If your looking to employ the skills of a web designer you might be wondering what questions you need to ask them? Some questions for your website designer will be straight forward, like 'how much' and 'when', but there are a few questions that you might like to ask your designer to you and them at a good understanding and on the right foot going forward.
- Will the website be open source based or custom coded from scratch? (If open source, which software is used? If custom coded, does that include the website theme or is a purchased / open source theme used?).
Open source based websites are prebuilt software packages that are available for free on the web, designers would use this free software to form the base of the website in a couple of minutes. From there they will customise the website to your request, typically adding prebuilt features and themes (the look and feel) that are either available free or via purchase on the web. Common open source software include Magento, Wordpress and Drupal to name a few. Open source based websites can and are commonly targeted by hackers, so it is worth talking to your designer about the security of the website and contingency planning just in case. A hacked Wordpress website can bring a business to it's knees over night.
Custom coded websites are built in traditional style using code by a designer who learnt coding practices. This approach delivers a truly unique and specific solution for your requirements. They are normally hand coded from the ground up and styled to look and feel as you envision / your designers vision (if you told them to 'just do their thing'). Designers can use theme templates as a starting point which are either free or purchased on the web, this base is then customised and compiled to create the final website. The coding is typically high quality and avoids the large load demands and security concerns of some open source platforms.
- Is web, domain & email hosting included in / or available as an added extra to any package / offer you present?
Web, domain and email hosting is a service provided by web companies to make your website and e-mail's work. You need these for any website, just like broadband in your home or business.
Many designers offer these services, alternatively you can choose any national web hosting company, like UK2.net to provide these services for you. This puts you in control and you'd pay the national company directly. Otherwise your designer could provide these services and look after you for the foreseeable future.
- If web, domain & email hosting is provided can I ask a) what is the annual renewal cost of these services, b) when will the service period start and end, c) do I as the customer own & have full control over the domain name?
If your designer does offer web, domain and email hosting you can explore these additional questions so there are no surprises in the future. Best practice is for you the customer to own and control the domain name, then let your designer provide hosting if you don't have hosting already. This way you control and own the domain name, should anything go astray you'll thank yourself later.
- What, as the customer do I need to supply for the website?
This might seem obviously but it's greatly under-appreciated on the customers side. Clearly set out who's writing all the content for the website and providing images and logos. Not all designers know how to word your products or services and poor quality content won't help your website over all. Consider a copywriter to write your web page content.
- As the customer, can I edit the website content myself?
Think about if you need to edit your new website. Do you want to edit content, add pictures, continue a blog? Do you have time? Many customers have asked me in the past if they can edit a site, only to discover a year later they have never edited it and completely forgotten how to do it. Or they don't want to edit the site when we build it, but change their mind 6 months later, by which time it's too late. Consider the pro's and con's between paying someone to update your website against doing it yourself. If you have the time or your business is very online focused, go for it!
- If I cannot edit the website content myself, what do you charge for website updates and how is that determined?
Simple question that will help you decide on whether editing access is required.
- If I can edit the website content, do you provide training / or is third party training available?
Most designers will give you one to one training, some will help you over the phone / email. Some won't provide training at all, but don't fret, there are many online videos and tutorials for the most common open source based websites. You'll find huge online communities of people using the same open source website software, so help is pretty much everywhere. There may also be local courses in your college / community centres and funded workshops run by Government.
- When the website is finished, will it show on the top of Google the next day?
I will answer this one for you now; No!
A new website will not automatically appear on the top of Google the next day, nor anytime soon. To appear on the first page of Google, let along Google at all you need to undertake website marketing actions for a period of time and ideally continue at it. Consult with an Internet Marketer or SEO Consultant for advice. See the following 2 questions.
- Will you apply detailed SEO (search engine optimisation) to the final website pages? If so, what will the SEO be based on and what market / keyword research will be undertaken before hand?
This is a largely miss understood area, SEO is about optimising a web page so it will perform to its best on the webs search engines. For best results research and understanding of the industry, customers and customer trends is quite important. Most designers will know this and understand what they need to do, your input here can be very useful and you could even use the services of a marketing professional. Not all designers are good at SEO and some might give you editing control and assume that you will apply the SEO to web pages, which makes you ask the question 'how do I SEO my website?'.
- When the new website is complete will you a) submit it to major search engines, b) conduct any link building actions, c) do any other online marketing actions?
This is about knowing everyone's obligations, where do your designers duties end. A website and marketing a website are two very different things. Like a motor vehicle garage and a car valeting garage, we all want a car that works perfectly and looks brand new, but to achieve that we need the skills of two very different industries.
Don't be surprised if your designer says they will only submit the website to the major search engines. Anything beyond that is really 'website marketing' and a service provided by Internet Marketers and SEO Agencies.
- On completion will I be supplied with a copy of the website files / database on memory stick / CD or digital download?
Having a copy of your final website is always a good idea, just in case. Some of the open source based website will be a combination of web files and a database and not really viewable unless you install it on a web hosting platform correctly. Either way it's good to have a day 1 backup version.
- Are periodic backups made of the website automatically, manually by yourself or manually by myself? If so how are they accessed if ever required.
Many of the open source based websites can come with automatic backup systems, some will even backup to the cloud. If this isn't an option because your site is not open source based your designer may do backups for you, or if you manage the web hosting services yourself then you will be able to create a backup when required.
If you do have a open source based site like Wordpress, a backup version is quite important, especially if your website gets hacked. Hackers tend to delete backup versions if they find them, so make sure you actually download your backup to somewhere safe and do it regularly.
I hope these questions help you in your quest for a new website and finding the perfect designer.