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“Wish I’d known that before contracting a web developer”

Unfortunately this is something we are coming across more when meeting new clients – usually small businesses. They have had a website created for them but don’t actually know if it is any good and ticks all the boxes that you need for a successful website. Once we have sat done and gone through some simple tips with a business we hear the same thing – “Wish I’d known that before contracting a web developer”

We have come up with some simple questions that you should be asking your web designer when they are building you, your new site.

  1. Will I be able to edit the website myself?

Although you may not feel you are tech savvy or have the time at the moment to update your website, if you don’t have a content management system behind your website it is most likely the website has been written in PHP or HTML (the funny looking text you see developers typing away and look like another language) and you will not have the ability to edit the site. What does this mean? More costs in the future and you will be tied to your web developer to make any changes. This might seem ok in the short term but this is where we see the issues in the long run! When a main SEO practise is to have your website updated regularly with new relevant content this puts you in a difficult position.

There are several different platforms or CMSs out there which web developers can use. Make sure the web developer is using one which meets your business needs. Some platforms can specialise in specific business functions such as ecommerce or stock control so ask in depth questions about the functionality of your website.  You should also be aware that some websites are proprietary and template based (Wix, SquareSpace, GoDaddy etc.) whereas others are Open Source (this includes our favourite WordPress). It is also worth highlighting here that you can be very restricted if your site is not Open Source so bear this in mind when considering what platform your website will be built on.

  1. Will the website be fully responsive?

With over 51.3% of websites now loaded on mobile devices, it is vital that your website is fully responsive. This means that no matter what device you look at the website on, it will still look good and be easy to navigate. If you are unsure if your website is responsive Google have come up with a handy tool to tell you – https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

When you are building a website from scratch we believe it is best practise to design up so we start with the mobile site and then build it up to look great on desktops too. So there shouldn’t be any unforeseen development costs to make your new site responsive!

  1. Will I own the website and the domain name?

One of the first things you should do when speaking to a web developer is ask them if they are willing to sign over all the intellectual property rights to your website. If the answer is no – that is a big red flag right there. You are paying and investing in something that is very specific to your business so make sure you own it at the end of the day.

If your web developer is going to host your website and domain name for you that’s great! One less thing to worry about but make sure it is very clear from the beginning who owns the domain name and who it is registered to. If the web developer has registered the domain name on your behalf make sure you have it in writing that they will transfer the domain name to you if you terminate your contract with them or they sell their  business. If this is not clear from the start you will have no control over the domain name which reflects your business further down the line. Do not get held to ransom over your domain name!

  1. What if I don’t like the design of the website?

To avoid wasting both your time and the web designer’s time it is a good idea to have as detailed a brief as possible to give to the web designer. A good place to start is by keeping a note of websites that you like or parts of them that you like. It is also good to note what you don’t like! Furthermore take a look at what your competitors are doing and make sure you are producing something that stands out with your unique selling points. The best practise here is to agree in advance to how many revisions of a design you are able to have before additional charges are made. (Most web agencies will have this in their terms & conditions). The best thing to remember here is that you know your business more than anyone, so sit down for a cup of tea with your web designer and tell them all about your business. You will be surprised what they can pick out from just chatting to you.

  1. Will my website rank number one in Google?

This is a question we get asked all the time so I thought I would finish off with addressing some of the misconceptions of how Search Engine Optimisation works. With there being several factors on how Google will rank your website it is impossible to promise a first position ranking on Google, especially using organic (non-paid) strategies. There are several things to consider when making your site easy to be found by your target audience. This includes keywords, Meta data, blogs, sitemaps etc. – too many to go into detail here.

Your web developer is not going to make you rank first on Google by producing you a new basic website however, what they can do is make sure they have ticked all the technical boxes whilst building the website which contributes to SEO strategies. This gives you a good foundation to work on and build the credibility of your site. Furthermore, make sure they have given you the ability to change the meta data and alt tags – something which is often missed! So a web developer is not going to automatically give you a first position ranking in Google but they can give you the foundations you need to get your site up there!

All of these things highlighted are basic practise in the world of website design and development but it can be a mind field out there. Make sure you ask these simple questions before signing anything and you can avoid issues further down the line. If you are unsure about your website or need some advice on the matter, please contact me – elspeth.adamson@portaltechnologies.uk