It is three years ago now that we set up our website updating service – helping clients add content to their website so that they could make the most of their site. On the back of that, many clients started asking us if we could build them a new site. Some of these were because they needed to update the site, but many were because they were not happy with either the original design, communications with the designer or how difficult it was to update the site.
So, from our experience here are the top things you need consider when choosing a web designer:
1. Will you be able update the content easily? Most websites are now built on a CMS system . This means Content Management System where the user can change the content without any technical knowledge. WordPress is the best known system for this but there are many other CMS systems available that your site could be built on. However, even if your site is built on a CMS system a designer may code certain aspects or they may add functions that look really complicated for a non-technical person. We recognise that the “back office” of a website can look scary if you are not familiar with it, which is why we include a bespoke manual for all our new-build websites showing exactly how to put on new content.
2. Does the price include the site looking good on mobile devices? Designers will call this a responsive site and there is no reason why a designer should charge extra for the site being responsive it is being built on a template. Always check that this is included in your quote.
3. Do you have a range of design options? Many designers offer a low-price package where you can choose from 2 or 3 basic templates with little choice over design. At the other end of the scale you can have totally unlimited design where the site will be specifically coded for you – this option can cost thousands. We use a WordPress template, but the one we use offers us a huge range of options so we can build you a site that looks unique. We also work with a graphic designer so that we can keep the site in line with your branding. Have a look at these 3 sites (KJ, groove, woodside) to see just how different our template can be.
|Groove Training||KJ Styling||Woodside Garden|
4. Can you add more pages and functions at a later date? As your business grows and changes you will probably want to add more pages and you may want to add new functions such as online bookings or an on-line shop. Will it be easy for you to do this or how much will your designer charge to do the add-ons. Talk to them about what you may need in the future – they may be able to set it up in the background ready to go live when you need it.
5. Does your designer understand what you want from the site and your target market? Your designer should discuss what you want from the site – do you just want it as a static brochure site, do you want to share lots of information, is it to promote events or sell products, is it to showcase your work? For example there is no point in having your front page set up as a group of case studies if you only have one or two clients or products. They should also consider whether your target market is the public of a certain age range or business professionals. I would expect a website for wedding cakes to look very different to a site for an accountant.
6. Is your quote detailed, showing exactly what is included? We always give a detailed quote stating the number of pages and whether add-ons such as testimonials, social media links, newsletter sign-ups, contact forms etc are included, so you know what to expect.
7. Does your designer explain the legal requirements? Websites need to comply with a number of legal requirements, such as EU cookie law and data protection. You should also include terms and conditions, if you are a Ltd Company you should show your registered address and Company number. If you are VAT registered this number should also be on the site. I would also expect them to discuss whether you need a security licence (SSL) for your site.
8. Have you set a target “go live” date? You should look for a company who can work within your timescale, discuss this early on. You will also need to be confident that they will communicate well with you – they need to let you know what you need to provide (copy, photos, testimonials etc) as well as keeping you updated on their progress. They may even need to chivvy you a little bit to hit that deadline! They should also be responsive to your needs and explain issues in terms that you can understand.
9. Is security built into the site? I cannot tell you how many websites I have gone to update that haven’t got an automatic back-up going on and little protection from SPAM attacks. They should also advise you on strong passwords and usernames. Of course, the hosting of the site may include a back-up, but you do need to ask the question.
10. Is basic SEO written into the site? There is little point having a website if you don’t show up in search engines, so as a designer we ensure that there is some basic search engine optimisation (SEO) on the site. This includes giving appropriate names to any photographs (e.g. weddings in York), writing meta-tags (the bit of description that comes up on search engines), setting keywords and editing the text to ensure these keywords appear.
11. Do you get on-going support and how much does it cost? Not only do we provide our website customers with a training manual but we also give them 3-months free “snagging”, so we can make sure everything works as you want it. After that 3 months we offer a range of packages to support the client – our very basic annual package deals will take care of the many updates that come from WordPress and the theme, many of which are for security reasons. Believe me, it is much cheaper to have this maintenance contract than to have your site hacked!
12. Is your designer happy to hand over control? It is quite acceptable that your designer will only give you editing access and not full access. However, there may be times either due to time or cost, for example, that you need full access so that someone else can edit the site. You need to know whether this would be possible in the longer term.