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6 things to ask when choosing a web developer

Your website is usually the hub of your company’s marketing presence and probably the most important thing to get right when embarking on an online strategy.

In PR terms, there have been too many occasions over the last couple of years when great businesses have approached us looking to drive traffic to their website, when the website itself is far from at its best.

Hopefully by thinking about six of the below points at the start of a website project, everybody will benefit.

How can I make changes and how much will it cost?
A website is never finished. Your business is always evolving and your website needs to be built to allow you to reflect these changes. On many occasions I have seen businesses lured in by a low cost website only to pay through the nose to make simple text and image changes once it is handed over. For simpler brochure websites, I would advocate the use of an open source content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Concrete 5. Not only are these free to use, they are all simple to update, potentially saving you hundreds of pounds.

How will it look on mobile devices?
Smartphones and tablets (iPads being the most popular) now account for over 40% of internet connections. With this set to grow massively in the next few years, if you don’t optimise your website for mobile devices, in effect you’re alienating a large percentage of potential visitors from your website. This doesn’t mean building a parallel mobile version of your website (there are strong arguments against their effectivness), but you should ask your developer to show you websites they have built in the past on mobile and see how easy they are to use.

How will I know it’s working?
If you’re going to invest a significant amount of money in your website, you will want to know the level of results it’s delivering. Why are some pages more successful than others? Which sites are sending more traffic to your website? Is that expensive pay per click campaign delivering a good return on investment? Google Analytics is a free system that is really simple to use but can also give you a wealth of data about how your website is performing, which can help you to make improvements.

How will it be optimised for search engines?
Metadata, keywords, and tags may seem alien to you, but they should be bread and butter to your web developer. Don’t be afraid to ask what they are going to do to make your website more visible to search engines. After all, if you’re not on the first page of results for key phrases you want to be associated with, research has shown that you’ll only be visited by a tiny percentage of potential customers.

Why aren’t there examples of work on your website?
Word of mouth and customer endorsements are still two of the best ways of buying any product, and websites are no different. Ask to be put in touch with recent customers and view examples of their work online.

Who is going to provide the content?
A website can be optimised to the nines for search engines, and be perfectly built, but if the content is no good then people aren’t going to be interested and you won’t achieve your goals. If you have to provide photography and copywriting then make sure you budget for it. Top photography offers a fantastic return on investment – allow £450 to £600 for a one day shoot with a professional. Creating engaging copy which reflects the positive aspects of your business is also one of the most important and yet overlooked facets of your website. If you are going to write it yourself, make sure you proof it thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors. As this BBC article from the Spring states, a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half.

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