5 Things To Ask A Web Development Company Before Starting Work
Before executing any web project, it is better to have a thorough and detailed contract in place between the client and the web development company. Imagine doing a home renovation project. Obviously, that calls for certain questions that should be clarified by the contractor — questions about the schedule of the project, details about methods of communication between the contractor and the house owner, how to take care of changes to the project while it is ongoing and the necessary legal/contractual documentation.
A project to develop a website is no less critical or complex for individuals and businesses. Hence, before you sign a web development contract with a company, you need to do the ground work and ask the right questions to the web development company so that the project will turn out satisfactorily for you.
First of all, it’s better to go for established companies who have a range of expertise in a lot of different domains and aspects of web development rather than opting for individual freelancers. This is because the nature of web development has grown complex and with companies, your project is likely to stay the course even if one or more developers fall sick or get caught up unexpectedly in family emergencies.
With individual freelancers, you are more at risk that your project may get off the tracks. With a company, you will get ongoing web development support if you need it. With that said, here are the 5 questions to ask a web development company that will help you decide if you should opt for that web development company or not.
What is the cost and what are the payment terms? What about project timeline and inputs?
Depending on the complexity of the web development project, the cost of the project can vary a lot. Hence, the cost aspect should be clarified at the beginning as also the schedule of payment. Most web development companies might ask for an initial deposit before starting work. This can range anywhere from 10% to 50% of the total project cost. The rest of the payment should be linked to project milestones and these should be clear to both the parties before the project begins.
Similarly, the project duration should be finalized with sufficient number of milestones, certain amount of flexibility and possibly incentives as well as penalties for finishing the job early versus falling behind on the project schedule. Also, the web development partner should consider you a valuable partner and consult and take your opinions on an ongoing basis as the project progresses. If the web development partner shows a tendency to “avoid” you, the client, then all may not be well with the project. You want to keep up with how the project is progressing on a daily basis using a variety of communication media such as emails, phone and Skype. This is something very important to get clear on before beginning work with your web development partner.
Who owns the domain name and intellectual property? Who hosts the website? Who has the login details?
If you are developing a brand new website for a new business, you need to think of a unique and memorable URL and register it yourself so that you own the URL. The next item is to ensure that the website is hosted on a reliable server or by a reputed web hosting company with at least 99.9% uptime. Once the website is live, you need to have the login information to the admin panel of the CMS — such as WordPress, Joomla, Magento Drupal and so on — that is used to build your website. You also need to have the login information for your webhost’s cPanel and FTP. This is to ensure that when the time comes to change your current web development partner, you have all the access info to your own website.
Also, the contract should clarify that you have ownership of all the website development work after it’s complete if you do not want to end up in a position where you discover that you do not actually “own” your own website. Ensure that this is clear before you start working with your web development partner.
- What CMS or technology are you going to use and is it user friendly?
This is a very important question that should be agreed upon before the start of the project. Your target should be to choose a technology that leads to the creation of a contemporary looking website with the highest levels of user friendliness. A website should be easily navigable and should be easily understandable to even the most un-web-savvy visitor.
Certainly the website should be built on one of the common open source CMS platforms such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal are some examples. For E-commerce websites, the popular shopping carts like Magento and OpenCart are also an option. Using popular platforms ensures the easy availability of experts in those platforms. With thousands of plugins and extensions available, you will get a website that meets all your present and future needs.
Make detailed enquiries about whether the web development company will be using off-the-shelf WordPress themes and templates or developing a design from scratch and then coding that design into a WordPress theme. Use of standard templates makes things easy but “popular” WordPress themes might be used by thousands of websites meaning that your website won’t have a unique look.
If you want a unique look, you have to insist that you want your website to be entirely custom-designed even though that will cost you more. Your web development partner should advise you on this and give you some good options.
- What about SEO, Social Media and Digital Marketing?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works best when it’s embedded into the structure of the website itself from its initial design stage rather than as something of an afterthought. Professional web development companies will ensure that SEO is part of the design and development process so that the website does not suffer in organic search results. With the massive and frequent changes to search algorithms — Google Panda, Google Penguin and Google Hummingbird being the well known examples of such algorithm updates — SEO is no longer a hit-and-miss aspect of website design but very much integral to the project.
Similarly, Social Media and Social Media marketing is a key part of present day websites. Social sharing buttons should be embedded onto every page of a website. Make sure that your web development partner is familiar with the role social media marketing plays in the overall digital marketing effort. It’s not enough to just have a nice website — it must also be marketed to the world at large to attract a lot of visitors to your website. That aspect should be front-and-center in a web development project or contract. Have clear cut clauses in the contract that take care of these aspects. A good web development partner will have the expertise to help you with all of these channels.
- What about post-project support and maintenance?
A website is not a static thing. Rather, it’s ever evolving — you might feel the need to add some new functionality to it six months down the line. If it’s an E-commerce website, then there will be need for frequent updates — additions and deletions — to the website as new products are cataloged and old products are removed from catalogs. With a CMS-based website, it is fairly easy for any non-technical person to take care of daily content updates. But there might be technical aspects to the maintenance of a website such as if it gets hacked or keeping track of website downtime (which has to do with how good your webhost is), daily and weekly backups and backups of backups, risk mitigation, website traffic tracking and other contingencies, etc. You should ask the right questions and have the right clauses built into the contract that take care of all these questions.
Of course, there are commonplace expectations that should also be met by the website developer. These include a website that is cross-browser compatible — displays equally well on Firefox as well as on Chrome and Safari and so on — as well as being ready for smartphones and tablets — you do not want a website that is clumsy to navigate using small smartphone screens when more than half of website visitors are surfing the web from their mobile devices. Successful web development partners have good post-support project services as they have experience delivering this work.
The above queries are by no means an exhaustive list but a good set of questions to get you started nevertheless on what to ask your web development partner before beginning work with them. Ensure that you have gone through due diligence with your web development partner and are fully confident in working with them. If you have any questions or need any advice on your web development or anything else, please feel free to reach out to the team at Mind Digital Group
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