Website Tips, Tricks... and more.

10 Questions To Ask Your Prospective Web Designer

I found this article and thought it was a great set of questions to ask your potential web designer. I understand the importance of getting multiple bids for projects - but be aware that website pricing is extremely subjective. While you can get quotes from $250 to $20,000 - you need to know the right questions to ask to realize what you are getting for your money.

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It can be a daunting task setting up your on-line presence for most. The whole prospect of talking about "domain-name registration", "hosting services", "arranging content", "payment gateways" and "merchant accounts" etc... can seem a totally alien experience for even those initiated with plenty of on-line experience.

So, to help those that are seriously thinking about getting their business hosted on the Internet here are some Top Ten Tips you should be asking a Web Company before you consider taking on their service.

1) "How long have you been in business?"
While there is nothing wrong with going to a one man start up company (we all started somewhere) you may feel safer going with an established company where you can gather testimonials and feel more secure that the company has a history with hosting etc. You don't want to lose your hard-earned website if the developer decides to close down.

2) "Do you have a portfolio?"
First and foremost you have to see samples of work, without seeing this how do you know the Web Developer can do what you're asking? Also, make sure these are live sites and that they actually work!

"Do you have any testimonials?"
All good should be able to provide you with testimonials from previous satisfied clients. An established web design company will be happy to provide you with a list of testimonials if requested.

4) "Who works for you and can I meet them?"
You need to know that the company you are hiring can deliver what they claim, ask questions such as "What are your designers histories?" and "How many years of experience do they have in this field?". While all companies out-source at one point or another you need to be safe in the knowledge that your prospective company has staff on hand to deal with urgent queries etc and do not constantly have to rely on a freelancer. Finally, any company worth their salt will willingly let you go into their office and meet with the designers, beware of companies who refuse...what are they hiding?

5) "What is the process in developing a site?"
You and the web design company have to be clear right from the word go what part each of you have to play in developing the site. At certain points your designer will require content and feedback from yourselves and you have to be aware when this will be required.

6) "What happens if I need changes?"
All websites will need updated at one point or another, find out whether this is included in the price or an additional cost.

7) "What can you do to make my site visible?"
If your web design company also offers Search Engine Optimization and you are considering this service, ask if it's possible to have a short meeting with the SEO specialist. You'll know quickly if they are up to scratch and they should also be able to supply you with previous Search Engine reports and show signs of successful SEO results.

8) "Do I own my site at the end?"
You don't want to go through the process of developing a website only to lose the rights to it if you decide to get hosting from another company after a few months. Ask if its possible to obtain a full copy of your website on completion.

9) "What software/languages do you use?"
You probably don't really care about the answer to this but it is good for you to know your site will be created using industry standard software etc to allow the files to be worked on at a later date with a different company if needs be. Look for software names such as Adobe Macromedia and try to get developers with more than just basic HTML knowledge such as ASP, PHP - should you wish to upgrade your site to a dynamic site it will comfort you to know that your designer will be able to oblige without you having to go elsewhere.

10) "Do you provide hosting?"
All good web design agencies should be able to set you up with hosting and emails and you shouldn't feel that you are paying over-the-top for this service. If they say they can't and you feel the costs are high then be extremely suspicious!

Lynne Foster is a director of PoLR Limited - a web design, SEO and online marketing company in Glasgow Scotland.
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Search Engine Optimization

The number one question I get asked is "How do I get my site to be #1 in Google". Good question. The only sure fire way to get your site up in the top listings of Google is to pay for a listing. You can go to to find out more about Google Adwords.

Ok, so you don't have it in your budget right now to pay for Adwords... here are some tricks that I use and that you can do to boost you website in search engine rankings.

  1. When I code your website, I use hidden tags called "meta tags". Included in these are a title, description, and keyword tag.
    • The Title simply is the title of your website... for example "Pilot Designs - Website Designs". This appears in the very top of your website browser.
    • The Description tag is a short one sentence line describing what your website is about. Example: "Pilot Designs offers website design and website development to small businesses."
    • Keywords are important when used properly. This should be a set of no more than 250 characters or around 20-30 keywords that your website is about. These will be words that you will re-use throughout your website as well as words that people will type in trying to find your website. Example: "pilot designs, website design, Newnan website design,..."
  2. Next I will add "alt" tags to your images. What does this mean? Think about it this way - Pretend search engines are blind. If you have an image that says "Pilot Designs - The best websites anywhere!" The search engines can't read what that image says because it's just an image... there is no real text to the image so it just skips over it. If we add an "alt" tag to the image, we can duplicate the text and hide it in the code so that search engines can "read" the image, therefore increasing your visibility. This is also a good practice for those visitors who surf websites with their images turned off. They can see the text to the image and if it's something they think is important, they can turn the images back on to see the photo. Without alt tags, the visitor would have no idea there was even an image there at all.
  3. Back to the keywords from number 1 above. Once you establish your keywords for your website, you need to try and duplicate those words in a meaningful way throughout your website. If you have a photo gallery, the search engines will use the alt tags, but you can add a caption to the photos or a paragraph description above the photos so that the search engine knows what the site is about. Some people will go overboard and simply just re-list their key words on each page... big no-no. Google and other search engines call this "key word cramming" and can actually ban your website for doing this. Your best bet is to create meaningful and non-intrusive text to compliment your website's layout and design.
  4. This next one is all YOU. One of the most important ways to get your website noticed in search engines is to PROVE to them that your website is meaningful to others. Any joe shmoe can make a website on widgets, but you want to show the search engines that your widgets are popular and that your website would be desirable for visitors looking for widgets. In order to do this, you need to create links back to your website... also known as "back links". Lots of links are good, but lots of meaningful links are BETTER! We can create a links page on your website for you to exchange links with others in order to boost their back links and yours. Try finding websites to link back to yours that would be relevant to widgets... such as a widget accessories website, a widget manufacturer, a benefits of widgets site, etc. A link from a prom dress manufacturer to a furniture retailer may not be the best back link to create, but a link from a prom dress manufacturer to a shoe company or dress retailer would be ideal. There are ways to check the number of backlinks your website has, but I wouldn't recommend doing this too often. Once every few months is fine.
  5. Keep your content fresh. The search engines like to see that you are keeping content on your website fresh and you are adding new content on a regular basis. They do this because they want to know which websites are still active instead of ones that have just been sitting with outdated material. Try adding new text, creating articles or keeping a blog to add new website content without overwhelming your website.
  6. Create buzz about your site. Get people to go to your site, and give them a reason to come back. If your content stays the same, there is no reason for people to keep coming back. Do a giveaway where visitors have to sign up on line and then have to return to see who the winner is. Add a customer photo gallery where clients can submit photos for inclusion on the gallery page. As mentioned above, write relevant articles pertaining to your business that visitors would be interested in reading.
  7. Be patient. It can take months and months before Google or any search engine for that matter will search your website. This is normal and if you do everything above ... and do it the right way... your site WILL get noticed. Keep in mind that if you are selling widgets, there are a million other people that are selling widgets too. Try to target a smaller audience like "widgets in Newnan" or "widgets in Georgia". We all want to be known world wide, but you gotta start somewhere. Be the best in your town, then the best in your state, then the best in nearby states... and then you can be the best in the world.
  8. Set up a Gmail account and I'll do the rest. I'll add some webmaster tools as well as the Google Analytics statistics program so you can keep track of how many visitors your website is receiving as well as where they are coming from. You can also see how they are finding your website whether organic (from a search engine) or from another website. The web developer tools will allow you to see what words are being noticed in your website, what words people are using to find your website, and the average top position of your website for certain phrases or words. Keeping track of these things will allow you to see what you need to do to help boost your website.

Now, what should you NOT do??? Do NOT sit on your computer day after day and "submit" your website to Google and other search engines. This can actually cause your website to be banned from search engines. They have created programs whose only job is to automatically submit site after site to these search engines day after day. The search engines (especially Google) do not like this because they can't verify the integrity of the site and Google is working hard to only provide the most relevant websites in their search results.

Follow and understand these tips and you will have a successful website in no time!! Good luck, and I'll see you on Google!

What do you want in a website?

Some of my clients know exactly what they want for their website design... others have no idea. So what do you want for YOUR website? If you have no idea where to begin when thinking about your new website, keep these things in mind:

  1. Who is your target audience? If your target audience is a group other than what you fall under, consider finding a small group that IS in your target group and ask their opinions for your website.
  2. Does your business have a color scheme that you would like to stick to? If not, what colors appeal to you? What colors would appeal to your target audience?
  3. How many pages will your website have? If you have more than 7 or 8 you may want to consider listing your menu on the left side of your website. If you have fewer than 7 menu items, placing them at the top will give you more room for content
  4. What are some other websites that appeal to you? What about the websites appeal to you? Do you like the color scheme, layout, photos used, content...
  5. What do you want to be the first area your clients notice on your website? The header/logo, a photograph, or the menu are all great focal points depending on what your end goal is.
  6. Remember that this is YOUR website... but you want it to appeal to a crowd. Crazy fonts, multiple colors, spinning graphics may all be "fun"... but will not appeal to everyone. Keeping layouts simple and clean will ensure that the point of your website will get across to your target audience.
  7. Be daring. Try something that is different that will attract attention to your website. If yours looks like the rest of the internet's websites ... it won't set you apart from the rest.