If you are thinking about getting a new website that will be the focal point of your online marketing, what should you look for when hiring a website designer, developer or agency? This will vary based on your specific needs, but here is a start to make sure you are armed and ready to uncover any potential issues.
Are you (or agency) a designer, developer or both?
- Here are some very broad and unwarranted generalisations but serve as a good starting point. A designer won’t understand the best way to “make things work”. A developer will give you something that looks like everything else out there. An agency will easily use all your budget. What is the best choice? It will come down to the specifics of your website needs, but consider an agency. They will have people with a variety of skill sets working on your site.
How does your new website cater to mobile, desktop and everything in between?
- You’ll want to listen out for things like Foundation, Bootstrap, Gumby, Unsemantic or Skeleton. These are very popular CSS frameworks that support rapid production, are used by many developers and are rock solid in performance. If these aren’t being used it should be something similar and documented. And what is CSS? It is the language used to present html, which includes elements like colour, layout and fonts.
Skeleton: Beautiful Boilerplate for Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Development
If a Content Management System (CMS) is being used, what is it?
- If a CMS is being used, is it open source or proprietary? In short, open source means the website software is widely available, while proprietary means it is solely used by your prospective provider. If you go down the proprietary path you’ll most likely be tied to your designer / developer forever. Open source means you’ll have freedom to select who works on your site.
Blog Tool, Publishing Platform, CMS
What deliverables are provided with your new website?
- Are you getting the basics included such as Google Analytics, an XML sitemap, a robot.txt file, alt text on all images, a keyword strategy on each page, competitor analysis, website goal tracking, and the list goes on. The things under the hood can be just as important as the outward appearance of your site. A good place to start is to ask for what is not included in the package.
How easy is it to blog?
How does social media and email marketing integrate?
- Email is the most effective form of marketing for small businesses. Social media is the new word of mouth and a powerful testimonial tool for your business. You need to have a plan to make these three form your online engine. Bundle these together as part of the project.
When can you start?
- Get this question in early to make sure your deadline can be met. Do they have capacity now and how long will the project take to deliver.
Do you support long term relationships?
- If you are in a growth phase and in need of support after launch, it pays to check if you can be supported when needed. Some may want to hand work over to a third party once the website launch is complete.
This is not an exhaustive list, but should serve in creating a meaningful dialogue with an agency or individual. A desirable contact will be able to talk to all of these points and should make you feel comfortable and confident in going forward.
What else would you like to cover as part of your online mix?
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