Deciding who to use to develop your business website can be confusing.
While you can build your own website, hiring expert help comes with advantages, such as allowing you to focus on running your business.
When you might need a website professional
You are likely to need a website professional when:
- starting a new business
- you want to generate leads or sales for your business through your website
- creating a complex website, offering services such as online shopping or booking systems
- your website will be your primary way of engaging with customers
- you have limited or no experience in online development
How a website professional can help you
The right website professional can:
- help you clarify your digital marketing goals
- provide advice and guidance on what platforms will best suit your needs
- suggest features, functions and design elements that ensure your website will achieve your business objectives
- save time (and often money) in the long term
- create a more complex site with added features
- create a site with a unique design and functionality rather than using a standard template
- assist with ongoing maintenance and support packages if needed
How to find the right website professional
- Be clear about the aims of your business, whether you actually need a website and, if so, what it should achieve for your business. There are many options when it comes to website functionality, including shopping carts, blogs, booking forms and news feeds. The features of your website will depend on your business needs and how you wish to interact with your market.
- Identify what you want from a website professional. Do you know exactly what you want and just want someone to build it? Do want advice and guidance on the features, functions and design elements of your website? Do you want marketing advice so the website performs as a useful marketing tool?
- Seek recommendations from friends, industry colleagues or from businesses with websites you like. Also ask for recommendations through our Facebook group I’m a small business owner in Western Australia. Select websites you like and find out who designed and built them (the developer is often listed at the bottom of the website). Check how the site appears on mobile devices: it’s essential that your website is mobile responsive.
- Create a clear, written brief of what you expect from a website professional and use it to obtain between three to five quotes before hiring. Download and complete our Build a Website booklet to capture your requirements and understand exactly what your quote includes, for example, who will supply the imagery, written content and other assets for the website?
- Understand the difference between web designers, web programmers/developers and digital marketers. A web designer will design the look and feel of the site but not build it. They may not have the specialised marketing experience or the knowledge required to entice and compel website visitors into action. A Web programmers/developer’s role is to build a website’s functionality and features. A digital marketer can provide advice and guidance on what features and elements the website needs to compel and entice visitors to take action.
- Understand that many people in the web design industry use different terminology (such as web designer, web developer and digital marketer) to describe what they do. While traditionally these jobs have different skill sets, you need to ensure your website professional has the skills and experience to deliver the result you are looking for, if that is a fully designed, coded and launched website. If you are relying on your web professional for best practice advice, ascertain how much they know about marketing, ‘calls to action’, targeted messaging and search engine optimisation.
- Make sure that your contract states that you own the copyright to the entire website, except for any stock photos or graphics. You should also confirm that you own the domain name, especially if the website professional registered it for you and ask for answers to your questions to be confirmed in writing and keep a copy in case of future concerns.
- Ask your website professional what website platform they develop with. Consider whether an open source content management system (CMS) like WordPress, which can be extended and added to in the future but may require additional hosting charges and maintenance, or a software as a service (SAAS) option like Squarespace, which includes hosting and maintenance but may have less extendibility, would suit your business best. Check you have all the necessary user names and passwords to access your site.
- How much does your web professional know about marketing? Do they understand ‘calls to action’ and targeted messaging?
- Attend one of our practical small business workshops to help you develop your digital, sales and marketing skills.
Questions to ask a website professional
How long has their business been operating?
Choose an established business with a good reputation. If you do opt for a start-up organisation, try to negotiate a better price for the potential risk involved.
Can they provide samples of previous projects and will they give you details of existing clients to contact?
Ideally you want to find someone who has a demonstrated track record of working and delivering quality projects (on time) for small businesses like yours. Be wary of companies who are reluctant to provide you with details of their experience.
Based on your requirements, are they able to supply a fixed price quote?
As with many industries, web development can be difficult to quote for. The developer should bear any additional costs if the project takes more hours to complete than they estimated, unless the scope of the project has changed and additional costs agreed to with you.
Are there any additional hidden costs?
It’s important to know if there are any ongoing costs or charges that may relate to your website, such as hosting or maintenance fees.
If they source images, fonts and graphics, will there be ongoing costs related to copyright?
As with any contract, be clear about what ongoing charges you will be responsible for.
How do they keep clients updated on progress?
Some designers and developers are reluctant to show you anything until the project is completed. It is important to view the project in its development stages, so you can refine and adjust it to better suit your needs.
How many changes can be made before extra charges apply? Are there penalty charges if substantial alterations are made to the original scope of work?
This will need to be negotiated — if the original briefing document and formal quote are adequately detailed, disputes are less likely to arise.
How will you be invoiced?
It’s a good idea to pay the website professional in agreed instalments once certain milestones are reached. This will help you retain control over the project.
How long will your project be expected to take and what happens if the project isn’t completed on time?
The timeliness of promised work would be a good question to ask other clients who have dealt with this developer.
Do they provide clients with full ownership and backup copies of the code files and images used to create the website?
You should definitely be given full ownership of the files and images used on your website. You have paid for a project to be delivered and these files make up part of the project. Ensure this is included in your contract if it is important to you.
Once the project is complete, what support will be provided?
Any new website is bound to have problems or areas which need to be changed to improve the customer experience. It would be preferable to have the same person assist you with the launch and during the first few months of your website’s operation.
Do they require lock in contracts?
Try and avoid agencies that require lock in contracts. These can often lead to issues if you become dissatisfied with their service but are unable to change to another professional because of lock in contracts.
What ongoing fees do they charge?
There are a number of ongoing fees for maintaining your website such as website hosting. Managed website hosting – where your website professional will keep your website updated with latest bug fixes and plugin updates, and maintenance services – where your web professional will charge a monthly fee to provide ongoing maintenance of your site – may be offered to you as an ongoing service.