Building your website, whether it's for a personal blog, company or a larger scale project, is a major step. It's a technology minefield out there.
It seems these days, every man and his dog fancy themselves as a web developer. There are a whole host of new page builders and 'easy to create yourself' software.
As, in any industry that becomes flooded with service operators, there are people out to make a fast buck for little effort and they could have their sites firmly set on you. So what are the things you should be asking your website designer / agency when commissioning a website or obtaining a quote?
I've chosen to talk about the Wordpress platform, as it's estimated that over 75 million websites worldwide are using Wordpress and it's by far the most popular for smaller/medium scale projects.
The term "Platform" might not mean much to you as a customer. Let's think of it as the foundations for a house. It's what your website is built upon, so needs to be stable, installed correctly, safe and stand the test of time.
Get the platform wrong or neglect it and you'll be knocking down your beautiful construction to rebuild it sooner than you think. Costly! Different platforms work for different projects. Wordpress tends to be versatile to any type of website from personal blogging to an e-commerce, shop which is where it wins the popularity contest.
It's relatively easy for a developer who knows what they are doing to install and best of all is FREE (open source).
This means no costly licence fees to use it in a commercial setting. Probably most importantly, It has a huge community behind it and you can pretty much find a plugin already developed to fit your needs. Of course you can make a donation if you see fit.
It has a user friendly interface that customers can get to grips with quickly, allowing you to easily update your website without the need of technical knowledge. Although FREE doesn't mean it won’t cost you.
You'll need a experienced developer who knows what they are doing to setup databases, install and maintain plugins and themes and set correct file permissions etc.
Like all good solutions, WordPress does come with some downsides. Wordpress is constantly updating the codebase to keep ahead of different exploitative areas and this will mean regular maintenance to keep it secure.
It's one of the easiest and most targeted platforms for hackers. Anyone can develop WordPress plugins which inevitably means some are not developed up to standard - leaving potential holes for hackers to exploit, as well as a performance nightmare for your visitors.
If you need a speedy site, a WordPress install full of sub-standard third party plugins and a themes will not be good for you.
Themes & Plugins
An ever increasing number of developers will now use a third party theme that has already been developed. This is a great way of bringing cost and turnaround time down and avoids re-inventing the wheel.
The theme can then be tweaked and customised to fit your company's needs such as brand colours and content etc. There are lots of sub-standard themes out there though, so ask your developer to pick carefully.
Without an amount of customisation, it will also mean your website is not unique. So if you go with a theme, be prepared to stumble across many other websites that looks just like yours.
So here’s what to ask...
What platform will my website be built on? If the answer is Wordpress, then you want a big 'Yes' to the below:
- Will it be maintained and patched with all the latest fixes from the vendor as soon as they are released?
- Will you be using third party plugins / if so have they been rated and researched?
- Are you using a third party theme? if so has it been rated and researched?
- Will my website be backed up regularly? If so, when?
- Has my install been secured against hackers and malicious code? Refer to Hardening Wordpress
- What's been done around performance? Making sure my website is as quick as can be?
- Will I own the codebase? Can I have a copy of my website?
The last question is an important one and more of a general question that applys to any kind of platform.
You need to be reassured that, if your current developer/company director decides the ‘web industry’ is no longer for them and emigrates to Australia to become a sky diving instructor, you have all the files and assets needed to pass on to a new developer.
I've seen so many people come unstuck on this one and end up losing their website.You're entitled to ask for a copy of your website at any point! These are all questions any decent development agency should be able to easily answer and advise you on.
Remember, you are well within your rights to ask for evidence of this. Be prepared, some of the above may come at an extra cost, but it's imperative that you know these things are being taken care of upfront and well worth it in the long run.
The answer to these questions, can be the difference in choosing one developer over another. Heavy Penguin can help you get your Wordpress site up and running.