Monday, 23 January 2012

8 questions to ask before agreeing your website build

Start-up businesses are at the mercy of web companies. Often, they don't know what they should get for their budget and what's good value. I've seen web design companies offering what should be the basics of a good site build as premium, additional extras. So here's a checklist of what you should get in your £295 microsite budget:

1. Ask how many hours design the price includes.
I recently saw a local website company offering '2 hours design' in their website package. Quite simply, that's not enough for a well designed website that actually takes your requirements into account. Ask how many 'style setters' the design includes. We always provide at least 3 professionally designed page style setters produced by designers with decades of experience in website, magazine and advertising layout. You need that kind of experience to ensure you have a site that is unique to your business - and gives you the opportunity to fine tune and change the design untill you're totally satisfied with the look and feel.

2. Ask if uploads are included in the price.
They should be. There's no extra cost involved in uploading images to a host server. It's usually an automated process that a piece of software takes care of.

3. Ask how much margin the web company is adding into the hosting cost.
Let's be honest. Basic hosting is around £30 a year for a microsite (which is all most Start-ups are looking for). Even if they add on a tenner for admin, the hosting shouldn't come to much more that £70 a year with VAT. If you're being charged extra, ask why.

4. Find out the cost price for your domain name.
Some web companies add an extra charge for registering your site name. Let's be clear. Domain registration costs from about £6 for a domain name. Again, ask your web company to break down the cost of site registration between the cost of the domain and their administration fee.

5. Content managed sites (CMS) will cost a little more than basic html sites - but not massively. Check the difference in price.
A lot of web companies charge a fortune for allowing the client to change their own content. Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal templates can add additional cost to your basic web package, but they are based on templates so the developer is saving too. If you want a site you can manage yourself, get quotes from at least 3 different companies.

6. Find out whether basic SEO is included.
Don't pay extra for 'on page optimisation'. Basic SEO should be part of the package as it is with our websites. Making sure the h1, h2, titles, tags and text have the appropriate keywords in the right ratio isn't rocket science. Don't let your web company pretend it is - and don't let them charge you extra for it.

7. Search engine and directory registration SHOULD be free. Check it's included.
...because it doesn't cost the site developer anything more than 20 minutes of their time. OK that might be worth something to you if it saves you doing it yourself, but don't be fooled into thinking they're doing you a big favour. They're not.

8. Check how many pages are included in your microsite package.
If it's less than 5 (as we offer) you're going to struggle to get sufficient content for the reader to understand what you do - and for the search engines to take you seriously. Think about it - Home, Contact, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Site Map - those are just the basics and that's five pages right there. A number of web companies make their costs look low by specifying 3 or 4 pages in the all-in package price. Then they charge you extra for every additional page - your £250 site can end up costing you double. Just make sure your basic 'microsite' package includes everything you need to get your business started online.

It's hard enough for SMEs and Start-ups to survive their first year or two without having to avoid the pitfalls set by web companies who want their money more than their business. There are lots of fair and helpful web developers out there. There are also those that give the industry a bad name. My advice would be to shop around before you place your web design - and as with anything - check the details of what you're getting before you sign the deal.