Buying a website is unlike almost any other purchase you will ever make. When we buy a car, a house, or even a television, we have a fair understanding of what to look for and what to avoid. Consumers are relatively well informed thanks to the abundance of information available on the internet.
But the internet and the websites that can be found on it, remain mysterious to say the least, even for those who have invested a great deal of time and money on it.
Many businesses will be buying a website to enhance their visibility online. But they may not be aware of the fact that there are 200 factors that determine how a website ranks. Many of these have to do with the architecture, usability and performance of the website. Even many Search Engine Optimization experts are unable to figure out the complexities involved when it comes to successfully ranking a website.
So, if you own a business and you are about to buy a website, it’s vital to do your research, so you don’t get stung. Many website design companies have little understanding of the technical needs to make your website work in search engines. Sure, they may design a website that looks appealing and makes you happy, but if that website doesn’t perform, it will be a waste of money. It is easy to fall into the trap of hiring a designer based on the appearance of the website he or she has built. When you later discover the website is completely useless, you will not be happy having just torn up a few thousand dollars. It took us along time to figure out that good designers are usually not good developers and good developers are usually not good designers. You need a company that has great website designers and even better developers!
The internet is the largest marketplace in the world. In addition to the two billion pages of indexed content on the web, there are around 571 new websites being launched every minute of every day and a staggering 27,778 blog articles shared on Tumblr every minute. You may be bamboozled to discover that there are nearly 11,944 billion searches done each month on google, and that number is growing fast. Google receives two million search queries every minute. Yet, fifty percent of Australian businesses do not have a website. Many of these businesses will be complaining that business is quiet, or that they are losing customers. Simply because they did not embrace the changes of the technological revolution, otherwise known as the internet.
ENTHUSIASM VS. DESPERATION
Don’t fall victim to aggressive sales people, high pressure sales techniques, agencies who have a special limited time offer, or a company that says they can fit you in if you start today. An ethical web designer will be happy to build your website when it suits you. They will probably be busy, but that is a good sign. If a website designer is quiet and can start your website straight away, avoid doing business with them. It is easy to mistake desperation for enthusiasm, but if they are desperate for your business, this raises alarm bells.
Only deal with a company that has a good presence, answers their emails and telephone messages and can show you some past or current projects.
FREELANCERS & BUYING OFFSHORE
Having personally lost tens of thousands of dollars using offshore freelancers, I would definitely avoid using freelancers or offshore companies to build your first website. Unless you have a great deal of experience and knowledge you will most likely be completely ripped off. Additionally you have no protection in this regard. If you use a company in your own country, presumable you will have some consumer protection to fall back on if the supplier does not meet your expectations. You will find tens of thousands of ‘experts’ online in third world countries, all of whom will tell you they are the best, promise you the world, and then take your money, often without delivering the project.
PUT THEM TO THE TEST
Here are some fantastic tools you can use to test the websites of the company you are considering using to build your website. I am always amused to see that most website designers pay little or no attention to their own websites, let alone their customers. There can be only a few reasons for this. Either they don’t know, or they don’t care.
Websites use a markup and this is easily validated using the W3C Markup Validator. If you see a website with hundreds of errors in it, that is not good. Some websites such as WordPress may be difficult to remove all errors, but you will soon discover how few website designers have websites that are error free.
Google has created rules to assist website developers to improve the usability of the internet. Considering the amount of search requests Google receives each day, it is not surprising that they want websites to be as fast as possible. Because Google wants to provide its users with the best possible experience, it will place a higher importance on websites that are quick. Now, you can easily use these websites speed tests to test the speed of the websites of any designer you may be considering. If they build websites that take more than 5 seconds to load, consider finding a different company. And don’t be surprised when you discover the person you thought was an expert, has a website that takes ten or even fifteen seconds to load. Ultimately your website should load in less than three seconds. Less than two seconds is even better!
Here are two free tools you can use to test the speed of any website
Pingdom Website Speed Test
Web Page Test
GET A WRITTEN QUOTE
There are literally hundreds of variables involved in creating a website. And it is very easy for designers & developers to leave things out, in order to get your business. Managing client’s expectations is challenging at the best of times. However, imagine how disappointed you will be when your website is live and it has not content pages! Believe it or not, this actually happens.
Your new website will need as much relevant content as you can afford. Good quality content costs money to write, unless you are going to write it yourself and supply it to your designer. Your pages also need photographs and these images must be licensed to avoid legal issues.
You can pay five or ten dollars per image for a good quality image. So when you see a company advertising complete websites from $399, how much content do you think you will get with that? If you want a really well written article that is going to enhance your business, with licensed images and for this article and page to be optimized, you can expect to pay several hundred dollars in some instances.
So before you agree to have someone design and develop your company website, be sure to do some homework and to get several written quotes. Cheapest is not always best and its important to know that you will get what you are paying for. Ask to see previous projects and see if those websites are showing in Google Searches.
BIGGEST IS NOT ALWAYS BEST
When we were shopping for a website for our own real estate business many years ago, we found several alternatives. There are large companies that create fully managed website solutions. These can be unreasonably costly and are not transferrable. So when you realize you have to pay $120 for an alteration on the site that may take two minuets to do, you cannot simply transfer your site elsewhere.
We found companies offering very similar websites were charging between $2,000 and $50,000. I don’t know about you, but I would not be happy to pay $50,000 for something, only to discover later that I could have bought the same thing for $2,000. Large corporations often have enormous overheads and therefore have to charge considerably more to deliver the same project. Be very careful of dealing with large companies that have fancy offices, as you will be paying for the privilege.
WHAT TO AVOID
If you are talking with a website design company that links from their customer’s websites to their own website, avoid doing business with them. Not only is this unethical, it is proof that they have no idea about Search Engine Optimization or Google’s Webmaster guidelines. Linking from irrelevant websites, especially if those links are in the footer of the home page is strictly taboo.
Avoid dealing with companies offering cheap, discounted sites. The website should be commensurate with the quality of your business and the goods and services you supply. Having a cheap website with poor quality content, poor design and poor usability will only help to damage your company’s reputation. If you are selling your goods or services online and you demand a quality e-commerce website or a website that will improve your company’s bottom line, then we can help.