because almost everyone will say yes.
By asking what SEO techniques will you use, you can ask a second opinion from another developer to find out if they are suggesting appropriate and adequate SEO work.
What kind of lead generation techniques are you going to use while building my website?
We want our website to generate leads for our business, so is your developer going to optimise the website for lead generation?
Find out what their plan is to maximise leads for your business. Or do they even have one?
What experience do you have with graphic design and copywriting?
All websites need graphics and copy, but where is it going to come from?
Are you, as the client going to write the copy and provide the photos? Are they? If so, are they going to hire contractors, do they have a team with designers and writers and how much are those contractors and extra staff members adding to the cost of the quote?
Knowing this can help you find out if your build may be more expensive than if you went with a developer who had the graphic design and copywriting skills themselves.
If they don’t have graphic design or copywriting experience and they were going to do the entire website build themselves I would question their ability to create a professional looking website.
I have seen countless websites which lacked a graphic designer touch. The result; pixelated imagery, inconsistent graphics and colours or images so unnecessarily large it slows down page load time. Not good!
Will you make my website secure with SSL?
This is a must for a business website yet so many developers don’t even know how to install one.
Make sure your developer knows how to install SSL certificates so your website won’t say ‘Not Secure’ when customers visit.
What on-going costs should I expect to incur?
It is normal for website maintenance to have some costs involved, such as hosting but you have to be weary that you aren't being ripped off.
Getting a rough estimation of on-going costs and having a second opinion from another developer will go a long way to making sure you aren't paying more than you should be.
Then you should ask yourself… Can I trust this designer/ developer?
In any service where the customer doesn’t fully understand the work required to do a service, there is always high potential of ripping the customer of.
Whether it’s the mechanic who pretends your car needs a new engine when it really just needed some oil, or the insurance salesmen who upsells you to the platinum package you really didn’t need, the same is incredibly common in the web design business.
Unfortunately, you can’t simply ask, are you going to rip me off? Or can I trust you? Because those who plan to do such things will always give the convenient answer.
This comes down to you having a conversation with the designer/ developer, getting a feel for them and getting second opinions.
If they gave solid answers to all the above questions, that is a good start.