How much does a site cost?
There is no single answer to this question. The cost of your site depends on many issues: How big it is, whether it is custom or created from a template, the format of the page, how many images there are, who creates the images, if there is video, audio or other dynamic elements included, among many other options. The only way a designer can tell you how much a web site will cost is to sit down and talk with you to get a clear understanding of exactly what you want. Even then, as a job progresses, the estimate for a site may change as you decide to change or add elements to your pages. If you see web development services advertised for a flat price, make sure you fully understand what is included in that price, e.g., how many pages, how much text, what illustrations, is it search-engine friendly, are there monthly hosting charges, are there any customizations, do you get email, etc. You should require a written estimate that explicitly outlines what is included and, very importantly, what changes will cost before entering an agreement with a web designer. Better yet get a written contract outlining the work and costs involved.
How long does it take to build a site?
There is no one answer to this question. It all depends on how big a site you want, what features you want included and what are your goals for the site. A simple, two-page site can be done in a day. A large e-commerce site could take weeks. Often, even after the original site is created, changes and updates continue as your online business evolves. The only way to accurately estimate how long it will take to build your site is to have an in-depth conversation with your web designer about exactly what kind of Internet site you want.
How much input do I have in designing the look and flow in my site?
You should be in agreement with your designer as to how much you want or do not want to participate in the creative process. If you want to design every detail of your site, make sure your designer is agreeable with that working relationship. On the other hand, if you want to give your designer minimal information on your business and have your designer create the total design, copy and images for the site, make sure you are comfortable with the style and quality of work that a given designer creates, as well as your designer's understanding of your industry.
Are there monthly charges? For what?
Yes. All web sites require some sort of web site hosting service, which usually incurs a monthly charge. Sometimes, you can receive a discount by purchasing one year of hosting in advance. If there are any additional charges beyond hosting fees depends on whom you hire as your web designer. If you are charged a monthly fee for updates and maintenance, make sure you understand exactly what changes the designer will be making and if there are any limits placed on the amount of changes/updates you can request. In addition, some designers/developers will charge monthly for search engine optimization. Beware of those companies that charge outrageous amounts for this service. As a rule, if you see a monthly charge you do not understand fully, ask your designer/developer to explain it completely to you. Do not use a designer that is unwilling or incapable of explaining the services offered to you. As an alternative to a flat monthly charge for maintenance or optimization that may or may not happen, some designers will agree to charge you only for the changes you request and you therefore will have no charges when you have no updates to your site. You should, however, be told what the hourly rate will be.
Can I make my own updates and changes to the site?
Most web designers will not allow you to work on your own site. You will need to communicate with the designer and have the designer make those changes for you. Occasionally, a web designer will offer training that will allow you to access and update your own website. If you are interested in learning enough about web development to take over the maintenance of your site, then be sure to select a designer that has the ability and willingness to teach you how to do so.
Are you equally skilled at artistic design and web programming?
Beware of the artist who is not completely proficient with programming and beware of the "computer guy" who has little artistic talent or Internet programming experience. Good web design is a delicate blend of these two skills. Finding a web designer who can present a professional, fast-loading, visually powerful "look" while providing excellence in programming will save you time and money, as you avoid costly mistakes that can affect the look and performance of your site.
Can you create a web site that truly reflects my company's image or am I limited to adapting my site to a template?
Many web design companies create "templates" of web pages and then customize it with the company name, logo and other pertinent information. Consider if you want your site to reflect your company's individual image or if you want to adapt your image to fit a template. If you want your site to stand out from the masses and/or if you want to continue the "look" of your company's marketing materials, you are looking for a custom web site. Custom web sites are more costly, but they give you total control over how you present your company to the world as well as greater ability to create a site that performs strongly with the search engines. If you are looking to save money and publish a web site very quickly, a web site design based on a template may work fine for you. Just be sure that if your web site designer creates your site from a template, it will be easily accessed by search engines and that the information in the site is search-engine friendly. Many search-engine experts advise that web sites not be designed in "frames" because "frames" are very unfriendly to search engines. However, frames are cheaper to create so they are often used in template-based sites. Make sure you ask your designer if he/she will build your site in "frames" or "tables." If the answer is "frames," you should look elsewhere if being listed in the search engines is a priority for you.
For what browsers and screen size/resolutions do you write your pages? And Why?
If your site services most everyone on the web, your site should be designed to be viewable by individuals with a screen resolution as little as 800x600 pixels on a 15" screen. If your industry serves a more technologically advanced audience, it should be no larger than 1024x768 pixels on a 12" screen. Because most people use either Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator as a browser, you web site should perform equally well with multiple versions of either browser.
Can I choose where I have my site hosted or should I have my site designed and hosted at the same place?
"Web hosting" is separate from "web design" and every web site must have web hosting. Web hosting is the storage of web site files on a computer, called a "server," which has a dedicated Internet connection. In order for your web pages to be available on the Internet they must be stored on a server somewhere. This storage and web connection service is called "hosting". Some hosting companies offer web design. Some web designers offer hosting services. When you go with either of these options, the hosting and the designing services are married and if at any time during the life of your web site you need to change your designer you must also find new hosting. If you want to change your host, you must also find a new designer. Some designers do not marry themselves to a particular host but rather, they will set up hosting for your company's site, independent of themselves. Therefore, if at any time in the future, you desire to move your site to another host you do not have to change designers. Likewise, if you choose to use a different designer, you will not be forced to move your website to another host. You should be aware of how this host/designer relationship works so you can make the most educated decision when choosing a designer.
Do I own the art and design on my site?
If you have any artwork or design done for your site be sure to ask your designer if that becomes the property of your company or if the designer retains ownership of that creative work. Many designers will retain the ownership (copyright) to both the website design and graphics. If you want to be free to use the materials and change designers without starting over, you want to purchase the copyright to your site. If this is an important issue for your company, it is a question you must ask.
Can you create additional non-web marketing materials to help promote the web site?
Sometimes web designers have commercial artists on staff that can help you create marketing materials consistent with your web site. Putting a web site on the Internet does not guarantee instant success any more than having business cards printed and distributed creates an "instant business." Especially when your site is new, only a limited amount of traffic to your site will be generated from the Internet itself. Often, good old fashioned marketing materials puts your site in front of potential customers, even when they are not logged on. If you want to increase traffic to your site with marketing materials, such as brochures, business cards, promotional materials, CDs, postcards, etc., then ask a potential web designer if they offer those services, too.
Can you make changes or additions to a site I already have? Do I have to "give" all my web business to you?
Some designers will want exclusive rights to work on your web site. They may even ask that you move your web site hosting in addition to having exclusive design rights. For this reason, be very clear about how much involvement and commitment you want from a web designer before you agree to have work done on your site. If you want just a few changes to a site without wanting to change web hosting or designing services, there are some designers who are willing to "pitch hit," so to say, requiring no long-term commitment.
Can I hire you as a consultant only?
Occasionally, you may be very pleased with the design and hosting services that you currently have but want to consider ways to improve your site or optimize its performance with the search engines. This is particularly true with web sites that are designed and hosted specifically to support a given industry, such as real estate. You do not necessarily have to change designers or hosting services to improve your site. Some designers will agree to act as consultants to give you advice on how to improve your site so that you can go to your current designer and ask for those changes to be made. In addition, they may be able to offer services outside of the design arena such as registration with the search engines and help with creating marketing materials. Not all designers are willing to act as consultants on sites they will not get as their own, so be sure to ask about this issue if it may be relevant to your business and web site.
What strategies to do you use to get your site to perform well in the search engines?
Avoid the most common mistake people make when choosing a web designer. Your web designer MUST have a strategy to make your site perform well in the search engines. Having a pretty site does not guarantee that people will find it on the Internet. Good designers will know how to design your site wisely. They should tell you that: The content of your site, the actual words that you use in your web page, significantly effects how you do in a search. They will make sure your Titles, Descriptions and Keywords Metatags to reflect key words and phrases from which you would like to be found in search engines. They will make sure your site is submitted to the major search engines. Beware of the designer who says he uses special tricks to get you into the search engines. Search Engines and Directories are constantly developing ways to locate Websites that are trying to cheat the system. Doing "tricks" could potentially get your site kicked out of the search engine listings.
Can you guarantee a top placement in all the search engines?
No company or individual can guarantee top placement in all the search engines, unless you pay the search engines to be listed that way. If a company tells you otherwise and then takes your money, you are being ripped off. A good web designer can explain to you how search engines work and will use worthwhile strategies to increase your site's performance in search engines.
How long will it take my site to show up in the search engines?
After a site is launched and submitted to the search engines, you can expect to wait up to three months for results. Thereafter, several other factors can increase your site's popularity over time.
What can we do to increase our site's popularity over time?
Anything that brings traffic to your site will make it more popular. You should include useful information that will make your site visitors "bookmark" (in Netscape) your site or add to their "Favorites" (Internet Explorer). A few ideas are: A page of useful links is very popular. Make sure the links are relevant to your site's topic and ask for reciprocal links from other sites to yours. Current industry news and information can be a good draw of traffic. You need to keep the content current and changing in order to motivate visitors to keep returning. If you are experts in your field, a bulletin board or discussion group page is an excellent way to bring in traffic. Be aware that you must participate in the discussions and monitor the information that will be posted on your page! Utilize traditional methods of marketing to encourage people to visit your site.
Do I have to be computer literate to have a web site?
No. You do not need any special skills to have a web site. It is easier to plan a web presence if you have been on the Internet before, but it in not required. Your web designer can give you a tour of the Internet and show you what it is about. Some web designers may even offer training.
Do I need to own a computer?
It is important to monitor a web page and keep the information current. If you do not have access to the Internet, you should arrange with your designer, or a reliable third party, to monitor your site. You should probably at least have and know how to use email. Your web designer may be able to give you instruction in how to obtain and use email.
Can I place any type of content on my site that I want?
One of the blessings of the Internet is that it is a great forum to express your individual interests and tastes. There has been, and continues to be, discussions on censuring the Internet. Each of us needs to make a personal choice as to what we will participate in and to what level. If you want to place something on your web site that is subject to moral interpretation, you should ask you website designer if they are willing to create the web pages. You also need to check with the hosting company. Many web hosts will not allow pornography, hate messages, or other questionable material.