Last week, I wrote a post that discussed the first 5 questions to ask when you are shopping for a web designer. Building a web site is no easy feat, so 5 questions is clearly not enough to give you the full picture to prepare you to make the best investment possible. So, let’s expand on that topic and provide some additional insight so you’re well prepared.
The topics below should also be part of your discussion with a designer. As your on-line brochure, you want to ensure that you approach the project to get the best representation possible and get some longevity out of your site.
1. Does the web site include a blog? Have a blog added to your website because this is where, you as a business owner, have the opportunity to update and add regular new content to your website over time. While I’m a huge believer in the value of blogging for a multitude of reasons, I also know that not everyone makes is a great writer. Even if you’re not a great writer, there are other ways to take advantage of a blog that will still allow you to add new content over time. That content could simply include pictures, upcoming events, video, and even Frequently Asked Questions.
2. Maintenance and Training. Every web site will require some level of maintenance. With sites that are designed in Content Management Systems (CMSs), new and updated versions of the CMS come out regularly and because those versions have fixes and new features in them, it’s a good idea to upgrade regularly so you can take advantage of those features etc. Updates required could also be a result of your hosting company as well. You then have to decide if this is something you can do yourself or if you need an expert’s assistance. And this kind of thing should also figure into your overall budget and your ongoing budget to ensure you keep your site in tip top shape and it continues to work for you over the long run. Your business will evolve and your web site needs to be flexible enough to evolve too–without a complete redesign every time you need to add or change material. Ensure that your designer includes training so that you know how to use the tools and make basic changes.
3. Does your designer ask questions to help them understand your business? There really is a science to designing a web site and there are certain items on the site that should be placed in certain places–like above the fold and on each page. Your web designer should be an expert in web design so they should be asking you about things like who you want to reach, calls to action, and lead generation. They should also be asking you about colors and branding guidelines for the site design.
4. Confirm that your designer doesn’t use flash. Flash is really older technology, yet surprisingly enough, I talked with someone recently who just launched a new web site and their designer used flash, and this is really too bad, because this new business is already at a disadvantage. Creative director Tanya Salcido of Design Action Studios says that there are now much better ways to show off a portfolio. She states, “The downsides to using flash include the fact that the technology is not compatible with smartphones, iPads or tablets which won’t be able to display the site, and, from an SEO perspective, it’s really like The Great Wall of China.” Flash is a thing of the past.
5. Who owns the web site? This is an important question to ask your designer because unless the documentation from the designer outright says that you, as the client, own the web site, there is risk. If they maintain ownership of the website, you could be at their mercy. Ask for documentation that turns ownership of the site over to you.
Your online presence is incredibly important in a time when we consult the web for help with many of the buying decisions we make. Investing in a web site is a necessity so be sure to do your homework and talk to a few different designers. And talk to others who’ve recently built new web sites and note the word recent. Technology changes rapidly. Ask for referrals from others who’ve gone through the process and ask the designer if you can speak with some of their clients.
Next week, this series will continue. So while the designer has a critical role in building the web site, so do you as the business owner. In the next post, we’ll talk about ways to prepare yourself for this process.
I’d love to hear your comments and questions that might still be unanswered, so go ahead and post them below.