5 Questions To Ask Your Web Developer
Development / March 24, 2017
When it comes to getting a new website it can be a confusing experience. Especially for those of us starting up or running a business; it can be hard to fit "designing a website" into a day filled with other responsibilities. So you've decided to hire a freelance or development agency to build one for you. This too can be a chore; with so many choices out there how do you know you're getting the right one? While there is a lot of potential things that might qualify one dev over the other, we've compiled a short list of questions to ask that will help push you in the right direction. At Total Web Connections we've gotten a lot of questions about design/development. We've tried to trim that down to 5 "Must Ask" questions to help get your next project off to the right start. In this list we're skipping over some of the more obvious things like cost and timeline (you did ask about those things right?) and focused on some subtle questions someone not involved in development might not think to ask.
What CMS Do You Use?
A content management system or CMS is an application that powers your website and allows you to make edits with no coding experience. Having one of these can be very important if you need the ability to quickly change your website, for example adding specials or sales on a daily basis. This saves you from having to call back the developer for every minor change; which saves you money as they will likely charge extra for it. Any developer or agency is likely going to be familiar with at least one popular CMS. Some of the most popular ones are Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla, but there are many others out there. You might also want to see if any training comes with your site. This is going to be especially important if your developer is using a less popular CMS, but is also important for the more popular ones as there are multiple ways they might build your site each with a slightly different method of editing.
Do You Do Any SEO/Marketing?
Having a website is going to do you no good if no one comes to it. That's where your SEO and marketing plan come in. For those that might not know SEO stands for search engine optimization, and is the process of make a particular site more attractive to search engines and appear higher in the results for a search term. It's important to talk to your developer about what steps they take during the creation of your site that relate to SEO. Generally this should be something along the lines of creating a semantic structure, adding in meta tags, and setting up analytics. They might also offer more advanced SEO services, or point you to a trusted source, but this is likely to cost extra. The important thing is that they understand what SEO is, and are able to elaborate on how the site they build will be compliant with current best practices.
What Is Your Quality Test Process
If the answer to this question is none, or a half baked response run away and fast. A quality assurance process is going to be critically important to ensure that once your website is live it doesn't break or otherwise behave in a manner you don't expect. We've seen it happen many times where a site will look good at launch, but quickly break as it was only tested in that exact state and not future proofed. Here at Total Web Connections we test all our websites and applications in all major browsers, on multiple actual devices, and across a variety of screen sizes. We also employ a variety of test suites to create automated tests for more complex functionality and go through a rigorous content entry process to ensure that you won't break the site with content you enter. This is an extremely stripped down version of what we actually do, but it should give you an idea of what sort of answer to expect. The process and wording is likely to be different, but they should be able to talk at length the steps they go through to make sure what is delivered will work long after the close of the project.
What is Your Design/Development Process
While everyones process is different, we all should have one. A well defined process helps to ensure accurate estimates of time, which in turn means more accurate estimates of cost. On the flip side a poor process usually points to inexperience or disorganization which means delays are more likely. Also it's wise to specifically call out touch points for you, where in the process is your input required or will some sort of progress update be given. Be wary of someone who gives you a wishy washy answer. Without a clear process how can they be confident in providing a timeline or cost estimate?
Who Owns The Site and Design Once it's Done?
This may seem like an odd question, after all you're paying for a site you should own it right? However, it can be a bit more complex than that. In some cases cases things like the design or artwork made for a site might be copyrighted by the creator and then licensed to you. There also might a variety of the code that comes from 3rd party sources but is open-source and used by the developer. It's important understand all the details here, so ask about it and make sure you get the information required so you can stay compliant to any copyright laws that might come into play. It's also a good idea to ask whether you will have direct access to the files if need be. Some companies require you to host the site with them, and don't give you direct to the files themselves. This is in itself is not bad, especially if they use a proprietary CMS, but they should be able to give you some sort of process of what happens if you decide to leave them in the future and want to take your site with you.
We hope that this has given you some ideas on talking points to discuss with your developer and hopefully makes the experience of choosing the right one a little easier. If you're looking for a toch notch development team why not get in contact with us? We'll be happy to answer these, and whatever other questions you have, and make sure your next web project is a success!
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