Lately, we have done work on several websites for clients where we ran into work from past developers and agencies that were full of various issues. We’ve been called upon to fix website problems like non-customizable portions of sites, website themes that can only be maintained by specific agencies, and even code written in Russian!
We’ve provided website guidance before – like choosing WordPress as your platform or why you should invest in a website maintenance plan – but given the website challenges we’ve been encountering lately and with all the noise in the web design world these days, we wanted to talk about how to avoid some of these issues we’ve been running into. Asking these five questions before hiring a website developer will help you level up your digital marketing and ensure you have a website that will serve you well.
Is the entire website customizable and fully editable?
We always recommend using WordPress as your website platform because of its ease of use and customization abilities. You can do so much within WordPress – easily edit pages, add e-Commerce, add SEO abilities…the list goes on. But if a WordPress site is poorly built, it can be extremely difficult and restricting to work within. This is especially true if the site is built using a specific agency’s theme that isn’t commonly used or updated.
To avoid ending up with a WordPress site that isn’t editable in the way you need it to be, be clear with your developer about which pages and sections of content you will need to edit regularly. You should also confirm with them that it will be easy to add features and functionality in the future – things like new landing pages, e-Commerce capabilities, and plugins. Also be sure to ask about things like the homepage and menus. You’ll want your homepage content and navigation menus to be easily editable, and you should have common page layout options built as templates.
Do I own my own website?
This might seem like a silly question, but we can assure you that it’s an important one. Make sure you have 100% access and ownership to the site once it is completed and paid for. Some specific things to make sure you can access include FTP; WP Admin; and Database, Domain, and DNS settings. You may not need all of it right now, but you’ll need it sometime in the future, and especially if you change developers.
You also want to avoid leased websites. Yes, this does happen, and we strongly recommend against it. When you rent a website, you don’t own your domain and may not be able to transfer ownership in the future. Overall, you will have less freedom and flexibility to have your website do everything you need it to do. A website is your digital storefront. It’s like an employee that never stops working. Owning your website gives you the freedom to host it and manage it how you need to, and it ensures you have the rights to all the text and images within it.
What security and maintenance will be built in?
While WordPress is undoubtedly the best website platform to use, the one downside to its popularity is that WordPress sites can be vulnerable to being hacked. This shouldn’t be an issue if a developer coded the site properly, uses themes and plugins from reputable developers, and uses preemptive security tools to protect the site. Make sure that once the site is completed you’ll be set up on a solid website maintenance plan. This is one of the best investments you can make for a website, since it will ensure the site is continuously monitored and protected so you can avoid security issues, website downtime, or expensive fixes in the future.
Will I be able to use this theme even if we part ways?
We’ve alluded a lot to themes in this blog, and that’s because they’re so important! Many agencies and consultants offer proprietary or child themes. While an agency may make this sound like a good option, we heavily caution against it. It will leave you with extremely limited options if you want to change developers in the future, even to the point of having to completely rebuild the site. Ask the developer whether they’re using an existing theme as is, customizing an existing theme, or building it from scratch. Make sure your website is running on a theme that is regularly updated, which will keep your site secure and functioning well.
What coding standards do you use?
A good developer will follow WordPress Coding Standards. These make sure that your website’s code is clean and highly readable. Using the latest coding practices and technologies will make it as easy as possible to make future changes to your site. It will also ensure any professional developer will be able to easily work with your site, expediting future projects and collaborations.
Build a site that will serve you well
Your website is arguably your company’s most important asset – it works hard for your company every minute of every day. We hope this blog empowers you to start thinking about it in that way, from the very first conversations with potential developers. At The Source Marketing Group, we empower business owners to fully own and engage with their websites. We don’t use proprietary themes, and we stay up to date on the best tools and themes to use so that any developer or in-house employee can easily find resources and learn to work with the site. We can give preferred recommendations, but our clients choose their hosting and own their own domains. We always provide general training and guidance for all websites, and we offer affordable maintenance plans so you can protect your site moving forward.
Whether you’re starting a website project from scratch or need to pivot your website from a previous developer’s work, reach out and see how we can help build a website that helps your business perform at its highest level. Contact us today!
Kristin is the CEO/Founder of The Source Marketing Group. The marketing agency is focused on elevating female-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses.