I always tell people that finding a good web developer is like finding a good mechanic. Like with mechanics, you can get ripped off, and/or the work might not be up to par causing your website to need to be repaired or redone.
Unfortunately, with having been a UX/UI designer and web developer for decades, I’ve seen it all. I have seen code that looks like it was written by someone who is five years old, websites that were incredibly overpriced only to have to be redone, and I have seen clients lose access to their website and not have true ownership of it.
Your website is incredibly important. Not only is it something you will likely spend a good amount of money on, it is something that is most likely vital to your company’s revenue capabilities as well as an information hub for existing customers. Also, remember that your website is a reflection on you and your company. It’s often times a first impression.
While it would be easiest to just hire Dashal, here are must-ask questions for a web developer or agency you are having design and develop your website.
CMS (Content Management System)
What content management system are they using? This is very important as you need the ability to update your own content. You never want to be in a position where you have to rely on other people. Most sites now use WordPress. While there are others, there is really no reason to use them as there isn’t anything that can’t be done in WordPress and it is so popular that should you need another developer or company in the future, it won’t be hard to find. Please be incredibly skeptical if a company is offering their own CMS. This is usually a complete ripoff. It’s a way for a company to charge you much more than you need to be charged and keep you forever paying large fees. There is rarely a time where you need a custom CMS. There are times where it could make sense, but those are few and far between.
When your website is complete, make sure that you fully own the code and site. After all, you are paying for it. Make sure that you are sent the full source code and database on website completion.
Make sure that you have CPANEL access to your website. It is crucial that you have access to your site’s code and database at all times whether you are using the same company who developed the website or not.
The speed at which your website loads is incredibly important to its success. Ask who you are having your site developed with, what are they doing to make it fast. They should have a benchmark of under 2 seconds on average. There are several things that can be done to increase speed. I wrote a great article on this. Make sure they are using tools like https://gtmetrix.com.
Make sure they will be utilizing things like code minification, caching, expires headers, image optimization, GZip, CDNs, and so on.
SEO is critical for most businesses’ online success. SEO isn’t just about content. How a site is coded, if there will be an SEO plugin that will also allow for canological links, tags. All websites when launched should be crawl tested.
Is the site a custom theme or an existing one?
You should know what you are paying for. While Dashal primarily works on custom themes so that your website is unique to your company and brand, a lot of other developers and companies use pre-existing themes, which in a lot of cases can be fine, but if that is the case your website can look like every other site using that theme.
What content can you add and edit?
Being able to add, edit content is important for a website owner. It’s one of the main reasons why websites today are built using a content management system. That doesn’t mean, however, that all of the content will be editable. I run across sites all the time that are developed with some of the content hard-coded which often makes the website owner need a developer to change it in the future.
Process and timelines
Ask about the process and have the web developer set goals and timelines for both you and them regarding deliverables. This is critically important to getting the website designed and built in a timely manner. Get an estimated timeline when the project will be complete.
Portfolio and references
Always ask to see their portfolio of work and if you can contact previous customers they have serviced. Remember that not only is there a cost involved with having a website created, if the person or company isn’t capable of producing a quality site that meets your needs, it can greatly affect your business.
There is the standard adding of tools like Google Analytics. Tools like Google Analytics can have more advanced uses than just adding the standard code to the website. An example of this, is If you are a website owner, you will likely have some action(s) that you hope the user takes. This could be purchasing a product, subscribing to your blog, perhaps a contact form. Conversion tracking gives you incredibly important data that allows you to see what is working or not working. Even if a call to action appears to be working, could it be working better?
During the design process, several revisions might need to be done until you can fully approve the design. A lot of web designers and agencies will cap the number of revisions.
Even though websites should be and hopefully are rigorously tested by both the web development company and the client, something could have been overlooked or not working as expected. It doesn’t happen often, but once in awhile something breaks because of an update. At Dashal we offer our clients a six month coding guarantee, which means if something breaks on a site we have developed within six months, we will fix it for free. Make sure you ask your web developer if their code is guaranteed.
Websites need to be maintained. CMS’s are always coming-out with new versions that include things like new functionality and security enhancements. Plugins need to be updated, backups and security checks need to happen. Does your web developer or company offer monthly maintenance packages? Also, what if something breaks and needs to be fixed? Can you count on them to help in the future?
Content and media
Make sure that you ask who is supplying content and media resources.
Besides web design and development, there are other services that you may need like content writing, SEO, online advertising, social media and so on. A lot of these services are best under the same umbrella so that they can work better together.
Your website is a vital tool in today’s Internet world. It can be the difference in the success and failure of your company. Make sure that you ask the right questions and that you get a person or a company who is competent like Dashal.