Whether you’re in the market for a new website or are looking to re-design an outdated website, there are some tips we’d like to share on “shopping” in the website market in order to help you make the most informed decision and provide you with important items to keep in mind while filtering through the many options that are out there.
The foremost question we are happy to hear our potential clients asking us as developers, is whether they would own their website. Our clients own their website, as we believe they should. However, depending on the legal agreements with many other website design companies, the client may not actually own their website and they, in fact, merely are “renting” it. This means that when a client decides to drop their relationship with that company, they lose their website as well. Some clients don’t realize this or think much of it at first, but it’s incredibly important to know that – later down the road – it may result in the headaches of going through the entire process of designing a new website again: finding a new designer, shopping for pricing and quality of product, working with the new designer on getting a new site up, etc., including waiting the many weeks for the whole process to complete. If your need for a website is temporary (personal websites, dated events, etc.), “renting” a website is less of a concern, and may be more cost efficient. But if you have an established business, or are starting a newly established but hopefully long-running business like a dental practice, we would highly recommend owning your own website so you’ll be able to keep it regardless of your future relationship with your designer or marketing company.
Along with the website’s ownership, it’s also important to keep the ownership of the domain name (URL) of your website. For a branded business, this is of critical importance to keep, as your domain is often printed on business cards, flyers, etc., and also any SEO (search engine optimization) you’ve built up on your domain will be kept and isn’t a wasted effort. There is a very high level of value in holding your domain name – it’s essentially your “name” on the web; how you’re recognized not only to users but also to search engines. If you’re starting a new business or creating a new website, it’s an easy process to create your own account and buy your new domain with any registrar (e.g., Godaddy, Namecheap, HostGator, just to name a few) so that you’ll have it yourself, rather than relying on another company. Domains can also be transferred from account to account, or registrar to registrar. So if your domain is on a marketing company’s account and you want to transfer it to your own account, for instance, this is possible with the cooperation of the current account owner and it can usually be achieved with a minimum of fuss.
Many web companies have their client’s domain name registered under their own account. This is pretty common and doesn’t necessarily mean they own it, but rather that they are simply managing it. This common sub-domain relationship underscores the importance of having a trusted relationship with your developer or marketing company – so that you won’t have to worry about any conflicting ownership rights with your site. For a website that you plan to have for many years, it will save future headaches and potential conflicts to find a developer/company that you can have a lasting and trusted relationship with. Of course, you won’t know initially how the relationship will turn out (thus the importance of knowing the ownership of your site and domain name before heading into one), but ideally you’ll end up with one that is knowledgeable and one that you can trust.
Alongside with ownership of the website, it is important that, particularly for a business website, the website is coded and built optimally, so it is correctly put on the map online and can be easily found and read, both by search engines and by potential clients. This is, broadly, what is referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it starts with the quality of code along with the content that’s used to build your website. Well-coded websites are crafted to help tell search engines like Google what that website is about, and specifically what each page is about as well, so that it can be more easily found in related searches.
The rapid technological advances, from multi-browser support to the plethora of devices on the market have quickly affected and advanced the techniques used to develop websites, and continue to do so. In addition, as Google and other search providers continue to update and alter their search algorithms, they update developers with their new guidelines to follow in order for them to build search-friendly, user-friendly, and efficiently-working websites. Finding a designer or marketing company that keeps on top of these new developments and integrates core constructs into their websites is key. As in any other industry, new developments are bound to come out and it’s best to find a professional that’s in-the-know, and is committed to monitoring new trends.
“Focusing on quality and the right application is a good investment
As web application technologies continue to grow, so should the ease of use for the average user. A content management system (CMS) is the user interface one uses to edit their website, and it’s getting easier for the non-coder to edit aspects of their website without knowledge of code. Although this doesn’t mean a non-coder can completely redesign the website, it does give them the ability to edit copy, add/delete content, add pages, potentially change themes, etc. The extent of your ability to edit your website’s content generally depends on the CMS and theme you’re using. If your website will need to be updated frequently, whether it’s blogging weekly or a change in staff, showcased products, or events, etc., you’ll want to have the ability to manage these things with a friendly user interface if you don’t have a developer entrusted to this task.
When looking into content management systems, there are many companies that have their own, but the most common CMS by far is WordPress, an open-source platform. Although it is foremost a blogging platform, it’s increasingly a platform for many non-blog based websites to use. Top companies like the New York Times, CNN, eBay, and many others use WordPress for their blogs (https://managewp.com/14-surprising-statistics-about-wordpress-usage). What sets WordPress apart is the fact that it’s a free and open-source software, in short, non-proprietary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WordPress). Using the WordPress platform will give the scalability and security of a platform that continues to be developed by contributing developers on a free license. There isn’t a dependence on one particular company for it to grow, which is the beauty of open-source software, along with the fact that contributors volunteer their time to better the software. And for the long term, looking at the usage statistics, industry trends point to its longevity extending for quite some time (https://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all).
If you plan to keep your website going for years to come, be sure to keep top-of-mind:
“Researching will save time and money in the long run
A quick conversation with a developer or web company discussing, at minimum, these items should help you gauge their knowledge and some insight into the type of website you’ll receive from them. There are many other aspects to look for in a site, including design, price, scalability, etc., but these critical points are often overlooked at first and should be strongly considered before heading into any agreement.