Know what to ask your web developer

Websites are not a ‘set and forget’ exercise – you will need an ongoing, mutually beneficial business relationship with your website designer/developer. As with any successful business relationship, it helps to ask the right questions upfront to see if there’s a good fit between your business and theirs.

Whether you’re looking to find a new website developer or want to learn more about the one you have, try asking these questions to get you started.

Do I own my website?

This is an important question to ask your website developer. Variants are “is my website portable?” or “what are the costs if I want to transfer my website to another company?” or “if your business goes bankrupt, what happens to my website?”

Your website is an investment. It is essential to fully understand this problem, preferably before hiring a new developer. If you don’t feel comfortable with the answer, choose another developer.

What content management system are you going to use?

With the exception of the most basic brochure-type websites, a content management system (CMS) will be used to help your developer build your site and to give you the tools to manage certain content yourself (words, documents, photos, videos, etc.) on your site.

If an obscure or proprietary CMS is used to build your site, the chances of another web developer working on your site are low to nil. Here are some sites that track the most popular CMS:

Currently, WordPress is the most popular CMS. But before you insist on having your website built using WordPress, it is important to note that:

  • different CMS serve different purposes – for example, Drupal is very popular with big business and government, and Magento is a specialized e-commerce system
  • an out-of-the-box CMS is not appropriate for all sites – highly original sites or applications might be best custom coded using Ruby on Rails, or your site might be part of a software system as a much larger service (SaaS) such as Shopify

Have you ever created a website like mine?

Just because a web developer doesn’t have a site like yours in their portfolio doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. But if they do, there’s a better chance they’ll spend less time on trial and error than an inexperienced competitor.

What are the likely recurring costs of my website with you?

Besides content management, imagine you don’t want to add new features to your site after it goes live. What are the costs to maintain your site as it is? Learn about hosting, domain names, security updates, SSL certificates, payment gateways, and more. Learn more about how to choose and register your domain name.

What are your service and support fees?

Some website developers may entice you with a low initial price, but then charge you high maintenance and update fees, ongoing and/or one-time fees.

Do you offer after-hours support?

If your website goes down on a Friday night, how bad is that for your business? Can it wait until Monday morning before someone can take a look at it, or is it essential for someone to look into it sooner?

What do you offer in terms of marketing my website?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the phrase you’ll hear most often, but that’s just the beginning of what you could spend to market your new site – online or offline.

Some web development companies don’t offer this service at all, preferring to leave it to others whose primary service offering is digital marketing. Some companies offer entry-level services to get you started, while others claim to offer a full suite of digital marketing services (keep in mind these could be outsourced).

Can I meet the people doing the work?

It’s another way of asking ‘Do you outsource?’. Whether or not you think outsourcing is good or bad is up to you. Ultimately, it is your website developer who takes full responsibility for the work that is produced.

How long do you estimate it will take for my website to go live?

Do you have a critical moment before which your new site must go live? Maybe the developer has a huge backlog of work and can’t even get started on your site for the next three months?

Will my site look good and work well on a smartphone or tablet?

Smartphones and tablets have overtaken desktop computers as the most popular way to access the Internet. Does your website developer know about responsive web design or recommend a mobile (m.) version of your site? This is a rapidly changing area of ​​web design and development, so this question is about verifying that your web guy is in touch with the problem, rather than in denial.

What’s in it for the seller?

Do you feel pressured into paying for extras you don’t quite understand and maybe don’t need?

Are you forced to buy a package (which may or may not fit) rather than a solution?

How well does the salesperson listen and how well does he talk?

Make sure the seller’s commission is not their main motivation.

Last tip

Don’t be afraid to get all of the above questions answered in writing. A reputable, experienced, and confident web developer will have no problem with this, as they know it helps establish the relationship on an open and transparent platform from the start.

It can also help you compare and contrast offers with your business needs.