So many times clients have approached me to help them promote their website and I have to send them back to their web design company to make significant changes to the code, the reason being that my client just didn't have the knowledge to know exactly what to demand from the designer apart from a pretty website.
My clients were initially impressed with examples of sites with beautiful images, Flash, music etc., and they just assume that this is all it takes to have a successful website.
Before you get swept off your feet with examples from your web designer of some snazzy designs ask yourself when was the last time you clicked the back button on a website because you didn't like the way it looked. I would assume in most cases the answer would be never, so don't choose your web designer only based on the designs they offer you.
Here are some initial questions to ask your potential web design company.
1. Can I edit every part of every page on the site?
Even though your web design company would, in many cases, love you to be totally dependent on them forever for every change you want to make to your website you will eventually want to make changes yourself, and will not want to pay or wait for these updates. Ask your web designer if you will be able to edit every single element on every page without their assistance. This means text, images, Flash etc.
2, Can I add a new page to the website without assistance from you?
Even though initially you might think you have written the perfect website content and what else could you possibly want to add, you will be surprised how quickly you will realize that content is king and you will want to add additional pages to your existing website. Make sure that you don't need the web design company in order to do this.
3. Can I edit the title tag and meta data for every page on the site?
Even if you don't really understand the meaning of the terms title tag and meta data you must demand that you have total control over these for every page of your website. These are extremely important elements for the search engines. You don't want every page on your site to have the same title tag as this is where you will add the main keyword the page is optimized for.
4. Does the CMS enable search engine friendly URL's?
If your site is built so that you can update the content yourself then it is probably built on some sort of Content Management System. Usually when you add a new page to a website via a Content Management Systems you will end up with a very unfriendly URL for example www.mynewwebsitedesignxxx.com/products?id=4809. Firstly this is not the sort of URL the majority of human beings will remember and even the search engines prefer more meaningful URL's. Make sure that you have the ability to change this. Isn't www.mynewwebsitedesignxxx.com/myproductbrand so much easier on the eye and probably so much easier for your prospects and customers to remember?
5. Will the site be built in Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)?
Most websites are redesigned at one time or another and having the site built using CSS will make it very simple to change the style by just updating these files, and not having to update every page of your website. Another huge advantage of CSS is that these files are not part of the code on your page which means your page will load a lot faster.
6. Will the website be built using Frames?
Again this might not mean much to you, however, if your web design company builds your site in Frames, apart from your homepage the search engines will probably not find any of the content on any of the inner pages. You definitely do not want to work with a web designer who builds in Frames.
7. Will my website be viewable on all browsers?
Websites should be built taking into consideration all the major browsers. If this is not the case some of your visitors might be getting their first bad impression of your business as elements might not be placed where you intended, and text could be garbled or cut off as it could be partly covered by other text or images.
Of course there are plenty of other questions you will need to ask your potential web designer, however, if they answer favorably to the questions above then they are probably not just graphic designers pretending to be web experts and also are not attempting to make you totally dependent on them for future updates.
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