A website is important for any business, big or small. You might think a Facebook page is all you need, especially since it’s free and convenient; but to provide the customer with all the info they need, a fully functioning website is a must. It’s tempting to hand the development of your website to that eager young relative to save money. This is a really bad idea. But before moving forward with a professional, there are a few questions to ask your web designer and yourself about what you want from your website before signing a web design contract.
Before we start, just a quick note: While a web designer primarily concentrates on the appearance of a website, a web developer concentrates on the back-end under-the-bonnet stuff. They’re not often the same person, and so a website is usually built by a team of more than one. But, to keep things simple for the purposes of this article, we’re just going with the word ‘designer’.
1. What do you want from your website? Has the web designer built a similar one?
If you’re planning to sell physical products from your website, ask your designer if they’ve built an ecommerce site before. Depending on what you’re selling and in what quantities will have a bearing on the experience you need your developer to have. For example, if you’re an artist selling a one-off painting, your site needs may well be no more than a ‘buy now’ PayPal button. But if you have thousands of products with a multitude of variables such as different colors and sizes and various shipping options, etc., you’ll need something far more customizable and powerful.
Ask to see previous examples to see if you like the look of what they’ve done before and if it meets your needs.
Another consideration is style. Take a look at the designer’s portfolio. Is it full of glittery bright colors and flashing graphics, whereas you were planning something more sophisticated and sedate? It’s not just the aesthetics you need to think about either. Will they understand your business and the type of website it needs?
2. Can you update the website yourself and will your designer show you how?
Next on the list of questions to ask your web designer is about the CMS (Content Management System) they’ll be using and how easy it will be to update certain sections yourself. All websites need to be kept fresh with new, up-to-date info and, even if you only want to update the blog now and again or add new items to a shop. Make sure you’ll be able to do this and that you’ll be offered training if needed. If you won’t be having a blog or shop you need to update yourself, ask them how much it’ll cost for any updates/ongoing maintenance.
3. Will it be SEO-friendly and accessible?
It’s all very well having an attractive website with that wow factor, but people need to be able to find it. It has to be user-friendly for everyone, including, for example, those who use screen-readers. Images must be fast-loading and appropriately labelled. A quick, user-friendly, accessible website will look better in Google’s eyes, even before any text is optimized for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Will your developer be installing Google Analytics and providing metrics so you can see how well your site is performing in the search rankings? Let your designer know your goals and ask if they can help you reach them.
4. Who’s providing the content?
Speaking of text, is your designer providing the content or will you be giving it to them? You have a few options here. Write it yourself, hire a copywriter or, if you’re working with an agency, they may have someone in-house who can do this. Although there are obviously cost implications if you hire a copywriter or hand the task to the agency, it can be more cost effective in the long term as it’ll be professionally written with your audience in mind and also optimized for search engines. A badly-written website full of spelling and grammatical errors will put off many potential customers.
5. When can they start and how long will it take?
It’s exciting to visualize your shiny new website and you probably want it as soon as possible. But how long it will take depends on the complexity of the website and how quickly you get everything ready for your designer. Give your designer as much information as possible about your site requirements. This includes how much content you will provide so they can outline a schedule and completion date in the contract.
6. How many edits/revisions are they willing to do?
So, you found the perfect designer whose vision is perfectly aligned with yours. And you love the website at first sight. This is the ideal situation. However, what happens if you like the website, but you can see improvements that could be made? It’s unreasonable to expect the designer to keep tweaking the site indefinitely; but they will probably be prepared to do a couple of rounds of minor edits and revisions.
7. How much will it cost?
This is a completely reasonable question to ask, but please don’t ask it until you’ve given the designer all the info they need to give you a quote. You also need to ask them how they expect to be paid; it’s usual to ask for a deposit. But walk away if they insist on being paid the full amount up front. The final installment shouldn’t be paid until the completion of the website and you’re happy it’s functioning as it should.
These are all important questions to ask your web designer. It’s also important to provide as much information as possible about your business and your website needs and goals. This will help you and your designer work together to create the perfect website for your business.