15 questions to ask your web company when considering a $500 website

When we quote on a new web build we factor in every stage of the process from scoping your needs to helping you upload content to your new website as well as training you on how to use the back-end so – if you want to – you can get involved in updating your own website.

And, being completely transparent, you as the client, pay for all the services we provide. We believe this process of web development gets you a superior website that is professional, expandable, flexible, has a great user experience and, in most cases,  will serve the needs of your business for years to come. It also addresses ongoing needs such as digital marketing, social media integration and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) work.

But what if your budget doesn’t stretch that far? One of your options is to use a web build service that offers a more simplified build process (which is therefore cheaper.)

Heading down this path has pros (low cost) and cons so we thought we'd share with you our list of the top 15 questions to ask your developer when considering builds that are in the lower end of the pricing scale...

Q1: What happens if I need to expand my website at a later point?

All businesses, as they grow, make demands on their websites to grow with them. Ask your developer if you can add new pages and navigation items to your site easily and quickly? Can you do it yourself or will the developer do it and charge you by the hour? Is there a limit on how many pages you can add before they insist/recommend a full site re-design?

Q2: What happens if I want to add an e-commerce functionality later on?

If yes, how far can I ‘push’ the CMS? Can I, for example, accept payments from credit cards and/or PayPal in local and overseas currencies? Can I arrange recurring payments from clients? Is the e-commerce solution a ‘default’ one – and what if the solution being offered doesn’t meet your needs? How much does it cost to modify the proposed solution? How long will it take? Also, consider what it means for your business and your website if you cannot add e-commerce functionality quickly.

Q3: Are scoping meetings included in the price? (How many? How long?)

Finding out what clients want and need on their site is a major part of any web build. Understanding what the business needs both now and in the future is a fundamental part of preparing the framework of the site. Is there a limit on the number of meetings you have with the developer before they charge extra for their time?

Q4: Will your new site be a template or custom design?

The advantage of using a template to build a site is that the design and functionality has already been created for (usually) a low fixed cost.  The downside of an off-the-shelf template solution is if you want to make tweaks or changes to the design or functionality you will most likely pay by the hour. The more changes you want, the higher the final cost of the website. And, if you make lots of changes it can have a detrimental effect on the user experience. So if you opt for a template be sure you understand the implications of any proposed changes.

Q5: Will you see a click through prototype before development begins?

Some people like to see a prototype version of how their website will look and operate before the development commences. A prototype will show you not just look and feel but also most of the behaviours and click through processes. Being sure of these elements before the development commences ensures you don’t need to make changes at the expensive, development end of the build process.

Q6: What CMS (Content Management System) will you be using?

This is important to know. An uncommon, custom-built, non-open source CMS may mean that in the future if you want to work with another developer you may not be able to (see number 7 for more info). Ask also if you will be charged for ongoing access to the CMS. Some lower-cost web builders will charge you a monthly or annual fee to access the back-end of your site.

Q7: What happens if I want to move my site to another company for maintenance?

Ask if there are exit fees for moving the site maintenance to another company. What is the turn-around time for transferring files to another developer? What do they charge for this service? Is this information available in writing or is it just a verbal agreement? And most importantly, is the CMS the developer uses a common one – will you be ‘stuck’ using the web company and CMS because no other developers want to work with it?

Q8: What SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) work is included?

A lot of SEO work is integrated in the build process – ask what kind of SEO work is included in the price – how much will they charge for additional SEO work outside the ‘standard’ contract? What search engines are covered? Is ‘indexing’ the site with search engines included in the build cost?

Q9: What CMS training is included?

Is there any training included in the price? Is it video, one-on-one or face-to-face training? How much does additional training cost?

Q10: What about adding bells and whistles such as photo galleries, video and comments functionality?

Are these included in the price? How much do they cost if you want to add them later? Who is responsible for organising the images? How much does it cost for Photoshopping or image manipulation if required?

Q11: What social media integration is included?

Is this included in the price? What exactly is included in the price? Be aware, if you don’t already have social media accounts, most developers will charge extra for setting up social media accounts on your behalf.

Q12: Who uploads the initial content to the site? Who uploads content after the site goes live?

What content uploaded is included in the price? What is the ongoing hourly rate for content uploading? Are there any limits? How many times can you change the content before go-live?

Q13: Forms (eg a ‘contact us’ form)

Do you need any forms? Almost every website needs at least one form by way of a ‘contact us’ form. Some developers charge extra for setting these up.

Q14: What browsers will the site be compatible with and will they add your favicon?

Ask what browsers your site will be compatible with – will it just be current browsers or will the site render nicely on older browsers? Will they add a favicon to your site? (A favicon is the little icon that appears on a browser tab when your site is open – usually a modified version of your logo)

Q15: Will your site be fully responsive?

This is probably the most important question to ask – will the website be fully responsive? Will your new site have an optimum user experience across all devices – desktops, tablets and smart phones? Ask for specifics about what you will get and how you will be involved in the design process – both functionality and look and feel. These factors need to be addressed across the 3 different sizes so ask if you get to review before development starts or will you be asked to review an end product, where changes become not just more expensive but also more complex? Note: Google has now begun to penalise websites in their search returns that are not responsive/user friendly - see our April Insight article for more information.