Your Guide to Selecting a Website Design Company
Over the last few weeks, we have been approached for help because the business owners have lost control of their website. In both cases, the owners objected to paying the $130 fees attached to making minor textual changes to their website.
In one instance, the website owner was asked to pay $3,800 to release their website from the person who had designed the site and hosted it on their hosting account. Whilst I think that charging for time to update a website is fair, careful selection of your website designer and hosting service will help you avoid paying some fees for minor textual changes and will help you retain control of your website.
Use this website requirements guide before you select your website development company.
Make sure you have access to your hosting account
Whilst we offer hosting solutions, we give owners full access to their hosting account. This means that owners can move any time and still retain control of their website and content. We prefer it that way. We want our clients to have control of their asset. Too many times we have seen clients change suppliers because they haven't had control of their site and are annoyed that they are locked in. With the massive growth of social media, negative word of mouth can spread like wildfire, and the only word of mouth we want is positive.
Ensure you can change text and images on your site
We have had many a phone call from clients who have lost control of their website and are being charged exorbitant fees just to make minor changes to their site. This might be fine if you have a static site that you think will never require changing but sometimes laws change or you have new products or services that you want to add. We believe you should be able to make text and image based changes to your site.
If you want to edit your website, make sure you have a system that allows you to edit ALL content, sections and pages. Some developers use basic systems that mean they will charge you later to add sections. You will only be able to edit in defined areas that they have previously specified. We think having access to make changes is important.
Check out what content management system is being used
If they are using their propriety content management system, this means you will be solely reliant on your website development company. It means you are relying on them to maintain and update it. We've had one client whose website development company did not maintain the system they were using so it made it difficult for them to move their website to a new hosting account.
We use open source platforms that are developed by a global community. This means that the systems we use are not reliant on proprietary systems, they are reliant on community development. There are literally thousands of developers who contribute to the platform.
Have a Content Management System that is Database Driven
If you want your website to be dynamic, searchable and flexible – you should make sure your websites Content Management System is database driven (As opposed to static pages). Again this will save you costs in any future development. Unless your website is “Dynamic / Database driven” you won’t be able to serve your website on different devices like the iPhone.
Make sure the system can be search engine optimized easily
Now this is a tricky one. We have found many website companies say that they understand search engine optimisation but the reality is they don't. Often they will develop a site in "flash" which is not search engine friendly or provide you with a search engine friendly content management system. Your content management system should include fields where you can alter your page titles, meta description and keywords. Ideally, you should also be able to adjust the robots text. In one system we looked at recently, we could change the page titles and descriptions but we were not able to prevent some pages being indexed in search engines that didn't need to be indexed.
Ensure you retain ownership of Your Site
Some website developers try and lock you in and own the graphics and logo on your site. They do this by sending agreements that are assumed to be accepted on payment of your invoice. Often this means the graphic designer will lock you in for the logo or graphics that they used on your site. This means that if you ever want to move suppliers, you will charged a fee to release their intellectual property.
Make sure you own the Code
Ask your developer / designer if you will own ALL the code in your website and that it is hosted on your website. Otherwise, you can end up with systems / services hosted by other companies that can not easily be modified unless you pay.
Avoid Flash Based Website Systems
Flash based websites look pretty but are more difficult to rank in search engines. This is because they have very little text based content so search engines can't tell what your website is about. Flash is not iphone or ipad friendly. With the increasing number of people using mobile phones for search, it is advisable to avoid flash based websites.
Make sure your website is scalable and future proof
So you can easily add extra features like eCommerce & mailing list systems that are completely integrated and not a series of bolt-ons / patches and fixes. This again will reduce future costs.
You can Upgrade and Take control
We can help you get control of your website. Sometimes this means we can salvage parts of your website, sometimes this means your website will need to be completely redeveloped. However the end result is that you will have control of your asset. We can provide custom web design solutions that you own. This is something you should aim for.