How to choose a website provider

How to choose a website provider

10 tips to help you to choose the best website provider for you

We’re often approached by businesses who aren’t happy with their existing website providers, and sometimes this seems to be because they weren’t really clear on what they were paying for. Don’t let this happen to you!

Here are some points to consider when talking to a potential new supplier.

  1. Think about your business objectives
    What do you want to achieve in your business over the next 12 months and how does your website fit into your marketing plan? What sort of return do you expect to get? Again, it’s better to be up front about this, so your potential new supplier can plan a strategy to achieve your goals.
  2. The first meeting
    When you have your first meeting, whether it’s face to face, via Skype or phone, a good website developer will ask you lots of questions about your business, how it works, who your target customers are, etc. Tell them as much as you can – only then can they give you the best advice about the type of solution which would work best for you.
  3. Website packages
    Companies are all different and an ‘off the shelf solution’ might not be right for you – so if that’s what you’re offered, it may not work for your business.
  4. References
    Any website company worth commissioning will have a track record of delivering websites, and satisfied customers that you can contact for testimonials. The company’s experience needn’t be in your sector, as the skills are transferrable, so with some research into your market and company, a good website provider will be able to develop an appropriate solution for you. If the company doesn’t offer to put you in touch with existing customers for reference purposes, you should have some concerns.
  5. The services offered
    You may just be looking for someone to build you a professional looking website, but often there’s more to it than that. If, for example, one of your goals is to get more leads or sales, you may need Search Engine Optimisation services, email marketing support or help with Social Media Marketing. Your web development supplier may be able to provide these, but in some cases you may need another supplier for web-marketing.
  6. Qualifications and knowledge
    Although not formally recognised as in many other professions, there is actually a raft of qualifications for website professionals. Most of them change and are updated on a regular basis, to take account of new technologies and best practice. For example, is your web developer up to speed on mobile technologies and will your new website be “mobile friendly”? Look for up to date qualifications, or evidence of ongoing professional development – sadly a degree in IT gained in 2008 is not really of much use for online marketing in 2014. You wouldn’t get an unqualified person with an interest in figures to do your accounts, so why would you risk your most important lead generator to a well-meaning amateur?
  7. Website development cost
    Bear in mind that if you go for the cheapest quote, that’s likely to equate to the least amount of work going into the design and build of your website. A good website developer will want to make sure that your new website really represents you properly and conveys your products and services in the right way. A website is about much more than the design of a few of pages and the words on them – it needs to reflect the essence of your business and engage with your customers, and this takes time and expertise to achieve. Search Engine Optimisation for your new website will also add to the cost but, depending on the nature of your business, may be essential if you want to attract more traffic and leads. Most of the time, you get what you pay for.
  8. How will the website project be managed?
    You should expect to be asked to contribute to the process, so that your ideas and expertise can be incorporated into your website content. This shouldn’t be too onerous for you and your web developer should take the lead by asking you for specific pieces of information, which will probably be easy for you to provide – you know your business! If you think about it, without your involvement, how can your website really reflect your business in the best way? A good internet marketing agency will work in partnership with you to present your company effectively online.
  9. Terms & Conditions
    You need to know what is included in the development and ongoing support of your website. A good supplier should set this out for you in a proposal so you have something to refer back to.
  10. Hosting and ongoing support
    You should also ask about the quality of website hosting to be provided and the services which support this, e.g. website and data back-ups, support for website or email hosting queries, provision of analytics data etc. If you were to lose either your website or email data, that could have a significant impact on your business. How will changes be managed? Will you have a content management system or will your service provider make changes for you? If so, what service levels and charges will apply?

The overriding factor should be that you feel comfortable working with your prospective supplier. They should explain what they are offering and how you will work together – after all you want to know what you are paying for and you need to get a return on your investment.

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