Choosing a web designer can be like choosing a tradesperson. Who do you trust? Which ones are genuine, and which ones will leave you feeling out of pocket? I have compiled a list of questions you should always ask before commissioning a website. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re going for an expensive site that is all singing and dancing or a simple site – you should still expect and receive a great service.
Here are the top questions you should ask your web designer or check on their website. Please don’t be put off! Thousands of honest, fantastic companies out there want nothing more than to make their customers happy. However, as I search on Google, some companies aren’t perhaps quite what they appear…
1. Do the examples of their work click through to a website?
On some web designer’s sites, I have noticed that examples of work are displayed, but it is impossible to click through and view the area they claim to have created. I cannot think of any reason for this other than:
a) They haven’t created the site – they have taken a screenshot of any website and added it to their “portfolio.”
b) They have created the site, but it isn’t perfect, and they don’t want you to see it.
c) They have created a fantastic-looking homepage to add the screenshot to their “portfolio,” but they can’t show the rest of the site, as it doesn’t exist!
If you can click through to the site, I recommend the first thing you do is scroll down to the bottom of the page. Most web designers stipulate in their terms and conditions that the website will have a “Created by… ” link at the bottom of the customer’s website. This is the norm in the industry. If you scroll down to the bottom and don’t see this, I would be suspicious that the company that claims to have designed the site possibly hasn’t.
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2. Do they offer testimonials that can be verified?
As with tradespeople, the best way to gauge a web designer is on testimonials from previous clients. I care about the work I do, and I want to ensure that my customers are satisfied. Upon completing their site, all my customers are sent a short questionnaire about the quality of my work, service, price, etc., and I am proud to display these on my site. Your web designer should be happy for you to contact previous clients, as this is truly the only way that the testimonials can be verified.
3. How much do they charge for hosting?
When you get a web design quote, you will often find that hosting is included free of charge for the first year. You must ensure that you know exactly how much your hosting will cost after this time. For example, I had a customer who had a great website that had cost GBP50, but they were being charged GBP30 per month for hosting! This is far too much (and, in my opinion, unethical). Their cheap web design ended up costing them a fortune.
You should expect to pay anything from GBP30 to GBP60 per year for your hosting for an average site. More than this, and I would walk away. Conversely, if you are told hosting is “free forever,” I would also be suspicious. You may be charged a high fee to renew your domain name instead…
4. Will they accept payment from you without discussing your needs first?
I have seen some websites that send you directly to a payment page. I would never recommend paying for a website without first discussing exactly what you want – either via telephone or email.
Before parting with any money, you need to ensure that your web designer understands what you want from your website, how many pages it will be (you need to know what constitutes a “page”), what you need to supply, and what they will source, what would be the best domain name, etc., etc. A whole list of factors should be decided before parting with your money. If a company is happy to receive payment before this, be wary.
5. Do they have Terms and Conditions?
You are entering into a contract with your web designer, and as such, you should first ensure that they have T & Cs and, secondly, read them! They are there to protect both you as the customer and the web designer themselves (sadly, sometimes the customer tries to rip the web designer off). If they don’t have T & Cs and say not to worry, it is all based on trust, then be wary.
6. Whose name will the domain name be in?
This is important. The domain name should always be registered in your name, not the web designer’s. This means that you own the domain name. For example, an unethical designer may register the domain in their name. If your business is successful (hopefully!) and the time comes to renew your domain name, if the domain name is not registered in your name, the web designer can charge you whatever they like to use the domain name. This is not a situation you want to find yourself in.
Luckily, I think this practice is fading out, but I still have the occasional customer who doesn’t own their domain name – their previous designer does. How do you check this? If the company’s portfolio is genuine, type in the domain name, and it will tell you who the domain name’s owner is. The owner of the domain should not be the web design company (although they are often listed as the administrators, which is fine)
7. How much will you be charged to make changes to your site?
This is a tricky one. Having your website designed is usually just the first step. Once your site is up and running, you often want to change it, add special offers, new pictures, etc. It would be unfair to expect your web designer to do this work for you for nothing (although some customers think that web designers should do updates for free!). On the other hand, you want to know that you won’t be ripped off every time you want to change your site.
You can expect to pay around GBP25 per hour for updates, which is the norm for most ethical web designers. Getting a lot done in an hour is possible, so it generally works out well for customers. However, some companies will charge GBP25 per change, so watch out for this. For example, a designer might alter some text for a customer, add two photos, and an extra PayPal button. It could usually do this in approximately half an hour, let’s say so that it would cost GBP12.50. If you were being charged per change, this would be GBP100! Again, be aware of all the costs before committing.
Something else you may want to look at is whether or not you have the option to be able to update your site in the future. This means you can log into your website and make changes to your site as and when you like, without worrying about the cost each time. As technology becomes more user-friendly, this type of service is becoming increasingly popular.
I hope that helps in your quest for a web designer. Please don’t be put off by any of the above. Like all industries, you will hear both good and bad stories. If you do your homework, trust your instincts, and follow some basic principles, you will end up with an appealing, user-friendly, navigable, SEO-friendly website.