Before you hire a website firm or website developer to build or update your website make sure you get the answers to these questions.
1. Will my website work in all browsers?
Although you may only use one browser (let’s say Internet Explorer), it doesn’t necessarily mean your audience uses it. Apple users primarily use the Safari browser which is different from Internet Explorer in both function and the way it displays pages. Firefox is the second leading browser with about 25% market share worldwide (IE is number one) and also displays pages differently than IE. Some people use mobile phones and PDA’s to view pages. And don’t forget the handicap people that use screen readers (blind people) other specific handicap-enabled browsers. Your website needs to be correctly coded to ensure it works in all browsers!
2. How visible will my website be on Google?
Of any visitor that comes to your site, Google is the most important. Google (and other search engines) will usually be your primary source of traffic to your site. While there are many techniques for increasing search engine visibility, there are some basics that many website developers simply don’t get right. Using valid standard based code greatly increases the visibility of your site to Google in comparison to older development techniques (think Frontpage, tables).
3. Will we be able to easily update our site?
Most companies want the ability to update the pages and content of their website. Ask your website designer to demo their backend application that allows you to do this. Some systems are too simple and may not meet your needs and some systems are overkill and packed with features you will never use. If you are going to be doing a lot of creation or editing of your own website make sure you understand up front how easy (or difficult) it is to modify your web pages.
4. Can you provide 5 (10, 20) URLs of websites you have built like the one you are proposing to build for me?
Ask for the URL’s of the websites the developer or designer has created. There is a lot of great website designers out there, but there is also a number of inexperienced newcomers. Find out what type of components or custom programming they have experience with. E-commerce, forms, database applications, email marketing integration are a few important skills your website designer should possess.
5. Will my website work with any hosting provider I choose? What specific platform will you be using?