I’m qualified to speak on this topic because in my eight years of being a copywriter, I’ve built or had a web developer build not one, not two but six different websites. And I’ve gone through three rebranding and redesign exercises of my current website!
Why so many?
Well, one was for a new business different from my copywriting business, one is for The Newcomer, an online magazine and FOUR failed because I hired the wrong people who wasted my money, I had shiny object syndrome and I wasn’t clear on what I wanted and I didn’t know what went into building a new website for my business.
These mistakes have cost me over $8000 in cash, lost time, frustration and endless re-dos.
This post is to stop you making the same mistakes I did if you’re thinking of building a new website for your business or a newbie business person.
I invited Josie Brown, a website developer (who built my last two sites) to share her thoughts on what you need to know and prepare before hiring a web developer to build a website.
Take it away Josie!
Q1. Tell me a little about yourself?
My name is Josie and I run Josie Brown Web Design in Canberra, Australia. I create websites for many different businesses and I love learning about each industry and how each client runs their business.
I work from home juggling everything around three young children. I especially enjoy working with clients who’re also running a business alongside a family. They understand when a 3-year-old starts screaming in the background of a phone call!
Q2. What do you wish people would get ready before they come to you to build a website?
Firstly, it’s important to secure your domain name and ensure you have ownership of that when you start your business. It’s such a low cost (around $15 a year) that paying for it before you’re using it isn’t high risk. A domain is your website address on the Internet, for example, my domain is www.rashidatayabali.com.au.
You can buy cheap domains online on GoDaddy, CrazyDomains and Net Registry.
Q3. What would you like clients to prepare or know before they contact a web developer like you?
I would ask them to prepare the following things:
If you haven’t been collecting them from previous clients, it can take weeks or even months to contact people and chase them up. It can hold up the website build process.
Tip: Always ask for a testimonial at the end of a project to save you time and hassle later.
Depending on your industry, you may want to use some stock images (please don’t download straight off Google). The images need to be bought from a stock library or you can use free websites like Unsplash and Pixabay.
Tip: If you have your own images of work you’ve done (and of yourself!) it helps website visitors to relate to your business and personalises their experience.
Privacy policies, disclaimers and any other legal documents for your website
Ask a lawyer to draft these up for you as they usually vary for different industries. Try legal123.com.au
What’s your budget?
While it’s difficult to know how much to spend on a website, the quality and support that you need also comes into play.
If you’re trying to get a large business website built for $1000, it’s not realistic and you’ll need to reduce your requirements. You need to have enough funds available to invest in your web presence.
Do your research
If clients have looked at different websites and picked out specific elements that they like or don’t like, it makes my job easier. This way what I design will end up suiting their style and preferences.
(Functionality) What do you need your website to do?
If a client can come to me with a clear idea of what they want to achieve with their website, it helps a lot with the first stage.
Do you want a simple informational site without much interaction or would you like potential clients to be able to fill out a detailed form that automatically calculates things for you?
Set clear goals for your website
Is it to sell products?
Get new clients?
Be clear on your goals when you’re planning your website. Don’t stress about the “how”, focus on the “what”. Once you talk to the web developer, they may think of solutions that you had no idea about.
If you don’t have clear goals, it makes it a lot harder for the web developer to provide you with a solution that’s going to work for your business.
Q4. Should you hire a web developer to create your branding?
Generally speaking, no. There are some graphic designers who also design websites, create business logos and do branding.
These are different specialisations and need different skills. I would find a branding specialist to create a brand identity for your business. Your web developer may even be able to recommend someone they trust.
3 things you need to be aware of when building a new business website:
Ongoing costs for your website
Yes, even static websites (with no changes made over the years) still need maintenance.
It’s possible to DIY, although you might get stuck if an update breaks the site or if the site gets hacked. A hacked site is often difficult to recover and needs a rebuild which means a huge amount of stress and expense for you.
Tip: Talk to your web developer about affordable, ongoing support plans.
A support plan often includes updates and someone actively monitoring the security and setting it up correctly in the first place. It can hugely reduce the risk of your website being hacked.
Get recommendations for web developers
Talk to friends who run other businesses and get a recommendation for a web designer as that can save a lot of potential headache in the future.
Often people come to me with a website that isn’t fit for the purpose or their web developer has disappeared!
It’s a large investment, so you want to make sure the person or company you engage with is reputable and in it for the long haul.
Q5. What are some common mistakes you’ve seen when hiring a web developer to build a website
Expecting the earth and sky for nothing
You get what you pay for with a website build.
If you’re paying a small amount for a website, you’re may get someone with little experience or who is outsourcing the work overseas.
Outsourcing isn’t the worst thing, but make sure you know what you’re signing up for, you can trust the person and they are transparent with the way they work.
Communicate with your web developer
Before you sign a website contract, have a proper chat with the web developer. Don’t just choose someone from a Google ad.
They may think and work differently to you, but if you can’t communicate with them, you can end up with a website that makes your heart sink.
Not signing a contract
Always sign a contract before starting any new project to protect yourself.
If communication deteriorates, you can go back to the contract to show exactly what was included in the build and what wasn’t.
If the web developer isn’t fulfilling their part, you can refer to the contract. If you’re asking for more than what was originally quoted for, you may need to pay extra for this service. These clauses should be clear in the contract.
Not making the time to prepare
If you’re getting yourself set up with a copywriter to write your website copy, a photographer to come in and make sure you have the best images possible then you’re a rare client!
If you sign on for a website and spend six months procrastinating about writing your copy or can never find any images you’re quite happy with, it’ll push out the process and frustrate everyone.
Tip: Allow yourself time to get the details needed to get things done, yes even when working with specialists like copywriters and branding consultants.