When you’re deciding who you’re going to employ to get your website built it can be a difficult decision. How do you know your web designer is going to give you what you want? How much will the website be? Can you rely on them after you’ve paid? What happens if the worst happens? There are many potential dangers we can help you to avoid.
To assist you in your decision making process we’ve come up with the five key things you should look out for before hiring your web developer. After all it’s better to do research in the first instance, rather than spend a lot of wasted money. This concise overview will assist you to understand some of the areas you should talk through with prospective web designers.
1 – Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Essentially, this means asking if your web developer offers you Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as part of their services. It’s important to be clear on what they do offer and what they don’t offer. Many web designers may be very effective at web design but SEO is a specialism in it’s own right. If they do offer SEO find out what the this actually means in reality. Your web developer may well use a lot of terms you might not be familiar with, such as ‘on page optimisation’, ‘off page optimisation’, ‘page rank’, ‘link juice’, ‘link building’, ‘white hat’ and other techniques etc. It’s worth you taking the time to research these terms and understand what’s important to you and your website. I would recommend avoiding anyone who tells you they can get you to the top of Google in a week / 24 hours or some other miracle time period. For example, it can take up to 6 months depending on what search terms you want to appear for in Google, depending on how competitive your search terms are. Avoid short term gain techniques, these will only sabotage your website down the line for short term gain. Another option to consider is that you may choose to have your custom web design built by a specialist web designer. Then have the SEO done by a dedicated Search Engine Optimisation specialist separately. If you decide to go with this option, it’s worth considering a web developer who uses SEO friendly software in the first instance. Ask your web designer if their software is Search Engine Friendly. If yes, ask them specifically how is the software they use SEO friendly?
2 – Communication
Communication is key to the success of your project. We all know this doesn’t just mean knowing you’ve spoken once and they were very keen to know you and get you on board. You should look to do your due diligence. This should give you a good understanding of how well the web developer communicates with their clients. Find out their opening hours. What happens if there’s a problem? Clarify the ways in which you can communicate with your web developer? Such as telephone, email, instant message, mobile, text message, face to face, forums? If you have an ongoing contract how will communication be managed on a daily basis?
3 – CMS versus Brochures
When the internet began, many websites resembled brochures. You visited a site with lots of static, non dynamic pages. Today, with the increasingly sophisticated web technologies that exist, websites such as Facebook and Twitter update dynamically, in real time.
If you know that you wish to update your website yourself you should seriously consider opting for a Content Management System (CMS). The great benefit is that you can run the website yourself. For brochure style website you might have pay for updates as the web developer has to spend time updating the website on your behalf. If you do go for a brochure style website, find out the ongoing management fees. If they do use a CMS system, ask them what training you’ll have to get up to speed on using and administering the system.
4 – Speed kills
Speed does indeed kill. But in this case it’s slow speed that kills. Any website that loads over 6-8 seconds will quickly turn off visitors. How many times have you clicked on a website and when it slowly loaded you’d had enough? You then moved on or returned to Google. Ask your web designer what hosting packages they use? Is it joint hosting system or on it’s own dedicated server? You should be offered a menu of options for hosting based upon your needs. Be wary if not. Follow up with your web developer on how the hosting works? Talk to your web designer about the options for speeding up your website. This can include a Content Delivery Network (CDN), caching programs and minify. Does your web developer offer these type of services? Remember, slow speed kills, a quick loading website has earned the right to be seen and heard.
5 – To be open or closed?
It’s prudent to ask what would happen in the worst case scenario? If your web developer’s company went bust, would your website still function? For those web developers who use their own in house technology, find out what happens if they did go out of business? Would your website still function? For web designers who use open source technologies such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc these are open source so the technology at least should be safe. Ask about your hosting as well. Is the hosting tied to their own company? Often companies will use third party hosting outside their own company.
Remember, above all, due diligence on your web designer before hiring them. What do independent reviews from previous clients say? How can you communicate with them? Do they offer Search Engine Optimsation (SEO)? What technology do they us? Follow these 5 tips above to get yourself a web developer worthy of your project!
This article was written by Laurence Erikson who works as a web developer at a bespoke web design agency Pixelwoo.