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May 31, 2007

10 Questions to Ask Your Prospective Web Designer

It can be a daunting task setting up your on-line presence for most. The whole prospect of talking about “domain-name registration”, “hosting services”, “arranging content”, “payment gateways” and “merchant accounts” etc… can seem a totally alien experience for even those initiated with plenty of on-line experience.

So, to help those that are seriously thinking about getting their business hosted on the Internet here are some Top Ten Tips you should be asking a Web Company before you consider taking on their service.

1) “How long have you been in business?” While there is nothing wrong with going to a one man start up company (we all started somewhere) you may feel safer going with an established company where you can gather testimonials and feel more secure that the company has a history with hosting etc. You don’t want to lose your hard-earned website if the developer decides to close down.

2) “Do you have a portfolio?” First and foremost you have to see samples of work, without seeing this how do you know the Web Developer can do what you’re asking? Also, make sure these are live sites and that they actually work!

3) “Do you have any testimonials?” All good web design companies should be able to provide you with testimonials from previous satisfied clients. We at 360inovate are always happy to provide you with a list of testimonials if requested.

4) “Who works for you and can I meet them?” You need to know that the company you are hiring can deliver what they claim, ask questions such as “What are your designers histories?” and “How many years of experience do they have in this field?”. While all companies out-source at one point or another you need to be safe in the knowledge that your prospective company has staff on hand to deal with urgent queries etc and do not constantly have to rely on a freelancer. Finally, any company worth their salt will willingly let you go into their office and meet with the designers, beware of companies who refuse…what are they hiding?

5) “What is the process in developing a site?” You and the web design company have to be clear right from the word go what part each of you have to play in developing the site. At certain points your designer will require content and feedback from yourselves and you have to be aware when this will be required.

6) “What happens if I need changes?” All websites will need updated at one point or another, find out whether this is included in the price or an additional cost.

7) “What can you do to make my site visible?” If your web design company also offers Search Engine Optimization and you are considering this service, ask if it’s possible to have a short meeting with the SEO specialist. You’ll know quickly if they are up to scratch and they should also be able to supply you with previous Search Engine reports and show signs of successful SEO results.

8 ) “Do I own my site at the end?” You don’t want to go through the process of developing a website only to lose the rights to it if you decide to get hosting from another company after a few months. Ask if its possible to obtain a full copy of your website on completion.

9) “What software/languages do you use?” You probably don’t really care about the answer to this but it is good for you to know your site will be created using industry standard software etc to allow the files to be worked on at a later date with a different company if needs be. Look for software names such as Adobe Macromedia and try to get developers with more than just basic HTML knowledge such as ASP, PHP – should you wish to upgrade your site to a dynamic site it will comfort you to know that your designer will be able to oblige.

10) “Do you provide hosting?” All good web design agencies should be able to set you up with hosting and emails and you shouldn’t feel that you are paying over-the-top for this service. If they say they can’t and you feel the costs are high then be extremely suspicious!
Author:  Lynne Foster is a Senior Web Developer at 360innovate – a leading and award winning media company in Scotland.

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