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  • Writer's pictureShannon Fogden

The biggest mistakes when hiring a web developer... and how to avoid them.

You know you need a website, and you aren't interested in spending the time figuring out web design and doing it yourself, so, you hire a web developer, great.

I have seen so many clients over the past few months who have sunk thousands into websites that are built on free platforms with web developers that have cut corners on security or design or hosting and thus, the client ends up with a website that isn't what they wanted and cost an arm and a leg. Unfortunately, people will take advantage of ignorance, so I'm going to be putting together a few posts on what to look out for, what you actually need, and how to avoid unscrupulous developers.

Some basic terminology:

Hosting: Think of hosting as renting the premises of your site. This is where all your websites data and information will be stored. A web hosting service will provide the basics that your site needs to be able to be viewed on the internet. These service providers are the businesses that have the servers you see in hacker movies.

Domain Name: This your online address, your signpost that people will type into the internet to find your site. It's actually a stand in for your IP address which is a unique string of numbers which directs users to your site.

URL: This is the information your computer needs to find the right page on the website. Eg. The contact page on your website. The URL is basically all the information that creates a massive map that leads your computer to the right place.

Website: This is your home online. This is like taking people into your shop or house and walking them around. It should be easy to navigate, user friendly and should accurately represent your business.

Some things to watch out for:

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

This is the most important part of any website, but most web developers have no idea about how SEO works. It's actually a part of Digital Marketing, and most web developers are not marketers. It's a little like how engineers are not necessarily great brick layers, they're not trained in it.

If you're going to go through the trouble of having a website, then you need to get people visiting your site. SEO is the process of making sure that your website is on top of search engine results. Most people won't get past the top five Google results, less than 90% get to the second page of Google results.

If your web developer cannot explain to you, in detail how SEO works and how they are going to optimise your site, you need to look for another solution. SEO is a long term process but the basics have to be built into your site. Whether you do it, hire a digital marketer or have your developer build in the basics, you need to have solid Keywords, Alt tags, Title tags and have some solid back links built in. These should be developed and improved on over time, however if you do not have these basics in place, your site won't be optimised for search engines and it will be very difficult to drive traffic to your site.

Hosting platforms:

These can range from popular GoDaddy to Native Wix hosting. There are some very reasonable options. GoDaddy's budget package starts from R12 a month and includes a free domain. Depending on the size and complexity of your site you may need to upgrade, however most small businesses won't need to spend more than a few hundred rand a month on hosting.

Web Builder Platforms:

There are a multitude of ways to build a site, and some exceptionally powerful site builders. Wix and Squarespace offer very easy to use options, and of course wordpress is the mainstay. All of these platforms are capable of creating fantastic sites but the packages can get pricey.

Wix is optimised for native hosting, which means that while they offer you a great free package to build a site, their hosting is expensive. I have dealt with a few clients who have been charged a fortune for what is essentially a free six site. The problem being that wix is limited. It lacks the adaptability of a platform like wordpress and changes that can be made by coding are more limited than with other platforms.

Wordpress is a great option, and one that can be far more adaptable while still being user friendly enough for you to login and understand your website. It also allows great design flexibility, easy links to affordable hosting services as well as really high levels of support, should you need it.

Shopify is probably the most user friendly online store platform out there, and can be used to host top notch online stores. There are also plugins that allow it to operate with Wordpress sites.

Custom Coded websites are built from the ground up, on platforms like Wordpress or Joomla or and with the right web developer, will be the perfect fit. You won't get functions that you don't need which you may get when you purchase a template on a site like wix or wordpress. They can, however be far more expensive, there is a lot of time and effort that goes into building these sites.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time, clients end up paying for what they believe is a custom coded site when it's actually a free template site. The clients ignorance is a weakness and unfortunately unscrupulous developers will not hesitate to take advantage.

Any good developer will be extremely clear on whether they are building a custom coded site or using a template. It's also important to make sure your developer knows exactly what your needs are. If you are a small business your website needs to represent your brand, generate leads and connect with customers. You need solid SEO, a good digital marketing plan and a user friendly appealing website. Always ensure that your web developer has an exact brief and a solid line of communication. You should be able to ask questions and receive clear answers and solutions to your problems, and more than that, you should be happy with the finished product.

The first blog post on understanding your website needs

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