5 questions to ask a web designer (before you hire them)
|Matthew Beck is a website developer at Lightspeed Digital. He has written a guest blog for Keyword Copywriting.|
A new website is a massive commitment, so choosing the right web designer is important.
Here are 5 questions to ask your potential web designer before making the decision to hire them:
1. Will I own the website?
This sounds like an odd question, but it’s important.
After spending a fortune on a flashy new website, many people discover that they don’t actually own it. They’re forced to pay ongoing licencing fees and other regular costs.
Make sure you secure complete ownership of your website’s code at the planning stage. The designer should send a ZIP of all your website’s files, and also allow the option to switch to a different host.
Avoid Godaddy like the plague! They grab domains as people check for availability, then hold them for ransom.
The ownership of your website might come down to the platform it’s built on. Which leads us to the next question you should ask your website designer:
2. Which platform will my website be built on?
Most designers build websites within a content management system (CMS). This gives you control over the content, and it boosts SEO.
There are two types of platform – hosted and standalone.
Hosted platforms like Wix and Squarespace offer a quick and easy solution because they include many features as standard. However, bear in mind that you’ll need to use their drag and drop editors, or rely on available themes.
While you can easily do this without a web designer, it limits the potential of your website. And remember, you’ll have to stick with their servers. If you want to leave, you’ll need to start over.
All hosted platforms will require a monthly payment – and it’s far higher than normal hosting costs.
Avoid these platforms unless you have a tiny budget and even then, try to set up the website yourself.
Standalone platforms like WordPress and Drupal allow you to take control of every bit of code that powers your website. Most of them are free and open source so you won’t need to pay ongoing licencing fees. You’ll also be free to choose where your website is hosted.
One thing to look out for with WordPress websites – drag and drop builder themes. They’ve been written by a program, not a human, and programs are terrible at writing website code. Drag and drops are not only slow, they’re also limited. Drag and drop builders can provide only what they’ve been coded to provide.
Ask a follow up question:
Will my website be hand coded or built with a drag and drop service?
3. How quickly will my website load?
Website visitors have famously short attention spans. You have mere seconds to catch their attention and keep it. When pages takes more than a few seconds to load, they leave.
Let’s talk numbers.
• The best websites load in under 400 milliseconds.
• The average ‘fast’ website loads in under 1 second.
• A ‘reasonable speed’ website loads in under 2 seconds.
• The average website loads in about 4 seconds.
You’ll lose most of your visitors if your site takes more than 4 seconds to load.
Something else to bear in mind: mobile connections may be on average 4 times slower than the testing service. When you apply that to an average website load-speed, you’re looking at 16 seconds.
Would you wait 16 seconds for a website to load?
There are many contributing factors with website load speeds, but here are the main ones to look out for:
- Some CMS are slower than others, and piling on the plugins makes things worse.
- WordPress is notorious for its slow speeds. Ask for as few plugins as possible.
- Drag and drop options will make every page very slow.
- Hosted platforms are very slow (especially Wix) and there’s nothing you can really do to improve the speed.
- Web hosts typically put your website on the same server as thousands of other websites. This slows your site right down.
- Large images will hold a fast website back. They should be a maximum 1 Megabyte each.
- Avoid HD full screen background videos if possible. There’s no getting around the large files needed.
4. What sets you apart from the competition?
If you’re working with a low budget, then ‘I’m cheap’ is a good response. Otherwise, it isn’t.
If you’re looking for high quality, don’t be swayed by a cheap website. The two don’t go together.
If your website needs to be highly specialised – e-commerce, estate agency or online courses for example – you’ll need a designer with ‘relevant industry experience’.
Generally, look out for positives like:
And steer clear of negatives like:
Quick turnaround (which means they’ll copy and paste an existing website)
Up to X pages
While we’re on the subject of quick turnarounds…
5. How long will the whole process take?
You don’t want to wait forever for a new website. But on the other hand, you don’t want it thrown together in no time at all.
How long should it take?
The process should look a bit like this :
Discussion phase (1 week)
Make sure your web designer understands you, and what your business is all about. Be clear about everything you need from the website.
Wire framing (1 week)
Wire frames are the blueprints to your new website’s layout, with lines and boxes that indicate what’s going where. It’s much easier to put these together than to create a full design, so any problems or dislikes can be sorted out at this stage.
Full designs (2 weeks)
You’ll get a collection of images that should be a high quality, accurate representation of your website.
Prototype (2-6 weeks)
At this stage, you should receive a working prototype that you can click through. This is where the bulk of the work will be done, but at this point you’re nearly there.
Testing phase (1 week)
Your website will need to be tested on a multitude of different browsers, operating systems and devices.
Final completion and going live (1 week)
Once everything is ready, it’s time to go live. This should take only a few days but give it a week to be safe. Most people won’t go live on a Friday as their weekends are likely to be interrupted by the teething problems that crop up in most new website builds.
That puts us at 8 -12 weeks from contract signing to completion, which should be reasonable for a medium sized website.
If they’re promising anything considerably faster than 8 weeks or much beyond 12 weeks, try another website designer.