Commissioning a website can be a minefield. As with any industry there are some cowboys but I firmly believe that most problems arise due to miscommunication. And it’s no wonder when there are so many different options and technicalities to understand.
Over the past few months we have “rescued” a number of businesses who had somehow managed to fall out with their supplier. This is my check-list to help avoid this:
- Your website address (www.mybiz.co.uk) is a really important asset and you really do not want to lose it. Domain names cost a few quid so buy them yourself. (You can go to www.123-reg.co.uk). It’s fine for your supplier to purchase your domain, just as long as it is in your name. You can check the public records for your domain at www.who.is.
- Make sure you review your content management system (CMS). Is it easy to use? Does it allow enough control over the website? What kind of support is on offer? How portable is the website once built (you don’t want to be stuck with a CMS that only works on one hosting supplier or cannot be moved). It is not usually easily possible to add/change your CMS once built since the website is normally created within the CMS itself.
- How much support does your prospective supplier offer, does it match your requirements and how much does it cost? Whilst there are many talented developers and designers out there you will usually receive more support from an agency than a one man band working from home.
- There are many different types of website so check your supplier’s portfolio of work matches your requirements. Don’t judge a portfolio by looking at pretty pictures: visit the websites and contact the owners for references.
- It’s often easier to allow your supplier to organise any third party requirements. Don’t try to shop around for your own hosting, CMS, merchant banking, shopping cart etc. and then expect to find a single supplier who can bring it all together. It will be cheaper overall (and much less stressful) if you find a supplier you trust and allow them to recommend the tools they usually work with.
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) is rarely included in the price of a website. This is because SEO takes time, uses different skills and is an ongoing process. If your supplier tells you that the website will be optimised then double check: ask for a list of what they will do. If they are not doing keyword research or offering to help with your website copy – then they are not really optimising. They probably mean it’ll be search engine friendly. Having a search engine friendly website is a great start, but make sure that you can add SEO if you wanted.
- Ask your supplier how compliant your website will be with industry web standards and accessibility regulations. You also need to know what browsers (like firefox, chrome, internet explorer) they support. This may sound boring but loosing 20% of visitors due to a poorly coded website is not much fun.
- We worked with someone this week who had opted for a freelancer with no portfolio in exchange for a discount. Typically what happens in this situation is that the supplier has bitten off more than they can chew and the client grows frustrated with the project. The result is a dissatisfied client and a poorly motivated supplier.
- Designing a website is a service and ultimately you are paying for time. If you know that you are going to want to have discussions about the website and lots of help, you will need to increase your budget. Designing and coding a website correctly takes time so ask how many hours/days is included in your quote and work out if this reflects your needs.
- At the end of the day even if the website is a brilliant shining example of loveliness, it will not make you any money if the content is poor. You need good copy and great images. If you are planning on creating your own content then I would recommend reading around the topic of writing copy for the web.
You need to know that your supplier will be capable of supporting your growing business by supplying a website that works. Swapping suppliers half way through a project can be a nightmare. As with all business choices, it’s all about return on investment – whatever your budget make sure that you do understand exactly what you are getting.
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Land Rover web application We have been working with Guildford based Land Rover distributors, Guava, since 2005. We designed, built and continue to support Guava Dealer: Land Rover’s secure on-line vehicle and part ordering system. Guava fulfils all orders for Land Rover vehicles and parts for the whole of Europe. Guava asked B Websites toContinue Reading