Since entering the world of website design, I’ve come across a lot of clients who are unhappy with their websites.
Most of my business so far has come from business owners wanting their websites updated or revamped because they didn’t get what they wanted in the first place. In the process of helping them and from conversations with other web developers who are doing similar overhauls, I’ve noticed some common issues that you, as the business owner, needs to be aware of when choosing and working with a website developer.
1. Get recommendations. There is no advertising better than word of mouth. If one or more of your friends or colleagues have had a good experience with a website developer and you like their work, I would recommend approaching them first. Don’t fall into the trap of using a friend or family member, even if they’re free or cheap, as they most likely don’t have the online marketing expertise that a web developer does, and if they’re doing it in their spare time, you may be waiting years for your website. Knowing HTML does not make one a web developer. Also, remember that not all web developers have online marketing skills and knowledge.
2. Know your business. A good website designer/developer will ask you about your business and your clients. They will want to know who your ideal client is and what problem you are solving for them. This means that you need to be clear on those things, too, as your website should be built to attract and engage your ideal customer.
3. Be clear about what you want. Get together a portfolio of websites and looks you like to give the designer a feel for what you like. Have some idea of the functionality you want from your website. Will it need to include online transactions? Will you have a gallery of products? Do you need social sharing embedded under your blog posts? (Yes, you do.) Remember that the three fundamental purposes of a website are to:
- build your mailing list,
- position you as the expert/authority in your field,
- connect and engage with your clients and prospects.
4. Stand up for yourself. I see so many website owners not happy with what they got and feeling steam rolled by the web designer. By all means, ask for their input, but if what they’re saying doesn’t feel right, stick to your guns, or go with someone who will listen to you. This is particularly important for us, women in business, even more so when we are not very technically savvy. Being overwhelmed by “geek speak” and sold website features you don’t understand and don’t need by (mostly) male developers, is a trap many have fallen into.
5. Clarify roles and responsibilities. Make sure everyone understands who will be doing what. Will you be writing your own content, or will you be using a copywriter provided by the web designer? A website without content looks a bit sad, so if you decide you are going to write your own content, have it ready for the developer when you agreed you would. So many times developers are waiting for the client’s content, who then complains about the website taking “forever!” Who is providing the photos? Will you be using stock images, or do you have your own images from a photo shoot? Will you be dealing directly with the person who will be doing the actual work on the website or will they be receiving their brief third hand? A lot can get lost in the translation.
6. Be real about timelines. I’ve heard some horror stories about website development dragging on for 6 months or more. Personally, I believe that a basic WordPress site with minimal customisation and content provided by you, should not take more than two weeks to complete. A website that is completely custom build, or includes an extensive e-store will take much longer. Ask the developer about other projects they’re working on and how they are going to fit your work in around those. Some developers might give you unrealistic timelines to get you to commit to work with them, but the real delivery could be much, much longer.
7. Always get all the login details for your website! This includes:
- WordPress, or whatever content management system your website uses, making sure your login has Administrator privileges;
- domain registrar – to manage your domain;
- hosting / cpanel – to manage your host server, including email addresses, file manager, back ups, etc.
I see so many website owners locked out of their own websites, because they didn’t get these details on handover, locking them into an ongoing relationship with the original web designer. What if they go out of business? What if they move? How will you track them down when you want to redesign, or even just tweak your website?
Make sure that you own the copyright to the design, artwork and content used on your site. Generally, unless specifically mentioned, the copyright to the website design stays with the developer, which is why they will be keen to keep all the login details, so no-one can change their design without their permission. Have the copyright conversation with your designer, photographer and copywriter before your sign the contract.
If you do all those things, you are way more likely to end up with a website you love and which works hard for your business, have a great relationship with your developer during the design process and have full control of your website into the future.