Can’t I just build my own website?
Yes you can design your own website. There are heaps of tools and builders that make building a website easier then ever before. You might even have an eye for design, but that doesn’t make you a website designer any more than me budgeting for my household makes me an accountant. Your website designer should be experienced in ‘website’ design. It’s not the same as print design, industrial design or fashion design. It’s not rocket science, but it is a science.
If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. – Red Adair
Where do I start?
First and foremost, get to know what you want before you go shopping. If your business is established, where is it at? How many leads/sales/customers does your current site generate each month? What do your customers like/dislike about it? Which pages are visited most? What’s the number one thing people visit your site for? Know your target audience and start thinking about your customers journey. If you don’t know what you want your website visitors to do when they get there, you’re not going to yield great results. A good website designer will use this information to guide your website visitors, feeding them the right content at the right time, whilst leading them towards your desired action, be that to fill out a form, pick up the phone, download a document or make a purchase. If your business is brand new, you’ll need to do a little research. Ask your web designer to point you in the right direction and make sure you think hard about the content you provide. You can start with your original business plan.
What should I ask my website designer?
A professional website designer will create a website that is aesthetically pleasing whilst ensuring your message hits the mark with its intended audience – ie your ideal customers/clients. They will follow best practices, adhere to web standards and consider your potential clients and customers every step of the way. A good user experience will do more than provide your website visitors with a fuzzy warm glow, think of it like a form of customer service – one that’s open all hours. Your website will be the central nucleus of all your online marketing, it’s an extension of your brand and should reflect all that is awesome about your products and services.
With this in mind, here are some of the questions you need to ask your website designer or marketing agency before you sign on the dotted line:
Can I see examples of your work & were your clients happy with the results?
This may sound obvious to some but be sure to check out your website designers portfolio. If you like what you see, that’s a good starting point, if you don’t, then move along. Look for testimonials from past clients, not just to see if they liked the finished product, but to discover how the whole project went. Were there any problems along the way, if so were they dealt with promptly, did the site meet the business objectives, have sales and/or enquiries increased and so on. Does the testimonial still stand a year after the website was built?!
What will the website be built with? Will I own it when it’s completed?
Most websites today use a Content Management System (CMS), like WordPress, which ensures you can update your site yourself if you want to. If there are specific areas of the site you want to be able to update, ask your website designer about this. Check that if you decide to move away from that website designer or digital agency that you can take your website with you. If the CMS that your website designer/agency uses isn’t open source, you may find that you have paid for a website that you can’t actually keep and will be tied into that arrangement, meaning you’ll need to rebuild if you want to move away from the agency that built it.
What happens when the site is finished?
A website is like your car, in that it needs to be maintained to keep it looking it’s best and ensure it’s safe from any potential hacks. Here’s why you should be concerned about website maintenance and security. Most website designers and agencies will provide ongoing website maintenance for a monthly fee. Find out how much this is and exactly what it includes.
How long will it take to build my website?
Your website designers workload will often determine how long your website will take. The last thing you want is to pay your deposit and still be waiting for your site in 6 months time! Get to know how long it will take and make sure this works for you and your business.
Will my domain name and hosting account be registered in my name?
Make sure your domain name and hosting account is registered in your name. If the website designer or company you’re dealing with move to the moon (or just go out of business) you will likely have a battle on your hands to get your own details. You should have this information and keep it somewhere safe. This way you will always have control of your own website (and email) and be able to enlist the help of another designer/developer if needs be.
In a nutshell, do your research, talk to past clients, know what you want and ask lots of questions!
Be prepared to trust your chosen professional website designer and listen to their advice. That advice and expertise is part of what you’re paying for. A good website designer will have your best interests at heart and will be prepared to strongly disagree with some of ideas to keep you on the right track.
As with most things in life you get what you pay for, so consider your budget and make sure that you can add to your website at a later date if needs be.