11 Questions to Ask Your Web Developer
Almost everybody has been there before (and if you haven’t, you probably know someone who has)—you’ve hired a web developer to build a site for your business, you’re three months into the project, and frustrations are running high. We hear stories like this all the time. Maybe your web developer has become unresponsive. Maybe they’ve promised to deliver a site by a specific date but haven’t followed through. Or maybe your site is already launched, but now it’s malfunctioning or causing security issues.
None of these situations are ideal, but the good news is you can avoid all of them by asking the right questions. We’ve put together a list of the top 11 questions you should always ask your web developer before signing that contract sitting in your inbox.
1. What is your process for building a website?
You web developer’s process can be one of the most telling pieces of information you receive before getting started. Not only is it great to know what each step of the process will be, but how your developer talks about their work method says a lot about the quality of service you’ll receive.
Look for a developer who provides a list of deliverables, each with their own due date. If the only deadline for the project is the site’s launch date, chances are that their communication and reliability are faulty.
2. What web standards do you follow?
This is a question that will quickly separate the professionals from the less reliable. Web standards most commonly refer to the best practices used for building websites. Whether your developer complies with the W3C standards, the WHATWG standards, or the Unicode standards, the overall intention of these organizations is to ensure that websites are compatible across browsers and devices. A web developer who stumbles at this question is one who likely won’t focus on creating a long-lasting website.
3. How easy will it be to integrate additional features/functionality in the future?
Even if you don’t plan to add additional features to your website, asking about the possibilities opens up an opportunity for you to get answers to other questions. If you don’t already know what platform they plan to use for building your website, this is a good time to ask your web developer. For most small business sites, WordPress is the best platform for a new website. More than 18% of all websites are WordPress websites, no doubt due in part to its expandability. Virtually any feature or functionality can be integrated into WordPress, which makes it a great place to build a stunning web presence, even if you want to start with a simple site.
Developers who build websites in other platforms such as Squarespace, Wix, or WebsiteBuilder are limited by constrained functionality. One of these platforms may be a great fit for you now, but as your business grows, you will most likely outgrow them. Starting in a flexible platform will ensure that adding additional features and functionality in the future is possible.
4. Will the site be mobile-friendly?
We know, we know, this seems like a question with such an obvious answer. It’s 2017, after all—who doesn’t build mobile-friendly sites? Unfortunately, an estimated 23% of websites in 2016 were not mobile friendly, and new non-mobile-friendly websites are built every day. Google even favors mobile-friendly websites, so it’s imperative that you assume your developer is keeping up with current trends. Ask your web developer just to be safe.
5. Are there any additional fees to build/maintain my website outside of your cost?
Many website platforms and third-party software (such as shopping cart plugins and advanced contact forms) require monthly or annual subscriptions that will be billed to you. In addition, all websites require an annual domain renewal and a cost for web hosting. It’s good to know what additional fees are not included in your developer’s budget.
6. Who will host the website/own the domain name?
Speaking of recurring costs, web hosting is a detail that developers commonly fail to discuss in their proposal. Many web developers sell managed hosting services directly to their clients at an overpriced monthly rate. Typically, this is an optional add-on to your website agreement, but many developers require that your site has to be hosted/managed by them. Seems backwards that someone else would own your site, right?
7. What search engine optimization (SEO) will be integrated?
Search engine optimization is undeniably something every website needs to have. Many developers will claim to optimize your website after development, but the definition of a fully optimized site is different for everybody. Ask your web developer for specific details regarding what SEO is being integrated. Is your developer adding appropriate HTML tags? Are they optimizing content for readability? Will they research the right keywords and use them appropriately? The more information you can get here, the better.
8. What security features will be included in the development?
With some of the largest cyber security attacks in history happening in 2016, the security of your website is more important than ever. More than 40% of cyber attacks target small businesses. While you may not be hosting sensitive information on your website, a cyber attack can cost you thousands of dollars in website repairs and recovery. Fortunately, simple security measures can prevent your business from falling susceptible to such attacks. So be sure to ask your web developer what they’re doing to secure your site.
9. How will my site analytics and traffic be tracked?
Website analytics are a powerful tool to measuring how people use your website and determining what content is most engaging. Site analytics are easily integrated into websites nowadays, so it’s something that should come as a standard with any newly built site.
10. Will you keep a backup of my site?
Very few web developers guarantee site backups without establishing a monthly service agreement. However, asking for a one-time backup of your site after it is launched is a great way to ensure that your investment is never lost. Regardless the cause, site loss is a risk every small business faces. Don’t allow the only copy of your website to be the one that’s live. If your site does go down, a backup can be restored within hours and get your online presence back to normal.
11. Do you offer technical support/training after the project is over, and how much does it cost?
One of the number one complaints we hear from small business owners regarding their website is that they don’t know how to make updates to it as their business changes. Many web developers now offer training, as an inclusion to website projects, on how to make minor changes. Ask about whether your developer plans to include this and how much ongoing support will cost in the future.
Investing in a new website is a big undertaking. It’s a commitment on your part that affects your finances, your schedule, and the growth potential of your business. But going through the process of purchasing and building a new website does not have to be a headache. Taking the time to ask these simple questions can help ensure that your new website is a worthy investment that will last as long as possible.
Then again, maybe we’re biased in favor of beautiful websites that don’t break the bank. If you’re interested in a website redesign without a headache, we’re happy to answer any of these and other questions you may have. We’re a fan of small businesses, and yours is no different.
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