Questions You Should Ask Your Web Developer
So you’ve decided you need a website, but what you really want is more than likely an online presence. This article outlines some of the questions you should ask you whoever you are putting in charge of your online presence. If you don’t get suitable answers it’s a good sign you may need to engage with someone else as well as your web developer.
So what should you be asking your ‘online guy’ (or girl!)? It’s a mystery to most business owners, but to ensure you don’t get taken advantage of, have a think about asking some of the questions below.
Is My Website Mine? Is It Easy to Move Elsewhere?
It may sound crazy and you should maybe ask this question in a slightly different manner so you don’t start off on the wrong foot! Some companies will still stick you on some proprietary content management system, and on their own servers. This makes it much harder for you to move away from them if the relationship sours for any reason. Note there’s nothing wrong with hosting your website on their servers as they will commonly have some shared or leased server space, but if it was a simple website, there’s no reason you couldn’t have this under your own name, as long as you are prepared to take responsibility for renewing it.
Will You Apply Maintenance Patches To The Site?
Many content management systems such as WordPress have very frequent security updates, and you may have several additional ‘plug-ins’ on your site that are also updated regularly. You want to make sure that your website isn’t just done and dusted and that you get patches applied as required, but yes, you should expect to pay for this. Think of it like getting your car serviced and oil changed.
Can I see the content management system? Will I Get Training?
You may want to be able to make small tweaks to your website content yourself, otherwise you’ll be paying your developer for each update. Again, if you’ve got no inclination to make any updates as your too busy then that’s fair enough, but if you have a blog, or regular updates you should be comfortable having someone in your organisation doing this, if not ensure you know how much it will cost you for updates. The point of seeing the content management system (the ‘back end’ that you log into to make changes) is to ensure it’s usable, and not stuck in the 1980’s. I’ve seen some stinkers that are almost unusable.
Will The Domain Name Be Registered in My Name?
It should be. If you don’t have your domain name registered yet it should be in your own name and address, and set to auto renew every year. It’s quite easy to register a domain name at GoDaddy, DomainMonster or the many other registrars. Pick a big name, and don’t always go for the cheapest.
What Content Structure Would You Recommend For My Website For Search Engine Friendliness?
You’ve probably got a good idea of what you want to be on your website, but be prepared to make some changes if some are suggested as it may make your site more search engine friendly. If you have an aotomobile workshop servicing cars, you’ll do a lot better having distinct pages for each service you offer rather than having a simple one page website. Have a page dedicated to Servicing, Valeting, Tyres, Winter Check Ups, Pre Purchase Evaluations, Oil Changes, Wheel Alignment etc. Google will see these pages for what they are if they have the right structure and content.
At this point you should expect a few questions around your content. If you don’t write much and you send them content they may want to tweak it to make it more search engine friendly. If your content doesn’t contain your keywords, don’t expect your site to rank well.
What Will You Do On My Site To Make It Search Engine Friendly?
You should also hope your developer will mention unique page titles and descriptions, and talk about the format of these. Generally speaking these are the snippets that are displayed in Google search results. If the title in blue just says “Jims Workshop” you’re wasting an opportunity. It would be much better if it said “Pre Purchase Evaluations – 03 926 100 – Jims Automotive Workshop – Maryland, Texas” as that’s more likely to be the search terms people use, and have the content to reflect that in words, not just a big pretty picture of a car getting inspected. If you just had “Jims Workshop” you’re less likely to dominate search, and you may find most people who find you are only the ones already searching for your company name to get a phone number……not the new customers who don’t know you yet. Wouldn’t it be better to have Seattle in the blue title of the search result to the right?
You should also ask them if they will be adding ‘alt tags’ for each image they upload to your website…..this is a description of an image, and another opportunity to get those keywords recognised by search engines. All these little tweaks won’t take much longer but will server you good in search rankings, and they are far too commonly overlooked.
Will You Set Up Anything Else As Well As My Website?
At this stage you want them to start talking about Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Webmaster Tools will allow you to see what Google thinks of your website in terms of the most important words, and Analytics will tell you about your website visitors. Without these, or an equivalent you won’t know what your websites doing for you, and if you make a small effort you may be able to get away from paying for expensive reports you could be sold. Analytics can be very useful and you can do all sorts of things like work out what percentage of visitors are signing up for email, what your most popular content is and a lot more, but it all takes additional effort. The good thing is once these are set up the base data will be collected from Day 1, regardless of whether you are ready to look at it yourself or not. It’s a no brainer so get them set up, and get to see them, even if you have to pay a bit more for it.
Will My Website Be Responsive?
Responsive websites are just a fancy term for meaning your website adapts to different screen sizes such as desktop, tablets and mobiles. It’s not uncommon for 40% of visits to come from mobiles so you want to ensure it’s a pleasurable experience for your viewers. If you have a custom website design you may find this is an expensive addition to the development, but don’t let it be overlooked. You don’t really want to have people having to pinch and scroll left to right as they may go elsewhere. If your website it based on a theme it may be relatively straightforward by finding a theme that is already responsive.
Although this post seems like an attack on web developers, it’s not. This is just scratching the surface of what should be in a website brief but the questions are often overlooked due to a lack of understanding which is understandable – it can be a complicated area. Web developers are normally experts in developing websites, and most business owners don’t always appreciate what that entails. It’s more than just that pretty looking screen. Normally a web developer will also have to know about web hosting, some database stuff, CSS (cascading style sheets), cross browser complexities, HTML and then they have to keep pace with responsiveness etc. The majority of businesses can escape a lot of that by using quality theme based designs.
To ask a web developer to have a full understanding on local search engine optimisation, social media, online advertising, email marketing and more is a bit much. You’ll get some who do, but I reckon they’ll be in the minority as they have enough on their plates.
So what’s the key takeaway from this blog series? You need an online presence, not just a website. If you go for a website, there’s a good chance it won’t perform as well as it should, and you won’t have a full understanding of what contributes to your overall online presence. There’s review sites, advertising, SEO, email marketing (perhaps) and more. Ensure you don’t blow your budget on a website, then look back in 12 months time wondering what else you should be doing, and not being able to afford it – you need to allocate your online budget accordingly as have it as distinct lines in your marketing budget so you can put it into context with print and other offline media.
If you missed the other articles in this series, you can see Part 1 : Why Your Business Doesn’t (just) Need A Website, and Part 2 : 5 Questions Your Web Developer Should Ask You.
If you’d like some help with this and would like to jump on a call, please get in touch and we can sort out an online coaching session, even its to help you write a website brief or get you prepared for a meeting with your developer. I also have a great course (of course I would ;->) where you can get an overview of what makes up your online presence before you speak to anyone if that’s more your style.