Choosing the right Website Designer/Agency for your BusinessAs the end of the year is almost here, many businesses will be thinking of marketing in 2014 and one investment maybe in a new website. After all, this is one of the most cost effective marketing tools that a business has and with technology as well as design changing at a quick pace changing your site is something that should be looked at on a regular basis.
There are some questions to ask before you or your marketing manager/team embarks on the change, the world of web is not likely to be your area of expertise, why should it be? In order to ensure that you are getting the best from your budget choosing the right company to do the job is imperative. You could look at the agencies portfolio of design work is good but it does not give any indication if the web site will work for you and importantly for your customers.
As you may be thinking about this now, here are a few things that you should be asking designers and what answers to expect and why.
Will my web site be built in a Content Management System?
This is very important as you want to have access to your web site to make changes as and when required without incurring any extra cost but more importantly at a time frame that suits you and your business. You do not want to be in a position of emailing your web site designer with changes or a news story and then finding that the update cannot be done for a few days due to other work commitments that the web site designer has on at the time.
A content management system (commonly known as a CMS) is basically a user friendly front end system that you can login to once the web site is built and make changes to content. In theory you can change much more but do remember that a web site is built in code and what you see is just the nice looking side of it. Go investigating into all the things you can do and you could end up in a mess. Most of the time having access to edit content, images, add news and update calendars is what you will need.
It is always worth asking the web site designer what content management system they use and why. If they have developed their own system then if you ever wanted to change providers or they went out of business this could cause and issue further down the line as other web site design agencies would then have to start over and rebuild a new web site from scratch. There are many very good and well known content management systems available to choose from and all design agencies would be able to pick a main stream one up and amend if it came to it. It is also worth asking how user friendly it is and can you have a look at the back end. Some of the systems have so much flexibility that they are great for the designer but a nightmare for end users to understand and if you are going to be the ones updating your own web site in house you need it to be easy for you and your team to use. If a designer is reluctant to show you what they use or give you access to have a look do question why, this is your web site that you are paying for and going forward it is the best thing for you and your business.
In saying all that there are some cases where a complex web site is required and general content managements systems are not suitable for the job so a bespoke back end system is developed just for that project. For the vast majority of businesses this is not usually the case.
Will my web site be a bespoke design or from a template?
Your web site may be the first impression that someone gets of you and your business. If the end user is looking around and uses the internet on a regular basis, they may see that your website is the same layout as another but with different colours and a different logo. What does that say about you? You and your business are unique, you offer similar products and services as your competitors will but in order to get the work all small/medium business owners know that they have to offer added value. Your web site needs to show this off and not look like one of many.
Beware it is not always cheaper either!
In some cases be aware that some designers will charge the same price for a template as it would cost for bespoke design. You may think you are getting a cheaper option but that is not necessarily the case. As a business owner you should show yourself off to the best of your abilities, you and your business are unique so should not your web site be bearing in mind we already know this could be the first impression a client gets of you?
If the designer says it is a bespoke design then make sure to ask what language is it built in? The answer you are looking for is HTML5, anything else and it is out of date and if he cant answer then it could be a template that you are actually getting.
What testing will you do once my site is built?
This is really testing the web site designer’s knowledge and expertise. The answers you should be getting include the answer to the next question, i.e. the web browsers that the site will be tested to work with but also you need to listen out for the Equality Act and the EU Cookies Directive as all websites must comply with these legally!
Do you include any search engine optimisation (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a huge area but the basics should really be included on your website before it goes live. I am aware however that this is sometimes asking too much of smaller design agencies as they are primarily designers and who do not really keep in touch with this area and the ongoing changes of which there are so many and so often.
By the basics I mean simply things such as:
- Adding the Title Tags to each page and not leaving them as ‘Home’ or the ‘Company Name’ for example.
- Making sure that all images, logos and graphics that have been used have descriptions.
- Each page should have a basic page description set up in the back end.
- Setting up each page with a friendly URL where possible (not the standard page names)
- Using relevant headings within H1 and H2 tags.
If the web site designer says that this is not included as it is not their area of expertise then you can do this yourself once you have access to the content management system. If this is not your area either then do ask someone to have a look at it for you as there is little point in investing in the site if the public can’t find it due to the basics.
Can you design a mobile friendly version?
As more and more people access the internet via their smart phones this becomes all the more important. All good web site designers should offer you this at the same time as that way the cost should be kept down. It maybe that you feel that your business does not need to have one which is fine, but do ask and consider it.
Mobile website design though can be seen as a specialist area; ask to see examples of work to make sure that the web designer can deliver one and what will be included. One important question at this stage is to ensure that it will all be updated from the same place at the same time. What you do not want is to have to update the main web sites content in one system and then again in another, it can all be done in one.
Finally, this is not a complete list of things to ask, but a selection of what I think are important and now is a good time of year to be thinking about your website and ask if it is time for an overhaul and indeed is it working for you?