5 Tips to consider before employing a website developer

These days most, although not all, companies have websites.  Normally outside consultants are employed to create the website but we get mixed feedback about this, so we thought we would give you some tips.  There are many things to consider but we feel the following are the most essential.

Understand The Website Developer Has a Personal Bias

Most website providers are either technical companies or marketing companies.  Both come to the project from a very different viewpoint.  So, if you have no idea how to structure the site from a marketing point of view and no access to marketing advice, then do not go to a technical company – and vice versa.

Also, in my experience web site developers favour one or two methods of creating the website.  Some say pure HTML is the only way to produce a website.  Others will argue for hours over the relative benefits of WordPress, Joomla, Drupal.  Don’t be swayed by their personal preference.  All are good – for different reasons.  All have their merits and disadvantages.  WordPress is easy to use, Joomla and Drupal are better for complex websites.

Beyond the technical merits of each, the most important consideration for most companies is the end user methods for updating the site – WordPress is the easiest, but both Joomla and Drupal can be used with a little technical support.  Also, ask yourself how important Search Engine Optimisation (getting your website high in Google listings) is for you – some have better SEO tools.

Have a Clear Idea of What You Want

It pays to have a clear idea of the key components you want beforehand: how many pages, whether you need ‘forms’, an online shop, blogging facilities, etc, etc.  This will help you decide whether you need a WordPress, Joomla or Drupal site for example.

Many companies will quote you for a fixed number of pages, but this is no good if you don’t really have a clear idea of how many pages you will need.  Also, be aware that the more work they do for you, the more money they make.   So it pays to get your copy agreed and proofed before you put it online.

Have a Clear Idea of What They Technically Need From You

In my experience this can be the biggest source of disgruntlement.  So it pays to take time beforehand to discuss exactly what you want and what you expect to be given.  Prepare to get a little technical.  So, for example, you can all agree that you need 6 pictures for each page, but you may not understand that the pictures all need to be landscape to fit within the fantastic scrolling heading you have just agreed.  Or that they need to be of a particular resolution or format.  Not great if you have already paid for all your images.

Also, be aware that website development is often a ‘dynamic, ever changing experience’.

Do Your Homework if it is a One Person Business

At TTL we truly support small, one person businesses and believe that they can give brilliant, unrivalled levels of customer care and support.  After all, there was a time when we were a one man business ourselves.  This said we really recommend you check out one person businesses carefully when it comes to website development.

I am very, very sorry to report that over the years we have had lots of businesses tell us getting changes made to their website is almost impossible.  In 90% of these, the person who set up their website has “moved on” or the website development is just a sideline to their ‘normal’ job.  Either got bored with setting up websites, found it unprofitable, or got a full time job.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to tell their customers that they no longer want to handle their websites, but prefer to keep them ‘ticking along’ with the minimum of personal input and effort.

So with the smaller website developers it really is worthwhile putting some time into checking whether they are truly likely to be doing this work in the long term.  Also, check out what excites them.  It’s no good having someone who loves setting up a new site, but hates the ‘boring’ updating work.

Are You interested in Search Engine Optimisation?

More and more people want to get their company higher up the Google rankings and the way a website is structured, worded and even the program it is created in can affect this.

That said, the criteria for SEO changes rapidly.  This means that your website needs to also be able to change rapidly to meet the latest SEO changes.  So don’t spend 6 months working out a fantastic but complex structure that can’t be changed easily.

Remember, before you pay a fortune to companies to raise your SEO, that the key is to think credibility.  Imagine you are Google and you have two sites which match the search criteria of the user.

•    Site A has not been updated since 2000, is just plain text and consists of two pages.
•    Site B has been updated recently, has links to a Twitter site, has 5 blogs on similar topics that the user is searching for, and has lots of pages.

Which one would you present to the user if you were Google?  Make sure you have the basics right before you employ an SEO expert.  Ensure also that you can (and do) edit, change and update your site regularly.

TTL has strategic alliances with two website development companies and is happy to help you to work out the best way to set up, redevelop or evolve your business website.

If you found this article interesting you might also like 5 Tips to Help You Design Your Website.

Rebecca Mansbridge
January 2015