Spring's a great time to take a fresh look at your website. But how do you know if your web designer's any good? Here's 10 Awkward Questions to help you find out.
Who owns the code?
You paid for the site, you should own it. You should be able to move the site wherever you want at any time, and your web designer should co-operate to help you do that. Holding your site hostage is no way for your web designer to win your loyalty!
Is it “Open Source”?
Open source code is free, yet some companies write their own. That's more expensive and usually not as good. Open source code is well supported, stable and secure and benefits from free updates.
An in-house CMS is expensive for your developer to maintain and support, and may be subject to instability and security risks. Someone has to pay for that in the end - usually you!
There's no need to take chances with so much good quality, free software about. If your web developer's not using open source software, they are carrying an overhead that they could do without.
Do you get a Content Management System (CMS)?
Websites used to have a fixed number of pages, and you had to pay your designer to make changes. Today, quality websites allow you to update your own site with a CMS.
If you haven't got a CMS on your site, your web designer will usually charge you every time you want to make a change to your site. A competent web designer should be able to fit a simple CMS to any 10-page website for less than £100 (unless your site is designed entirely from Flash, in which case you're stuck with it!)
Is it modular?
Developing functions like booking systems or quote generators from scratch costs thousands. With modular sites, you can add them without spending a fortune.
Ask your web designer how much it would cost to add an e-commerce module or a calendar that users can log into to upload their own diary entries. If the answer's in the hundreds, chances are your system is modular.
If there's much sucking of air through teeth and theatrical cheek-blowing, and the quote runs to four figures, your developer is using laborious methods to write everything from scratch. Very expensive!
Is the code certified?
Search engines give higher rankings to code certified to W3C standards, so certified code is essential.
Where will the site be hosted?
Sites hosted abroad are subject to data bottlenecks, and search engines get confused about where the business is based. Support is in a different time zone, and money leaves the UK economy. A quality UK host is the best option for UK business.
Will it be designed in-house?
Some designers outsource to India or Eastern Europe. They add their profit margin, and so does the company arranging the work. It costs just as much, but with a fraction of the control.
Can you personally brief the designer?
It's important to speak directly to the person designing the site. Otherwise, how can they possibly know what you want?
If there's a chain of people between you and the designer, there will inevitably be misunderstandings and to-ing and fro-ing before they get it right. If you can brief the designer personally, you can tell them exactly what you want.
Is it custom-designed from scratch?
Some designers use cheap templates or site-building software. Quality designers create your design from scratch. If your designer tries to restrict you, you'll get a site just like everyone else's not the site you want.
Has everyone involved got real business experience?
Designing a website that sells is a marketing challenge, so real-world experience running an off-line, non-Internet businesses is essential.
Can your designer advise on email marketing, blogging, SMS text marketing, social media, pay-per-click marketing and search engine optimisation?
Your website's just the start. For it to be found, a structured Internet Marketing campaign is essential. Your web designer should be able to advise you on how to do that properly, otherwise you'll waste time and money.
If your designer answers these questions well, you're in safe hands. If he shifts uncomfortably, makes excuses or stares at the floor, it's time to look elsewhere.
Being able to trust your web designer is so important. Pick the wrong one, and you're in for trouble. Get it right and your web design hassles will be over.