For businesses of all sizes, commissioning a new website can be a daunting process. A badly built or designed website can damage your business irreparably, but often it can be the smaller details which are missed and create tension between you and your new web design agency.
Here are key questions you can ask prospective web design companies before you commission a new website. They should help you to clarify the services you’re getting, and ensure a smoother transition to your new website for all.
1. What does the website support package offer?
Having a new website designed and built is just one step for most organisations – you may need ongoing support to keep your website secure and up to date. Asking about the website support packages will help you to get a clear idea of what is and isn’t included from your new website design company before you sign on the dotted line!
Ask your prospective web designers:
- How much website hosting is, and what is included?
You’ll need website hosting to ensure your website is online (typically annually). You don’t have to use the website hosting your web designer suggests, but every website will have requirements that need to be met.
- Whether a security certificate (SSL) is included.
SSL certificates help to secure your website by encrypting information sent between a visitor’s computer and your website. You can now get free certificates via organisations such as Lets Encrypt, though these aren’t necessarily suitable for every type of website and organisation.
- What do you charge for changes once the website is live?
Ensure you know what future potential costs are for the next phase of your website plans, such as new features, or amendments to anything you can’t change on your new websites.
2. Can we manage our own website content?
Content managed websites give you or someone within your company the ability to add and edit content on your website. Without this functionality, you could potentially spend a lot of your marketing budget having small changes to your website’s content over the years, rather than on specific campaigns.
Proprietary versus open source websites
There are hundreds – if not thousands – of content management systems in existence, each designed for a specific purpose. Our general advice, particularly for smaller businesses, is to avoid proprietary content management systems, as these can tie you in to a particular web design agency.
Open source content management systems (such as WordPress and Drupal) offer your web designers a basis to build your website on a platform which doesn’t tie you in to a specific agency. This is because the system running your website is “open source” – ie, free to anyone to use and amend. The benefit of these is:
- The more popular open source content management systems have a world-wide community of web designers and developers who have experience with the platform, meaning you’re less likely to get tied down to a specific provider.
- One open source CMS, WordPress, is currently the world’s most popular content management system, and with good reason – it provides a relatively easy administration panel to manage your website’s content, as well as a variety of features in the form of “plugins” which can be added to your website and customised to your needs.
- Your website’s code is yours once you’ve (subject to the contract with your web design agency, of course! Worth checking).
As a web design established in 2006, Peacock Carter have seen our fair share of content management systems; we now work with the WordPress content management system on a daily basis, which we believe gives us as web designers great control over website functionality and how we build websites, and also gives our clients access to manage their own content.
3. How future proof is my new website?
Website design is quite a fast-paced sector, and technologies can come and go within a few years – or event months! – which could leave you with a website which no longer functions as you expect. Questions worth asking are:
- How long do you expect this website to last before it requires a full overhaul? The answer can vary quite widely to this. It may be quite possible to have the same website “core” for years – even decades – and simply redesign (sometimes known as “reskin”) the website and refresh the content to keep the website competing with your competitors.
- Will the website cope with new smartphones and tablet devices as they’re released? (It’s hard to guarantee all of these will work given the huge variety of mobile devices these days, but the core of the website – being able to view content clearly – should be able to function on all devices at a basic level).
If you’d like help commissioning a new website, talk to our web consultants who can put together a comprehensive specification and brief for you to release for RfQ (Request for Quotations).