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Swift Six: Questions to ask a web designer

By Nick Leech - May 7, 2015

In the latest Swift Six, I’ll take you through the six most important questions you can ask a web designer before you sign them up to build your new site. By asking a web design these vital questions, you can ensure you get the site you want and avoid major problems further down the line. As always, if there’s anything you’re still having trouble with, drop us a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Let’s get cracking.

Hello and welcome to another 123-reg Swift Six. This week I’m going to be talking about six questions that you should be asking your web designer.We all want to do it ourselves, we want to think of the idea for the business, to come up with the domain name, to create the website, to set up the email. But realistically not everyone has all of the time and all of the skills to do everything end to end. There’s a good chunk of us out there that prefer, when it comes to our website, to use a web designer instead.So, as we’re all using web designers, what are the good questions that you should be asking them before you hire them?The first thing I think is really important to ask is: “Can I see your portfolio?” By that I mean: “Can I see the work that you’ve done to date?” Web designers have a really wide range of skills but they’re certainly not equal. Some of them are really good at the design part, other people are really good at the project side, build side and the development side. So you need to understand if what you’re looking for matches the skills of the web designer that you’re looking to use.

The next thing to think about is whether there’s anything in their portfolio that you actually take a shine to. It could be that you really help your project and you shortcut the length of time you’re in development for by picking an example site that they’ve created before and you asking them to use that as inspiration for your project.

The second question you need to ask your web designer is: “Will I be able to easily update the site when it’s finished?” The key thing here is who’s going to have the keys to the engine, who’s going to be able to get under the hood and make changes to the website. Will it be your or will it be your web designer? Will you be able to do some stuff and the web designer be able to do other stuff?

This depends on what kind of platform they’re using to make the website. They might be using a WYSIWYG website editor, something like the 123-reg website builder, where anyone will be able to make any changes they want to with the website, which means that you will be able to make the changes to the site, you won’t be reliant on your website designer to do that.

It might be that you or both of you are choosing to use a CMS, something like WordPress, in which case you’ll probably be able to create and edit pages on your site but you might need your web designer to change templates and make more fundamental changes to your site. Of course the final option is if they hand-code the site in which case it’s probable that you’re not going to be able to make any changes going forward and then you’re going to have to rely on them to do everything. If you are relying on your web designer to do everything, there are two considerations: it’s going to take a bit longer to make changes and it’s certainly going to cost you some money as well.

The third thing that you should ask your web designer is: “Will you provide me the source files once the project is underway or once the project is finished?” You need to know if you have the option to take those source files, the actual work that you web designer is creating, and potentially give it to someone else in order to complete the task if the project goes wrong at any point or if you just decide at a certain point in time to use someone else to create your website. So you need to know: Can I get the source files for my website? The answer should be yes.

The fourth question to ask them is: “Will I be the registered owner of my website?” Lots of web designers would register the domains for the website they’re working on, even if it was a client site rather than their own. That doesn’t mean to say that they had any intentions beneath day, it might just have been something that was convenient for them to do at the time. Perhaps they couldn’t get a hold of their client in order to get all of the details necessary for the registration or the details they had were incorrect so they just decided to register the domain in their own name.

That’s fine if it works at the time but if the relationship starts to sour at any point that client is going to want to have their own site back and they’re going to want to be recognised as the official owner of that website. So it’s important that you make sure that if your web designer is buying your domain on behalf of you that the domain is registered to you, that you are the legal owner and registrant of that domain. Finally that gives you the option to transfer that domain away from your web designer into perhaps another web host where you have full control of how it’s being used.

The fifth question to ask your web designer is: Can I see the drafts of the website before you actually finalise the site and make it live? It’s really important to understand that you need to review your site before it goes live and you need to do this really thoroughly. You need to almost try to break it to find something that doesn’t work. Rigorously check the copy, rigorously check the links, rigorously check that all the images work in the place that they do.

Once something is published on the Internet there’s a record of it there forever and certainly if Google crawls your site and its content that you’re not happy with or content that’s incorrect or that doesn’t position you in the right way, there’s the potential that you will not appear for the searches that you want to appear for, or that Google will make an assumption about what you do based on that first crawl and that will be an assumption that you’ll have to overturn over a period of time. So it’s really important that you get to see the draft of your website before it actually gets published and it goes live.

The sixth question to ask your web designer is: What SEO techniques will you use on the site? It’s often the case that, because SEO is somewhat a technical area, web designers will say to their clients: don’t worry, I will handle the SEO. If you are a client, it’s important that you know what they mean by “handling the SEO”. There are lots of things that go into SEO: how crawlable is the website, how easy is it to navigate from link to link, how well can Google understand it, are the pages really obvious about the topic that they’re on.

These are slightly different areas and it might be that your web designer is very good at one part and not so good in another. So if they say that they’re going to look after the SEO, you need to know exactly what that means. Maybe they’re just going to take care of getting the website registered with Google Webmaster Tools and that’s all they mean by SEO. Maybe they say they’re going to review your copy and make sure that it has the right keyword density. These are vastly different tasks so it’s important that you understand what they mean by “handling the SEO”.

Ok, that was the 123-reg Swift Six – Questions to ask your web designer before you hire them. I’ll see you next time.