General

Things to consider when getting a website

The rationale for the website
Are you thinking about a new website, or perhaps you’re considering re-designing your existing one? First of all, why do you want a new website or a website redesign? People generally ask, how much will my new website cost me? The simple answer is, it shouldn’t cost you anything; it should be paid for by your customers, not you. A website shouldn’t be created for the sake of it, rather it should bring value to your business.

Logo and branding
Do you have a logo for your site? Do you have any branding? Logo design and branding – although both falling under the graphic design umbrella – are actually different disciplines. If you have no logo / branding this needs to be considered during the early stages of your site design.

The look and feel of the site
Following on from the branding comes the actual look and feel of the site. At this stage it’s useful to send your prospective web designer links to websites that you like. It’s also just as useful for a web designer to see sites that you don’t like.

The content of the site
How many pages do you want? Do you need to be able to update the pages yourself?

Search engine optimization requirements
Do you need to be visible on the search engines? If so, what words would you expect potential customers to type in to find your website?

eCommerce requirements
Do you need to sell your products online? eCommerce is a very broad subject in itself; there are many ways to trade online. If you have a business bank account it is likely you can obtain an Internet Merchant Account (IMA) number and take money online so that is goes straight into your account. If you don’t have such an account or are running your business from a personal bank account, you can still take money online but you need to use a third party payment processor – a company that takes money on your behalf (e.g. PayPal). If you do have an IMA you also have to decide if you wish to take the responsibility of taking debit and credit card information on your own site. There is a right and wrong solution for every business and the one which is right for you depends on the size of your business and its products.

Text and images
You’ll need text and images for your website. I find that getting copy (or text) for websites is without a doubt the most common reason a website is launched late. Writing content for your site sounds easy but give it a go – it’s harder than you think. Allow good time for this or ask your web designer for help on how to write good web content.

Domain name
A domain name is the name you see in the address bar of your browser when you visit a site (e.g. www.modernants.com). If you don’t have a domain name already you will need to register one; they are very inexpensive. If you are unsure on how to do this or would prefer not to do it yourself then any good web designer can do it on your behalf.
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Hosting
A website is physically ‘hosted’ on a server somewhere. To host a website securely and effectively is quite a complicated matter in its own right so it’s best to pay a company to do it for you. You may have hosting already and you may even have been given hosting as part of your domain registration. If you don’t or are unsure, again, any good web designer can sort your hosting out for you.
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Timescales
When does it need completing for? As you can see there is a lot to consider so it’s best for you and the web designer to come up with a realistic deadline.

Budget
And finally we have the unpleasant matter of the bill. I will emphasize the point that unless you get a good return on your investment don’t bother commissioning it. If money is tight talk to your web designer and let him or her know your budget so they can help you make the most of it. I price all jobs individually and so I don’t put prices on my website but I can give you a ballpark price once you request a free quote online.

Pre-website questions

If you want a website these are the crucial questions to ask:

Do you have a website already—if so, what is the URL?
Do you have a logo/branding?
How many pages would you like on your website?
Are any of the pages to be anything other than text, images or a contact form?
Do you wish to have any areas of the site you’d like to update yourself? (e.g. News, blog, events)
Do you want to sell products on the website?
Are there any sites you like/don’t like?
Do you wish to be found on the search engines?
If yes, what would you expect people to enter into Google to find your site?
Do you already have web hosting? If so, do you know which company you are using?
What is your approximate budget for this project?
Finally, when do you need the website to go live?


Of course specialist or niche sites may need more bespoke questions but generally speaking if you can answer the ones above I can give you an idea of how much your site will cost.

Agencies versus freelancers

There are lots of different types of companies out there offering web design and development services. Generally though, you’ll work with either a freelancer or an agency. There are pros and cons to both but here I outline some of the benefits of choosing a freelancer, like me.

Lower overheads
Most freelancers work from home giving them very little overheads and thereby making them competitive on a price front. They just have the running costs of a small home office and their computer software and equipment.

Dealing direct
With agencies, you usually get assigned a customer–facing account manager. This person will be your sole contact at the agency; you’ll never get to speak to any of the people who actually do the work. This can be an advantage as the account manager can talk to you in a language you understand, as opposed to technical jargon. However, your ideas and requirements can get lost in translation.

Some freelancers work like agencies
Some freelancers have the ability to function as an agency. How? Any work they can’t do—because they don’t have the time or the skills—they can outsource to other freelancers. A good freelancer will have a pool of other individuals who possess skills they don’t. By using outside resources in this way you can get the best of both worlds.

There’s almost no such thing as a ‘full–service’ agency
Lots of agencies sell themselves as ‘full–service’. Generally speaking, there’s no such thing. I work for lots of agencies in a freelance capacity so I know firsthand lots of agencies outsource in the same way mentioned in the previous paragraph. It’s no bad thing: it’s just not viable for agencies—even the big ones—to employ someone for every single job full–time. For example, if you only need a copywriter for five hours per month, it’s clearly better to pay a freelancer an hourly rate that it is to have someone on the payroll.


So, as you can see it’s not a simple answer that one is better than the other. Rather, it’s about an agency or freelancer that can meet your requirements. In one situation a well–connected freelancer might beat a high profile agency and in another situation it might be the complete opposite. Generally speaking though, you have nothing to lose by contacting a freelancer who has ties with other agencies and freelancer. Here’s where I plug my own services: I am a designer and developer but I know all sorts of talented local individuals and companies that allow me to offer you lots of their services such as logo design, icon design, copywriting, PR, large scale eCommerce websites, marketing, corporate identity and much more!