Hiring a company to build and manage your wholesale, retail or landscape service website is a confusing task. Many small-businesses run into a nightmare that results in a half-finished website or one they can’t update. Here are 10 steps to follow when looking for website help.
Set a firm budget. How much do you want to spend on building or updating the website? This will dictate the type of company or freelancer that is hired. It is a waste of time to search for a company that only works on $1 million projects if the budget is $5,000. You never want to be “too small of a fish in a big pond.”
Decide who will update the content. The cost of maintaining updated copy on your website can cost more than initially building it. Will updates be posted by your employees, the web designer or another consultant? New content is also a very important part of keeping your website high in the search engine rankings.
Use a major “open” source platform. Pick a free SaaS (Software as a Service) open source tool like Wordpress, Drupal or Joomla. It will remain easy to get talented people to work with the site and upgrade it as needed. Using more obscure software will only lead to higher costs and lagging features as time progresses.
Get current examples of their work. Is it something that relates well to what your company needs? They should have designed a similar website in the past in this industry. You never want to be the company’s “first” of anything.
Get customer references. Many companies can do the project, but how are they to actually work with? In this case, attitude is as important as skills when picking the right web partner.
Show them examples of what you like. This will also reduce the cost if you can give them a basic layout of what is needed. Copying a similar design is cheaper than being creative. As a place to start, simply search on the web for your favorite competitor to see what design and features that website has.
Optimize the site for search. If your website is to be found by customers, this is important. Search works best on updated written content and less Flash video.
Keep the site safe. The Internet gets to be a more risky place every day. How will the site be protected from hackers? What will happen when the site crashes? Who gets the call and what will their response be?
Secure ownership. Specifically, if you hire a freelancer, ensure there is a “work for hire” contract so you own the product that is done.
Get a fixed cost. Did the company give you an estimate or is it a fixed cost? You do not want to be in the position of paying for cost overruns not previously authorized. What will the fee be for ongoing maintenance of the site?
Barry Moltz is an author and contributing journalist to American Express Open Forum and Forbes.