What to expect when buying a website
There is a very wide range of services that you may need when buying a website and not all website developers offer them all. When commissioning some new web development you will want to be clear about what you are after OR to investigate what your developers come back to you with. It’s best not to just assume they know what to build for you and your business.
Some web developers will offer a total package offering many of the items below as part of the starter price, but others will not, so it is always advisable to list what you need and ask what is included in the initial price, and what is charged for separately.
These are the basics a website owner would expect:
URL or domain name
This is your unique identifier – starting with www. and ending with .com, .co.uk, .org, .net or similar. Once your domain name is registered it is yours to use exclusively. Some developers will buy this for you, others will expect you to do it, but will usually be able to advise on where to go. If you can our recommendation would always be to buy this yourself and let the developers have access to it. Ownership of it more often is in your interest if problems do arise and you part company with your developers.
Websites have to have a place to live, called a server, and usually the developer will be your “host”.
The crucial question here is whether they are hosting via space bought on a server owned by someone else or have their own “dedicated” server, which can be a more secure option.
You will usually be charged a small fee for this service.
Some developers are also accomplished graphic designers or have graphic designers within their team but others are not. If the look of your website is important to your reputation or image you need to look at examples of the developer’s work and then consider using a graphic designer if they don’t have one in house.
It’s important to ask how many initial design options and how many changes are included as part of the design and build quote and what charges there will be for further changes beyond this maximum.
Some developers offer a basic starter site, usually of four to five pages, for a fixed fee that may also include setting up a specific number of email addresses.
Typically you will have a home page – the main page that website visitors will see first. Then you will need other pages covering other information, typically for a basic “brochure” site they will be products or services, news/blog page, references/testimonials, prices and contact details, but you may want more. Collectively these make up the navigation/site map by which visitors find their way to the information they want.
E-commerce websites are more complex and may also need to include a secure online ordering and payment system as well as several categorised product pages to make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for.
Service and hospitality websites are a combination of brochure and e-commerce in that they will have special offers that will change frequently, perhaps menu changes, and will want to offer online booking facilities.
These days you also need to be sure that the website has been designed to be “responsive”, which means it can be viewed easily on a tablet or a mobile phone.
You also need to be sure that it will be built with the basic SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) in place to ensure it satisfies the search engines, like Google. That means the coding behind each page includes what are called title and description tags.
Aftercare and Support
The first decision is whether you intend to update your website yourself, write and load your own blogs or products. If so, you will need the website to be built with a CMS (Content management system). Does the developer provide either an instruction document or training to help you get familiar with it?
Most developers will offer some sort of support or aftercare package, which includes hosting, taking care of security updates, perhaps ongoing SEO work and may also include adding new content or changing existing words. They will charge a monthly fee for this. You need to know what services are included and whether there are options, such as a basic package (eg hosting and security) and a higher level package. You also need assurance that if your developer is going to be adding content for you they will do so promptly.
Other questions to ask
Copyright – some website owners have found when they want to move to a new developer or host that the original developer is blocking them, claiming that they own the copyright to your website. You must clarify this when negotiating the initial contract.
Make sure you and your developer have a mutually agreed and written deadline for completion of the design and building of the website!