Last Updated: Jun 20, 2018
To choose the best web hosting and best web design service for your business you need know how you want your website to function and what the going rates are. Use these tips to choose your web host and web developer.
Creating a website – cost vs results
When you’re buying web hosting and web design services, you may not always get what you pay for. High price is no assurance of good service from your web designer, web developer, or web hosting service.
Nor is it an assurance of services focused on your objectives and needs. One organization paid several thousand dollars to have their web site designed and hosted for a year. The web site consisted of only a few pages of text and one graphic image. There were no databases, no complex graphical or programmatic components and no forms other than a simple Contact Us form to send email to the owners of the site. The entire job shouldn’t have taken more than a day or two to create. In fact, it could have been completed in less than a day using WordPress and one of the many WordPress templates that are available.
Other small business owners have paid equally high prices to have their web sites designed with slide shows or other bells and whistles the site visitors aren’t interested in an in some cases prevent the sites from being found easily – or at all – in search engines.
On the flip side, very low prices offered by some hosting services and web developers may come with their own problems. Some low-cost web hosting services can cause your pages to be very slow to load (appear in a web browser). And a web designer who quotes a much lower price than any other designers you contact may be inexperienced, take a long time to do the work, or be outsourcing work to individuals in countries where skilled workers are paid very little for their time.
To avoid problems like these, you need to know what web services you actually need to buy.
Launching a web site is a process that involves several types of activities. Among them:
Depending on the nature of your site and how much work you can and want to do yourself, other services you may want to consider include these:
Small businesses don’t always need all the services listed above. Which web development and marketing service your business needs depend on the purpose of your website.
Some web designers, hosting companies, and agencies offer “complete” packages that include setting up and hosting the site along with design, limited maintenance, SEO and even social media management.
Although using a single source to do all the work sounds convenient, it isn’t necessarily a good idea. While there are some web development companies and agencies that can handle everything you need to get your website set up, the content created, and found on the web, man service providers are better at one or two services than at others.
For instance, the web development company that includes SEO in its list of services may not be current on what’s working in SEO and what tactics should not be used.The person who is a whiz at computer programming may have no artistic abilities and no eye for graphic design. Someone who is capable of putting text into html may not know anything about creating the editorial content for the site or about marketing. (Don’t assume they can type well or spell correctly, either!) And, the company that hosts the web site may charge a small fortune to “design” your website, when all they do is plug your material into a cookie-cutter template that they use to “design” every web site they create.
Furthermore, if you are charged a flat fee, you may wind up paying for services you don’t need, or overpaying for the ones you do need.
To make sure the price you are quoted is fair, ask the provider to give you an itemized list of services they provide and to specify the fee they are charging for each service.
Get itemized quotes from several vendors and compare them. If a web designer you have decided to work with recommends a particular web hosting company, ask them why they recommend that provider. For web hosting, look at how much disk space you get, how much memory, how many email addresses, whether there is a limit on the number of “pages” or number of products you can have for the price quoted, how much bandwidth you are allowed (how much data can be transferred monthly for the fee), and what extra charges you’ll incur if you go over these amounts. You also want to ask if backup services are included or can be purchased at an extra cost. If your site will require database software, is there an extra charge for that? Ask what kind of support they provide, too, and how fast they respond to requests for support.
For web development, you want to know if the service provider will create original page templates, and if so, how many (often the home page of a site will have a slightly different look than the blog or article pages, for instance.) Will they be setting up a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress so you can make small content changes or add new pages on your own? Will there be a way for you or someone you choose to add page titles and descriptions the search engines look for? Will the site generate a sitemap the search engines also look for?
You’ll want to ask about graphics – will there be original art work on the site? Will you own those graphics? If there will be photos you don’t own, what will it cost you to license them to use on the site? If you will have a complex site, you’ll want to ask the developer to list any other features or resources (such as a custom database) that you’ll need.
Ask how long the web developer takes to answer support requests and make updates. Once your site is up, you may find you will need to wait any time you want a change made that is not an emergency. Ask how many employees the company has, and if the person works alone, what happens if they are on vacation or otherwise unavailable and you need their support. Who covers for them?
You will need a written declaration from the web developer assigning you the copyright on all work they create for you. You need to own all original work done on or for your website and have the rights to change and control it on your own. If you don’t own all rights to the site, and don’t own the registration, if you have a dispute with your web developer in the future, they might hold your site or domain name hostage, preventing you from accessing it.
If you plan to sell online and you may want to consider using an outsourced storefront such as Shopify of BigCommerce (at least at first) instead of having an ecommerce system custom-built for you. The cost is likely to be less. (You may still need a web developer to set up the software for the outsourced storefront, but the work will go more quickly and should be a lot less expensive.) If the storefront provider takes a percent of sales, and what your options are for accepting credit cards online.
Be wary of deals that offer you a set number of “pages” unless you have no plans to add anything to your site after it is set up. A page requires very little space on a computer. If you only need to have a few “pages” on the internet, you shouldn’t have to pay more than $3 to $6 a month for hosting them, plus a reasonable hourly fee for taking your material and converting it into html web pages. (Those prices are just for the hosting, not for design, writing or updating content.) If you have a more complex site requiring features such as one or more databases or a storefront, hosting costs will be higher. Compare prices, then search online for reviews of your short list.
Some web designers may offer to host your site on web servers they run in their own office. This is not recommended. A small company might not have anyone available on weekends or holidays to fix problems with the host computer should they occur. In addition, should you even have a dispute with the company you might find it difficult to get access to your web files.
Before you agree to have anyone design your web site ask for references. Get the names and URLs of web sites they have designed for other companies. Look at those sites and see if you like them. Is the design of the pages attractive? Do they load quickly? Do they all look the same? Look around the sites for the email address of the owners and send them email. Ask if they were satisfied with the work that was done for them and if it was done in a timely fashion.
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Copyright 2018, Janet Attard
All Rights Reserved. Excerpted and updated from Chapter 14 of Business Know-How. May not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission
About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets. Follow Janet on Twitter and on LinkedIn