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Five Questions you should ask your Website Designer and Developer Before you Dive in.

As websites continue to become more sophisticated, it can be difficult to determine the best firm to suit your needs. Here are a few questions you should ask before you sign an agreement with any design and development firm.

1. What will my new website cost?

Sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, getting a straightforward answer is often not so easy. A good company will spend enough time on discovery to give you firm pricing or at the very least a minimum and maximum cost. If additional bells and whistles to provide function to your site are desired, ask your vendor on the front end what the cost for each is. It isn’t uncommon to hear customers complain about bait and switch tactics used to earn their business. At 44º North we prefer to present all your options, attach pricing to each so you know exactly what you re getting, and what the costs will be. A good analogy to this concept is buying a new car. Typically there is base pricing and as features are added on, costs go up. You, the customer, can decide what you can and what you cannot live without, when you get pricing this way. It’s also important to know, what you think you want may change during the development process, and that should be OK with your chosen firm, but have a conversation about what the changes may mean to your pricing.

2. What will it look like on my smartphone or tablet?

Your new website should be programmed so it is mobile “responsive” which means it will auto reformat to fit your device. While large images or rotators might not be visible, the main navigation will be, which is important. For a developer to not consider this in the equation is completely missing the mark and doing you a disservice. We know that today, about 70% of web searches are done on a mobile device, so to not have a website that will respond to a mobile device is not helpful to you. Some website design and development firms only offer this at an additional expense, and it needn’t be. The bottom line is, your website should look good on your desktop screen and it should look good on your phone or tablet!

3. Can I add onto the site in the future?

During the discovery process, it’s important to consider what you want and need right now and what you might want or need in the future. Depending upon the software used to build your site, adding menu or navigation items may be simple or very complex. The very complex can lead to expensive changes or additions in the future, so it’s important to ask the question before you select a firm to work with.

4. Can I make changes or updates?

Virtually every customer we at 44º North work with on a new website wants to know, “can I make updates and changes to the content?” While the answer should be simple, it isn’t, and is completely dependent upon what software the website is built in. Some companies use proprietary software, which simply means it isn’t easily or inexpensively obtained, or it isn’t easy to use, or there is custom coding. For this reason, we are strong advocates for open source content management software. There are a number of options such as Word Press, Joomla or Drupal. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. In the spirit of transparency, we favor Joomla, as a robust open source platform with hundreds of options for today’s highly functioning websites. We are aware of a few developers who only work in proprietary software, which locks their customers in to forever needing them to provide updates. We prefer customers who want to continue our relationship, and aren’t forced to.

5. Once it’s complete, who owns my website?

The first order of business before a website is even built, is making sure you have access to and own your domain. Many companies delegate this to an employee, who may or may not be in the picture for the long haul. This can lead to complications when it comes time to launch your site. A better option is to have a company you trust register your domain, or to have an owner register it. Once that is complete, you have total access to the address your site will be using. The next step is determining what organization will host your site. Some development firms will build a site for you, but the catch is you must keep paying hosting fees or they will take your site down. Ask on the front end about hosting and ownership. You should have the right and freedom to move your site to a new host provider if you choose to.

It’s hard to be a smart shopper in this ever-changing world of technology. Hopefully, these questions help as you look to a new website for your business or organization.