We come across this all the time. People understandably don’t understand what is involved in building a good website so they naturally make a decision based on price alone. We understand that it is extremely confusing to make a choice, with options ranging from free to (let’s be honest!) ridiculously bloody expensive! So I would like to give you a guide to help you know what to look for when discussing a new website with your potential designer
I hate to break it to you, but not all websites are built the same!
I often use the analogy of building a house as a more concrete example of how the pieces fit together.
The foundation of a house is the part that nobody can see once the job is complete, but without it, you have a very structurally unsound build. In web terms, this relates to the hosting and server where your website is built along with the CMS (content management system) you choose to build your new site on.
Another important thing to consider is your brand vision and what journey your company is on. You’ll want to choose a web designer that can help you achieve your goals for your business and that understands your vision. Think of your business’ mission and look for a web designer that aligns with that mission.
It’s important that your website reflects your identity and that of your business. The ideal is to ensure that anybody who visits your website gets the same impression and feeling as they would if they spoke to you in person.
In choosing a host there are some key things to be aware of:
- uptime (how often is your site going to be offline?) – no host will offer 100% but some are very close to that and the hosting we use has almost never gone offline (touch wood!) in the 5+ years we have been using them.
- access (do you have your own login?) – some companies will build your website on shared hosting, which means you cannot have access to your own data as it is on the same login as everybody else’s. We set up a separate hosting account for each of our clients so they have full access to their data. This also means that another client can’t take up your disk or bandwidth (next 2 points on the list!)
- disk space (do you have enough space for your files?) – this is usually on the spec list provided by a host, most sites will not need a huge amount of space but if your disk space fills up it will impact on your site’s performance and ultimately lead to it not working. We monitor disk space for our clients and where it is running low we can usually free up some space to keep things ticking over – or alternatively we can offer add-on space where needed. This means that you only pay for what you need.
- bandwidth (will your site go down if it experiences “too much” traffic?) – again this is usually on the spec list and most sites will not use a huge amount of bandwidth if they are built efficiently for speed, but if you do use all of the allocated bandwidth it can lead to your site being taken offline. Again, we monitor bandwidth for our clients and where it is running low we will reduce usage and/or provide extra bandwidth to keep things running smoothly. Monitoring bandwidth also means that we are aware quite quickly of a DDoS attack on a website and can take action to rectify.
- service (how quickly are things sorted in the event of an issue?) – this is underrated, in my opinion, and the service we get from our hosting provider is one of the main reasons we have stayed with them. They are quick to respond, helpful and know their stuff so they get things sorted fast if we do run into issues. It’s rare but it happens and it is priceless to know that the support is there if/when we need it.
- protection (do they take precautions to protect your website?). Unless you pay for a server all to yourself, your website will share an IP address with other users. Security measures are usually taken on IP addresses, so if someone on the same server is doing something to draw this kind of attention it can affect you too. Our hosting providers monitor usage and take action to prevent this type of activity to protect the integrity of their IP addresses for all of the users on their servers.
- price – hosting can cost everything from a couple of dollars a month upwards. Although you get what you pay for, to some extent, there are good value options available offering high quality hosting for a reasonable price.
The CMS you use is largely down to personal preference, but you should make sure of a few key points before committing to choosing one:
- ease of use – probably the most underrated at the time of building, where a choice is often made based on price and can lead to regret when it becomes clear that working with the chosen system is not as easy as it should be.
- ability to grow – again, underrated as many people build a website without daring to hope that their business will grow leading to them needing more from their website in the future.
- functionality – does it allow you to build a site that does all of what you want it to right now – and if you need it to do more in the future, can that be incorporated or will you need to move?
- design – can you create the look you want for your website? (If your web designer is the one creating the look for you then they may need to have the final say in the CMS you choose!)
- price – although it shouldn’t be the key factor, cost is of course important to business owners and with the most widely used CMS in the world being offered free I would suggest that you need to have a really good reason to pay too much for your website’s CMS.