The Three Most Critical Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Designer
Websites may be more affordable and accessible than ever before but let’s get real, many individuals and businesses still make costly mistakes. In most cases it stems from what I believe to be poor planning, preparation and marketing, and that includes hiring the right web designer for the job. Your website is your online authority and can greatly impact your reputation and bottom line. For online businesses it is literally everything. It is mission critical to choose the right individual or firm who not only understands your needs but has the technical, creative and marketing know-how to turn your vision into a reality.
Rather than waste valuable time on lengthy interviews and reviews I recommend you cut to the chase and examine the three most critical areas to you: site ownership, site maintenance and search engine optimization/marketing (SEO/SEM). Get these areas wrong, especially the last one, and everything else will be meaningless. Get them right and everything else is negotiable.
Once you narrow your search down, which should include at least three firms, interview each one paying close attention to the answers of these three mission-critical questions:
Who will own my website?
Bottom line the answer to this question better be you. Too often businesses find out after the fact that they own nothing but the content they provided. This is very disheartening and all too common. Some web designers take ownership of their work and may require the purchase of hosting. Upon completion and payment of the site per the agreed terms you should own and control the domain, hosting account and website and obtain a backup copy of the site for your files. Watch out for proprietary content management systems (CMS), free site builders and monthly hosting fees above $10. Few businesses have specialized needs requiring proprietary software or hosting. As the owner you want the freedom and ability to move to other designers and web hosts in the event you choose to do so.
How will I make changes to the site?
Building a website is one thing, editing and maintaining it is another. Many businesses desire the ability to maintain their website once completed yet few are actually prepared to do so. Ask the designer in question if you will be able to add or edit content and pages on your own or if you will have to rely on them to make edits. If you can do it on your own, will you have to learn a complex editing program or will you be operating on a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) type platform. Make sure you’re getting a modern built-in editing program, if possible. Open source CMS like Joomla, Drupal and WordPress can be maintained by site owners with minimal support as needed from the web designer.
Is Search Engine Optimization and Marketing (SEO/SEM) included?
All too often businesses assume their new site will be found and indexed by the search engines after going live, but it is a dangerous assumption that can lead to great frustration and additional cost. The truth is, most web designers are not qualified to optimize your new site for the search engines. That is why more businesses are seeking out marketing and advertising, as well as creative services firms for their web design. SEO and SEM will be ongoing for the life of the website and is very important to discuss with a prospective web designer. If they cannot incorporate SEO strategies before or after the site goes live, can they refer you to a qualified SEO consultant.