Deciding on the best web designer or web developer for your online project can be a daunting task. This is especially true in Kitchener-Waterloo, fondly labeled as the tech hub of "Silicon Valley North", where there is an impressive line-up of skilled and highly competent web development firms.
Here are 16 tips on how to best prepare before talking with a web designer.
- Put together an outline of your expectations for your new website - what features you are looking for, your likes and dislikes as well as a list of several websites that impress you as far as layout, design, functionality, features, etc. These do not necessarily have to be competitor websites or even websites in the same industry or geographic area as yours.
- Decide on your budget limitations. This is no different than shopping for a new car. If you have a set budget range for your project, this can help your web designer gauge what features, options and levels of customization they can offer to stay within your price range.
- Work out any time constraints. If your project needs to be completed by a specific launch date, this needs to be conveyed to the web developer. Remember, the best web designers are going to be busy and will need to determine when they can schedule your project and how long it will take. Be wary of any web designers that say they can start right away... like, "If they claim they're good then why aren't they busy?"
- Decide which type of payment plan best suits you. Most web developers will ask for a 50% deposit of the total cost prior to starting your project with the balance due when the website is complete. Some web designers will offer, but may not publicize, monthly plans where you pay a set amount each month for as long as the site is active for a minimum term... usually 48-60 months. Also, find out if the web designer accepts credit card payments.
- Whatever web designer you choose, the relationship will likely be a close ongoing one for the four to five year lifespan of the website. Make sure you feel comfortable with the developer and their support team. They need to be approachable, helpful, tuned in to your specific needs and above all - good listeners that will carry through on their commitments to you. Check their online reviews and don't be afraid to ask for references.
- Get details of their support plan. Is it 24/7 or business hours only and what things are included and covered free of charge? Find out what services are chargeable and how much is their hourly rate?
- Up front, be sure and ask whether you will have ownership and full access to the website software or whether it is something called a "hosted solution" where your website resides on a server controlled by the web developer. Should you ever sever ties with the web developer, you may or may not be able to obtain a copy of your website and CMS (Content Management System) to relocate to a different hosting arrangement.
- If the web designer offers to look after the acquisition and management of your domain name, make sure you or your company's president or owner (and their email address) is listed as the administrative contact on the domain registration. If you fail to do this and your web developer goes out of business or just disapears, you may have a very difficult time acquiring administrative rights and control of your own domain name.
- Hosting is important so make sure you know the details of your hosting plan before accepting where your new website will reside. If you are Canadian based, insist on hosting your website where the web servers are located on Canadian soil. Some foreign governments are invoking sweeping powers allowing them free and open access to data stored on web servers within their borders. To protect your company's privacy and that of your customers, insist on a Canadian based hosting company.
- Ask about back-ups. If your website is damaged or lost for whatever reason, ensure that the hosting company maintains regular archived copies of your website files and database that can be restored if needed. Insist on daily, or at the very minimum, weekly backups of your website.
- Put yourself in the position of prospective clients and how you anticipate they will search for you on Google. Make a list of keywords and phrases that should be incorporated into your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plan and ensure your web designer will utilize these to boost your website's ranking on the search engines.
- When evaluating prospective web designers, be sure and ask how long they have been in business and also check their portfolio to see if their design style aligns with the look-and-feel you envision for your new website.
- Insist on a fast loading mobile website. Google has released statistics that prove that more web pages are now viewed on mobile devices than on desktop PC's. Mobile users are an impatient bunch. If your mobile website takes more than 5 seconds to render, you risk losing prospective customers that are likely to skip past your website and onto those of your competitors. You can use this free and handy Google tool to measure your mobile website's performance.... https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com
- Ask about the features of the web designer's CMS (Content Management System). What things can you change and which aspects of your website will you not be able to modify. Is training and support readily available? If your company's web administrator leaves or changes jobs, is there a fee to re-train their replacement?
- Make sure any 3rd party stock images used on your website are legally purchased and licensed. Remember, your website will convey more authenticity and visual appeal if you use your own original photos. It's perfectly acceptable to use stock images but you risk projecting a fake or "plastic" appearance to your website.
- If you are an Ontario based business with more than 50 employees, your new website must be AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) compliant. Make sure that your web designer is familiar with AODA compliancy and the web platform they will be using to develop your new website meets the required guidelines. If not, your company may be subject to fines levied by the Ontario government. You can check for web page compliancy errors and warnings here.