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Picking a Webmaster

Your webmaster will become a part of your business team. When talking to a webmaster about designing your custom website you will want to ask questions and note which questions you are asked in return. I the photography industry it is common that you see fantastic photographers who are going broke. Wht? They are terrible business people. This truth is also true of webmasters.

As you start talking to web designers consider this list of questions and considerations.

  • Does the web designer have experience with your product line? Depending upon your product or industry this can be valuable. On the other hand don't make it a requirement. The internet provides three basic functions:

    A directory This is the search engine. Does the web designer have suggestions on how to get you into the search engines. This is more than what they do on your site and telling the search engines that you exist.

    Information Dispursal This is your online catalog or brochure. Once someone has found your website this is the presentation of your marketing and informational materials.

    Call to Action and Sales Once someone is on your site and has learned about your product this is the point they become a customer or strong prospect.

    A good web designer can provide these services for all kinds of products. What you need to ascertain is are they listening to you. Don't expect your web designer to be an expert in marketing your product, but they should have done some basic research into your industry and be prepared to offer some ideas.

  • What does the designers other sites look like? If the designer has done sites that have a similar look and feel to what you want then you know they can reproduce that for you. If they have not, present them with sites you have seen and see if they feel they can base your site on that one. Pay special attention to sites where the webmaster had complete artistic control. Company budget restraints often keep designers from creating the types of sites they really want to create.

    Note on Flash: Some web designers love FLASH and feel that every site should be heavily FLASH based. Depending upon your industry this may or may not be a good choice. Ask the designer their opinion and also ask them to provide statistics on how FLASH is viewed by search industry and web usage trends. Many searh engines do not like FLASH because the content is hidden. There are work arounds to this limitation which the webmaster should discuss. Not all answers are clear cut. You will want to consider your customer base, product line, competitors, and budget.

  • Is the designer listening to you? Experiencded web designers know their jobs. Good web designers will understand that you know your business and have experience with what has worked for you or other associates in your business. Designers that spend more time talking to you than listening to you may not listen to you when they are on the clock.

  • Testing Who will be responsible for testing? Does the designer have a tester, are they testing it themselves, or is ityour responsibility. My recommendation is that you have someone in your company or a friend not associated with the project do the testing. Why? The people writing code will often test the way they expect it to be used.

  • Who owns the code? If the designer creates a great site and then moves on who will own the site code? Many designers will want to retain the copyright. Spell this out up front and make sure you get a copy of the sites code. If you want to keep 100% of the code rights spell that out up front because it could impact price.

  • Who Owns the Domain? When the business domain name is registered make sure your name is listed as the owner. This can save disputes later.

  • What other services are offered? Hosting, search engine optimization, link exchange and more are all additional services.

  • If the webmaster handles hosting what is included? Who handles support for email and down times.

  • Warranty? This sounds odd but little things will be found and crop up.

  • Pricing - Hourly Rate or Bid A bid is a nice round number that you can count on. Right? If the designer gives you a bid ask about spec changes and the cost. As the site evolves you will probably want to make tweaks. Find out how the specification changes will be handled. You will also want to ask how the charges are figured when working on the layout. Hourly bids do leave you open so if you agree to that gt some general ranges and ask to be notified when a request will push the time over the stated range.

  • What will the developer do to help your search engine rankings.

There are probably many more questions you should or could ask. In summary make sure the person fits with your needs, has the technical skill set, and get everything in writing. This will help keep you in a good relationship.