I have been doing my own website for some time now, actually for about three years, and have had a number of websites before the one I have at this time. A week ago a client of mine was at a conference and text me saying The session I am in is called What questions to ask when hiring a web developer. I was kind of excited to see such a simple question might expound into important headway for the naive. After I started seeing the text of key points I was sadly unimpressed, What is your rate?, What is your typical project cost?, What is the turnaround time?, and so on. The questions here are typical questions to ask anyone asking for money from you for a service. I have a business that is based almost 100 percent on the internet and I hear these questions from the calls I field, but they do not ask the afterthought, small print, paper hanger questions. Those questions floating out in the world being ready to be grabbed down are the important questions to me and I feel should be to you. If you are paying for a session at a conference based on technology advancements I feel more in depth questions should be posed.
Website design simple point number one is, What is your website?
Trust me if their website looks unimpressive then no doubt your website will be the same caliber. Remember, first impressions are the key to making informed decisions. If a website developer has a website that looks as good if not better than a high school term paper then the hunt should go on.
Which leads us to another point, Do I own my own website?
I do remember this question being mention in the text from the conference, but the question is incorrect. Personally I feel the question needs to be phrased as, Do I own my domain name? This point is so important it can make or break you as a website owner in a matter of thirty seconds. Owning your own domain name means you own your brand, identity, and intellectual property, which we will get back to later. Too many website developers give you great deals saying they will do an all-inclusive package, but register the domain in their name tying you to them forever. I experienced an example of this recently when contacting a website owner in regards to buying a domain name one of my clients was interested in. To the point, they never owned it and the website company locally which did own it wanted to sell it for 50 times the registration cost. They never saw the value in this question until say two weeks ago when they found out they did not own their domain name.
Intellectual property, which I mentioned earlier, is another point to question. We can separate this into two key questions, Do I own my text and content? and Is my content unique to only my website? I will take the first question head on. All websites and their content are inherently copyrighted, provided they are original works. Remember if you do not own your website, you do not own your content under United States Copyright and Trademarking laws and DCMA. With a simple copyright sign the content becomes the website owners stripping you of your ownership rights. Also, if you have a website developer who places a website up with generic text for you with a copyright then the website, text, design, pictures, and layout are all copyrighted to them allowing them to take it with them if you choose another firm to design your website. This tactic is very common and may be misconstrued as unethical, but is also legal. Now to the second question, Is my content unique to only my website? Producing a website that is great in layout and design making it an eye pleasing website does not mean that 50 plus websites do not use the same design. Branding your website as your own is the key, but when your keywords and content are duplicated across say 20 different websites you have another problem. Google new search engine, Panda, will exclude your website, pages, and posts based on the algorithm that matches your content to other websites. Duplicate content will do more to damage your website in the short term and long run. I had a client I was courting for developing a website who choose another web developer who does local work, but all of his pages are syndicated, or developed in the same manner with the same keywords and tags, which gets them flagged by Google as duplicate content. When doing a simple Google search their website was located on the 23rd page of Google which means that the only activity they will be getting on that page will be through print and radio. Now I have a local client myself whom has individualized content, specialized tags, and a unique website that with a few changes after my development when from the 16th page of Google to the 2nd page of Google for their ultra-competitive keyword in 5 hours.
This point above brings us to another question, Do you place a tag at the bottom of my website as a hyperlink, and if you do, do you use no-follow rules?
Little does anyone ever notice, but those hyperlinks advertise your developer for free while hindering your website. As the bots and spiders from Bing, Google, and Yahoo search your webpage they follow the last link on the page which leads them out of your page to the developers page giving them domain authority, page rank, and advertising. All the advertising you do for your website can be lost to one simple link to your developer unless no-follow rules are enforced. I see too often web developers use this to boost their standing in Google without paying, but it is also done without permission from you. The difference between a PR3 page and PR4 can be 5 pages in a Google search depending on the keyword so one do-follow link can and will take 1 PR from your page to give to their website. If the link is in the footer, then you have it syndicated across all of your webpages in your entire website.
Finally, the last statement involves math and patience, What is the cost? Now above the conference asked this question in a number of forms, but mainly you need a complete cost. Too often clients skim over the hidden cost and additional fees and sign on, then get a website that is later held hostage like one of the people in Die Hard until someone has to come in like Bruce Willis to save them all from the end. I had a client I was negotiating a contract with that chooses another firm over price; the price I quoted was $500 for design work. The client based their decision on price which I ask, How much does your other firm charge? I was astonished to find that the developer, who is local, charged $250 to setup the website which seems like a great price, but then $45.00 for hosting per month along with $25.00 for a monthly maintenance fee. The client stated that the $250 versus $500 was the key, but when pointing out that their $250 fee really cost $1,090 a year versus the $500 plus $10.00 for a domain and $68.00 for web hosting the point was made. If price is the key then a few moments talking can get the bottom dollar amount. You cannot walk in to buy a car not knowing all the fees and cost explained so getting a website should be the same.
Now the list goes on and on for questions on getting a website, but remember no question is a bad question, and if you have a question feel free to use the form below to contact me.