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Top 10 Questions to Ask When Commissioning a Website

Nearly every business has a website…but many don’t have meaningful web addresses (domains), they use personal email accounts instead of business ones and they don’t have the resources to keep their website up to date. And many businesses which do have these services pay far too much for them!

In this article I’m going to highlight some of the pitfalls you need to try to avoid when commissioning a website. And even if your website is done and dusted it may not be too late to save money on hosting services.

Here is a list of 10 things to consider when creating and developing your online presence:

  1. Domain (web address). Ideally this should be memorable, not overly long and include one or two relevant keywords which the search engines can recognise. You can purchase a ‘.co.uk’ domain for under £5 per annum. Most web designers/web agencies will offer domain registration as a service – but many will charge silly prices for doing so. Many less scrupulous companies will also register your domain to their own business which means they have you in a bit of a stranglehold if you want to move your domain.
  1. Web Hosting. Depending on how big your website is going to be, you can purchase hosting for around £100 per annum. Normally your designer/design agency will look after this for you and may charge extra for it. Note that most will only provide this service for websites they have built themselves and will charge ‘transfer out’ fees if you decide to use a different provider.
  1. Web design. There are so many different options here, from completely free ‘DIY’ websites to ones which cost thousands of pounds. Most low cost website solutions will offer design options based on templates – indeed many more expensive web design companies will use templates themselves (especially if the site is built using WordPress). My customers are frequently surprised that they can get virtually the same quality of bespoke design work for hundreds of pounds as they might be charged thousands for.
  1. Web design for smartphones. It’s not just about user experience; Google’s new search algorithms will penalise websites which are not ‘mobile friendly’, i.e. do not display effectively on small screens. Your web design provider should ensure that your website is built with a mobile version alongside, or better still is ‘responsive’ and adjusts automatically for different smartphones and tablets without switching to an alternative version. Remember it’s twice the work to edit a desktop and mobile site.
  1. Editing. Obviously your website needs to be up to date in terms of products, prices, galleries etc. But this is also very important for your search ranking. Search engines like Google will downgrade websites which never change. So you need to have access to your website’s content management system (CMS) in order to make changes – or pay someone to do it. Guess what – a lot of web agencies will take weeks to make changes and charge a ridiculous hourly rate for doing so.
  1. Organic SEO. Your website should have metadata for things like Page Title, Page Description, Headings, Images – basically text that the search engines read in order to analyse your website and give it a ranking in search results. Natural or organic SEO is not rocket science – it’s basically a question of including the right keywords in the right places (and the right format) so that your web pages are relevant for search results. Having said that you can easily spend £200 per month employing an SEO expert who will do it for you and tweak the terms going forward.
  1. Paid SEO. This is where you pay for clicks to your website, eg Google Adwords. This is not part of a web design brief so we won’t cover it here.
  1. Special features. I am thinking here of bespoke contact forms, integration with social media accounts, integration with email software (eg Mailchimp), site statistics, uploading videos (especially useful for Google search rankings)…all valuable tools which will not necessarily be available as part of your web design package.
  1. Email. Most people have personal email accounts with providers such as Outlook, Gmail, BTinternet or Yahoo. It’s more professional to have business email accounts which end with your own domain name (martin.k@itseeze.co.uk). Email accounts also need hosting and again, depending on size and features, you can pay up to £100 per annum per mailbox.
  1. Support. You don’t want to be left with your brand new website and then be unable to make changes to text and images, add hyperlinks, create contact forms, add downloadable files etc. – all regular types of update. Some of the low cost providers direct support enquiries to online helpdesks, some charge premium rates for calls. If you are able to speak to someone about making changes, find out how much the support will cost and how long the job will take.

So when you are discussing a new website with your web design provider, please remember to ask the 10 questions above and in particular about these essential:

  • Hosting – domain, website, email
  • Mobile friendly design
  • Ease of editing
  • Ease of SEO

Ask in particular whether additional charges apply and how easy it is for you to ‘manage’ your own website going forward.

Feel free to contact me  if you have any questions. I am happy to offer Penny Post readers a free ‘website health check’ and a specific Google mobile friendly test.

Martin Kiersnowski
Website Consultant for it’seeze, Newbury
01635 41407 martin.k@itseeze.co.uk

it’seeze‘s small business package includes all of the features mentioned above including bespoke responsive design, easy editing and local support from Newbury. The package is available for a competitive initial payment followed by a monthly subscription which helps spread the cost.

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