If you are considering hiring a web developer to build your website, then this article is for you. With a seemingly endless choice of web design companies and price ranges, it’s not exactly easy to compare providers and choose the right web designer for your business needs.
Even if you know very little about web design, it’s possible to get your website built on budget and on time. But you will need to arm yourself with some basic knowledge so that you know what to ask a web designer before you hire them. This will allow you to assess the answers and be confident that they’ll deliver a website that looks great, works the way it should, and represents your business in a professional way.
Here at Web Chameleon we’ve transitioned from offering website design services, to now offering online training programs for those keen to create, manage, optimise and market their own website. Because in the past we have offered website design services, and because we are in the industry with a very good understanding of what’s involved, we are in a position to offer unbiased assistance to you, in this often difficult process of choosing a website designer.
Here are some of the top questions you should ask a web designer to determine whether they are the right fit for your business.
1. Can I see examples of your website work? Get the designer to show you some examples of the websites they’ve created that are in a similar price range to what you are budgeting for. Make sure that you like their work, as it’s likely your new website will be similar in style to what they are proficient at creating. Take this to the next level, and contact a few of their clients to see if they were happy with the process, the end result and how long the project took.
2. Who will manage the project and who is doing the technical work? Depending on the company you go with, you may have the one person who does it all, or you may have a manager that you work with and behind the scenes there’s a number of people involved in the project. These can include graphic designers, programmers and copywriters. You need to know – who will be your central point of contact? Is it someone you can easily relate to and communicate well with? Are they a technical expert or is someone else in charge of the technical stuff. It’s important for you to have a relationship with the key people making decisions about your project, so that you can communicate with them directly.
3. What is the process if I don’t like the initial design? It’s important to know how many rounds of changes they will allow in your scheduled fee. Some companies offer you unlimited changes till you are happy, others will make you pay if you do not accept one of the first few rounds of designs and changes. Keep in mind if you have taken note of question 1, and looked a the website designers existing work, and you like it, it is pretty likely they will design something you are happy with very quickly. Have them outline for you the creative process so that you are confident that you’ll be happy with the end design, proposed colours, fonts and images. Ideally, you should have a very good idea of what the end result will look like before production commences. Many companies have multiple ‘sign off”s’ which help to keep the project within scope – such as a sign off at ‘brief’ stage, then ‘concept’ stage, and finally at ‘launch’ stage.
4. What about content? Many web designers (and clients) focus on the design of the website, and forget about content until later. This is usually a costly mistake! A successful website is one that communicates its content effectively. The words on your website have the power to make your website a success, or a failure. The content needs some planning to ensure it will provide the information your website visitors want, that it will work to convert website visitors into clients, and that it will be optimised for search engine results (see Question 9 for more on SEO). Planning your website’s content in the early stages of the project is vital, so that your site is designed to suit your content.
5. How will you handle final changes? Ask the designer how many hours they provide for any bug fixes or last changes when the website is live. Some designers charge for every single update post sign off, and others allow a certain number of hours or changes. Make sure you understand this, so you make all the necessary changes before the site goes live. This brings us to the most commonly asked question …
6. How much will the project cost? Whilst having a great website is obviously important to any business owner, the cost will play a big role in which web designer you choose. Truth is, websites can range in price from a few hundred dollars up into the $10,000′s. We feel the average investment for a small business website sits somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500. Big differences can arise based on how much graphic design work is incorporated as well as what specialised functionality is included (such as shopping carts).
7. How can I make changes to the site in the future? Make sure you are comfortable with the process for making future updates. Will they provide you with a Content Management System (CMS) so you can make basic changes yourself? Or do you need to pay them to make a change for you. This is incredibly important, because if you want to make a simple change to something like a phone number, address or even pricing information, you need to know whether it’s possible to do it yourself or whether you’ll have to pay for it.
8. How long will it take to build and launch my new website? Every project needs a realistic turnaround time. Based on the agreed specifications, your website designer will be able to tell you how long it will take to complete your website. Make sure you know what will be expected of you throughout the process, so that you can respond quickly to any decisions that need to be made. Also, be sure to discuss what happens if completion of the project is taking longer than expected.
9. What will they do to make my site ‘search engine friendly’? Getting your website listed by search engines such as Google, is a big topic and an important one. Your website needs to be structured and coded properly internally so that it can be easily optimised for search engines. Your web designer is not necessarily responsible for every aspect of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of your website, but it is important they understand the topic, and unfortunately, some web designers do not. Keep in mind that unless you are hiring them to do so, they are not responsible for your search engine results, or for the ongoing SEO work that is required to keep you at the top of search engine results. Make sure that you understand what they will do for you as part of your SEO strategy, and what you need to manage yourself.
10. Will my domain name and hosting account be registered in my name? Make sure your domain name registrations and hosting accounts are signed up in YOUR name, not the website design companies name. With the domain names you may even be able to do this yourself and then just provide the details to your web designer. With the hosting of your website, which refers to where your website files will be hosted, your web designer may have you host your website with them, or they may help to set you up with an external hosting service. Transferring ownership of domain names or hosting accounts at a later stage can be problematic, especially if two years down the track your web designer has closed up shop and moved on to other ventures!
Unfortunately, there are many self-proclaimed web design experts out there and it is an industry that grows daily. Not all website designers are equal, which is why it pays to have some knowledge before you enter the market. Be informed, ask around for referrals and ask lots of questions before making your decision.
If you have found this article to be helpful, please do let us know. Leave a comment below or come join us on Facebook to comment!
And if you’re ready to take control of your own website, Web Chameleon can help you set up, manage & optimise your own WordPress Website with our training program, Website Mastery.