Engaging a web designer to build a website for your business can be tricky.
There is technical jargon to try and wrap your head around, features and requirements to understand, and, on top of that you have to create all the content and information to be placed on your site.
In this 3 part series I’d like to talk about web site features, common mistakes in web design and how to value the web design process so you only pay for what’s valuable to you.
Let me share with you the first of a series of brief guides I’ve written to begin clearing up this mystery, and help you choose what’s right for you.
5 Common Features You Should Never Pay For in a Website
#1 Mobile ready / Responsive Design – mobile searches account for around 50% of all searches on Google.
This means that your site looks and behaves differently on mobile devices and tablets compared to desktop computers. This is important for how a user experiences your site. Google also uses responsive design as a factor in calculating page rankings for it’s search results. If your site is not responsive it will rank lower than others that are, all other things being equal.
Most if not all website templates are responsive and all website builder software can generate responsive designs. This is no longer something special or premium. It’s still “on the label” of most templates just to reassure people that they are in fact responsive but should in no way be use to justify a premium price.
I once had a web designer present their work to me and spend a good 5 minutes showing me how their custom software framework built responsive sites – like it was a special premium feature. For me to get access to this framework I’d have to pay $300-400 more then their entry level package. This was many years ago before I was involved in web design and fortunately I did go home that day and do my homework. Yes, I found many free themes that were good quality and responsive. Yes, I was extremely angry and disappointed. No, I did not commission any work with that designer.
#2 Security – Constant malicious access attempts are an everyday reality.
Your site needs to be hosted on a platform that is secure. Period. This isn’t a premium feature, it’s an entry level requirement. I can show you the stats for our arcticpress.net tutorial site. There are hacking attempts multiple times a day. This is a reality of the times we are in now.
Security certificates are also now free courtesy of https://letsencrypt.org/ (when you’re browsing the net and you see a green padlock to the left of the site URL in the address bar, that’s what this is – a verified security certificate). This site has one and we didn’t pay anything for it.
No web designer should be putting you on a platform that does not, by default, have a very high level of security.
How do you check? Just ask the web designer. Does the answer they give make sense? Is there a way to prove any claims being made? Are they using a platform that still charges for security certificates?
I spoke to a plumber that came to my house the other day about their business website. He said they had one, but it got hacked some time ago and it was “turned off”. Don’t be on the same platform this company used and do not pay for some ongoing monitoring service to check for these sort of problems and fix them. These sort of costs should be part of the monthly hosting fee. Ask and make sure they are included and are not a “hidden extra”.
If they’re not, what is covered by the monthly hosting fee? I’m not expecting you to fully understand a technical answer at this stage. You’re looking for a clear response in simple language that doesn’t make you feel silly for asking.
#3 Scalability – Today’s flexible platforms make it easy for your site to grow and change.
As your business changes over time, you might want to implement extra features or change the structure of your site entirely. An example of this might be creating dedicated pages for an advertising campaign (called landing pages).
There are two avenues of questioning you need to pursue here;
- The Web Designer – How easy is it to modify and customise the site itself. Over customisation or manual coding can make it difficult to change. Difficult to change means it will cost you more.
- The Hosting Platform – Where is your site physically located? and does the platform uses a content delivery network (CDN) to “speed up” your site? Having your site hosted on a slow platform will create a dissatisfying experience for your visitors.
Asking these questions should lead the web designer to give you good answers that you feel satisfied with. You don’t necessarily need to know the jargon (ie what CDN means) – you’re asking with the intention of having it explained to you. You are the customer after all.
#4 Flexibility/Compatibility – Don’t get locked into any one particular solution
If your site physically located on a back-end system (often referred to as a hosting platform) that does things a very specific and unique way, it can be very difficult to implement more advanced features or to move to another platform.
Make sure your web designer can explain to you why they use the platform they do. Does it benefit them or does it benefit you? Hopefully both. How easy is it to change hosting providers if you want to? You don’t want to be up for another $1,000 to add special forms, product features or specially styled advertising pages (landing pages) because they have to be rebuild from scratch.
#5 Support for multiple users and roles – No one needs employees leaving and taking the passwords with them.
How easy is it to get another web designer to work on your platform? What about if you want to restrict administration functions to certain people access to maintain basic site content to others? These are functions commonly found in all website software packages (sometimes called Content Management Systems or CMS). CMS are used to develop and maintain over a quarter of all sites on the Internet. They make it easy for users to maintain and also allow developers to make changes as required. On top of this, some of the most widely used CMS are completely free to use and modify. That means they don’t cost the web designer a cent to use.
Ask if your site will be on a Content Management System and what features and benefits this gives. Remember, you don’t want to be paying for features that are available for free.
Coming up next
I sincerely hope this information helps you in choosing a web designer that’s right for you.
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Part 2: 3 mistakes to avoid when engaging a Web Designer for the first time.
Part 3: How to value website features and the web design process.