One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “I need a new website, where do I start?” Companies know they need a good website their customers can easily engage with, but they are just not quite sure about the entire process. While finding help to build a new site shouldn’t be a scary or difficult process (especially if you partner with a company like Chatterkick 😉) there are some things you should definitely know before you break out the company credit card.
Before you buy a website, I recommend asking yourself a few questions that deal with the platform, the web designer, the experience you’re looking for throughout the process and the upkeep required after the site is launched.
Which web platform should I use?
There are many web platforms available to choose from, but first, it’s important to know the difference between a web designer, website hosting company and where you buy your domain (that’s the www portion of your site).
- A web designer builds and often designs the website. He or she can make it functional, easy-to-use and aesthetically pleasing. For larger projects, you may have two developers working on your site, or even an entire team.
- A web host or web hosting service provider is a business that provides the technology and services needed for your business to be viewed on the Internet, including where it is stored.
- A domain company provides your website with the address people type in their browsers or Google to find you.
I often tell clients to imagine your website is a house. The web designer would be the architect [Front End Designers] and general contractor [Back End Developers], the web host is the plot of land it sits on and the domain is the address. Most likely you’ll need all of the above, but sometimes they do overlap. For example, some web design companies will host your site or purchase the domain on your behalf. As a business, it’s critically important to document where these items live and, if needed, have access to those assets.
Knowing the differences between these three essential pieces of your website puzzle can help you determine which platform you’ll use and allow you to answer these questions:
- Will the designer/developer host the site? If not, you need to choose a platform that will.
- Do you have goals for e-commerce and if so, how many products will you be selling?
- How much technical knowledge does your internal team have?
- Can someone on your team help out during the process or will you need the project to be managed by an experienced account manager?
These answers will help steer you towards the correct platform (and how much involvement you need the designer to have) before you begin. Your web designer should be able to give you platform recommendations and should ask you all these questions before you get started. If not, keep reading.
Who should design my website?
Finding the best designer for you can be tricky because there are a lot of very technical people that a have a very limited eye for design or user experience. Here are some questions to ask to determine who or what company would be a good fit and, more specifically, how they will work to achieve the experience you want (more hands-on or hands-off):
- Ask about the company’s past work in detail. Instead of asking a website company to send you “case studies” or “examples” of its previous work, ask the question in another way. Often, it's hard to tell what the client directed/changed and what the web design company recommended or actually implemented. Have the company walk you through one of its past websites critiquing what it could have done better and what it really liked on the site. This process should give you a better understanding of what the designer’s capabilities are and how that person communicates creative.
- Ask about the company’s process to design a website. The more sophisticated the webshop, the more likely it will have a regimented process for how the site is designed and developed. You want a tried-and-true process because otherwise, you’ll get unorganized project management. That can drive anyone crazy!
- How many websites do you build at one time? Will the company have time to do your website or will it most likely be delayed?
- What part of the website process does the web design company do internally and what part does the agency/contractor outsource and to whom? Outsourcing is not a bad thing. Partnerships exist for most web design companies, and that’s good because you want specialists for each site, not generalists. You’ll want to confirm that before going in; the more transparent, the better.
- Who is writing the copy? This is the number one hold-up for businesses. If you aren't a good writer or don't have those capabilities in-house, have someone else do that (and take photos).
What happens after the website is launched?
Websites are not “hands-free” once they’re complete. They need to be continually maintained. Aside from determining who/where your site will be hosted, you need to know who will be responsible for the upkeep. Be sure to ask:
- How much are maintenance costs and will I be able to take the maintenance 100% in-house?
- Who is responsible if there is malware or attacks on the site?
- Ask what can’t be changed without expert help and how often do you need to log in or when will you know if something breaks?
- What are the other ongoing costs?
- If your web design company tells you the site is “easy” to maintain, specifically ask what “easy” means.
Having the answers to these questions can put you on the right path to buy a website AND make the experience one you’ll actually enjoy going through.
Continue this conversation further by contacting Beth and the Chatterkick team.