We shake our heads at the amount of pain we hear about when it comes to websites and search engine marketing. With several years of website design, development and marketing under our belt, all too often we hear about broken promises, unfinished websites, lack of support once it’s live and overall bad experiences. Many times it’s the result of trusting “a guy” or someone small that they knew or a friend of a friend that does web work on the side.
We often wonder, when companies hire out construction, equipment maintenance, recruiting or other professional services, why would they trust their websites to just anyone?
We know… we know… there are large firms who over promise and under deliver, too not just the small guys or freelancers who can “do it all.” It is unfortunate. Still, it is mind boggling at how often you hear about the pain in terms of SEO or web development. And now, there are traditional media companies who have turned to offering a full spectrum of digital services at low costs that are hard to believe (Yellow Pages, anyone?). It seems like you can get a website anywhere, but can you get a good website that works for you anywhere? (Nope!)
As a firm that believes in “It’s all about you” we want to help take away the pain in website development. You won’t hear us promise to be experts in all areas – no one really should as this space changes so often. Your website provider should be able to describe more about their web development process, what checks/balances they use, how they communicate, describe when a project is complete, and be a company you are comfortable with.
We launched our Web Division because clients continue to need more website development capabilities. Yes, we do work with other specialty firms for larger custom web applications and more elaborate programming. Still, we have staff in-house who ensure our clients get what we promised, and then some. This means you’ll get consistent communications, a point person who can oversee the entire process for you, and is there to support you post launch.
If you’re a small business looking for a good website development company where do you start?
- You can start with a Google search. Sure, those who are good at search engine marketing or websites should show up. You can tailor your search to your local area to narrow the search results.
- You can consult your local chamber of commerce or other professional organizations to find a list of members to consider.
- You can talk to other business owners or ask around in groups that you’re a part of for who they’d recommend.
After all this searching, make a list of who you’re going to contact. Make sure you have a list of questions based on your past experiences (or in this case, your past pain). Here are our top 8 questions we think you should ask a developer before signing on the dotted line:
- What is your process for website development? They should start with a planning session, reviewing business goals and how the website fits. If they start right away with design, you might need to rethink that firm.
- How do you define a website as “complete?” Websites are never really done, since you should always be adding content and updating them. Still, a website development project should have a clear start and end or scope. This ensures you get what you pay for.
- How much support will we get? When the website is complete, are you on your own or do they have support people there to answer questions when you have them? They should provide a short warranty period, usually 30 days post launch, and other support options.
- What type of websites have you developed in the past? They should have a variety of websites relevant to what you need for your website. Will your website be for lead generation, e-commerce sites, fundraising, business efficiency, etc.
- How do they handle the search engine optimization (SEO) aspect of your website planning?
- They should talk about the structure of the site, URLS and your on-page SEO elements
- They should have a plan for redirects (noting all current site links and mapping to new urls) to avoid “page not found” errors once the new site launches
- What platforms do they work on? This may or may not matter to you. Every firm has their go to platform for websites, and their more experienced in working in it. Still, is it a proprietary platform that only they can work on? Or, is it open-source where you can host anywhere and should something go wrong, you can find another development team to assist.
- How do they manage the web development project? Do they have milestones, timeframes and deliverables they identify? Most new website projects don’t have a firm deadline, which can lead to websites taking a lot longer than they should. Clients are just as responsible for getting their part of the work done too. Still, if timelines are set your web development firm should stick to it.
- Can they provide references? This is kind of obvious, but they should have many clients you can contact as references to ask about working with this firm. If they only have a couple, but boast a portfolio of websites, there could be a disconnect. Make sure you call those references too.
You should always trust your instinct. Websites are a lot of work on your end as well as for the development company. You’ll spend a lot of time communicating with them, it should be someone you are comfortable with. If you’re one of those who has experienced pain in your company’s website design and development project, you have our sympathy. And, if you’re considering a new website for your business, please let us know. We’re happy to answer these questions and any others you might have for us. Our team is standing by.