Don’t let a web designer cut corners at your expense. In this article, we will tell you exactly what questions you need to ask so that you don’t get taken advantage of.
The most common objection we hear when it comes to website design is cost. Often prospects will turn down a quote, in favour of a cheaper one. What they might not realise at the time is that the other developer has probably cut a lot of corners in order to justify the lower cost.
Developing a professional, mobile-friendly and search engine optimised website that generates leads and sales takes expertise and time. Make sure your website designer doesn’t pull the wool over your eyes by asking them these 5 questions.
5 Questions you should ask your web designer before hiring them:
- What website platform will you use?
- Will my website be mobile-friendly?
- Will my website have SEO?
- How will you secure my website?
- Will I be trained to use my website?
1. What website platform will you use?
This is the most important question to ask your web designer because it will show you whether they know their stuff or not and whether they are charging you correctly.
The recommended answer is “WordPress”. However, any Content Management System (CMS) is advised. There are several reasons why we prefer WordPress but here are a few reasons we recommend a CMS:
- Ownership – You own the website and all the files. Unlike Wix or other website builders that own the platform, and all the content on it.
- Flexibility – You can customise every aspect of the site without limit.
- Functionality – You can have pretty much any functionality you want.
- Control – You can make changes to your website, without having to enlist the services of a developer every time.
So what is WordPress?
WordPress is a open-source (available to anyone) content managing system (allowing you to create and publish blog articles). Designers & developers use themes (also known as templates) to style a WordPress site. Put simply: WordPress is the engine that drives the website, themes are the body; the look.
But a WordPress website can be built in a few ways, depending on who is building it, and who they are building it for. Essentially there are three ways to develop a website using WordPress:
Custom WordPress websites the Rolls Royce of WordPress websites. They are very expensive because they require the services of a designer and developer.
The designer will create the look of your website in a design program like Photoshop. At this stage, your website is nothing more than a picture. So it has to be passed onto a developer who turns the design into a functional, working WordPress theme using HTML & CSS code.
Everything (except for the base WordPress functionality) is built from the ground up to give you a very bespoke, high-performance website.
Cost: The cost of custom website design in South Africa is upwards of R80 000 depending on the number of pages and functionality required.
A semi-custom WordPress website is a more affordable option because it uses a “page builder software”, like Divi or Elementor. Page builder software allows a developer to build the pages visually in a drag-and-drop way. This reduces the amount of coding required to build a site and overall time.
Our web design packages use this method to build websites. Our designers would still create a unique website design in Photoshop. This is then still given to a developer, who then builds the website using the page builder software.
This will still give you a bespoke, high-performance website but in half the time, at half the cost of a custom site.
Cost: The cost of semi-custom web design in South Africa ranges between R30 000 – R80 000 depending on the number of pages and functionality required.
If you get a cheap website quote, I can almost guarantee you that the developer will be using a template.
What is a WordPress Template Site?
A WordPress template is a pre-built website available for purchase online. Experienced developers will essentially build a custom WordPress website for a specific niche, and then package it for reselling. These are known as premium themes. There are plenty free themes out there too.
This is by far the cheapest and fastest way to build a WordPress website because you don’t need a designer or developer. You don’t necessarily even need to have any development experience. Literally anyone can buy a template from a repository like ThemeForest for around $60, install it and voila you have a website.
Sounds great, right? Not quite. Here are some of the drawbacks of template sites:
- Limited design – other than being able to change colours & fonts, you are constrained by the template
- Limited functionality – integrating additional functionality can be tricky sometimes
- Slow & bloated – often these templates come with additional plugins & code that you will never use, which slow down the website performance
- Regular maintenance – in order for your website to stay pretty, it needs to be updated as and when the developers of the template release updates
This is the most common way for developers to build WordPress websites because they can build the site in a few hours, and charge premium rates for it.
Cost: A WordPress template website design cost in South Africa should cost you nothing more than R15 000 (obviously depending on how many pages & the functionality).
Now I am not saying that either one of the above methods is best or worst, because each of them has their place. You just need to know how your website designer is building your website, and whether or not their quote is in line with the work required.
2. Will my website be mobile-friendly
60% of all internet traffic in South Africa is on smartphones. So your website has to be mobile friendly to ensure good user experience for people on their phones.
Making a website mobile friendly is a lot of additional work, even if you do buy a template that is responsive. You still have to test the website on different screen sizes, and manually adjust breakpoints if there are issues.
So make sure your web designer agrees to provide you with a website that works perfectly across all devices, browsers, and platforms.
You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to test whether your site is mobile-friendly or not.
3. Will my website have SEO?
Having a professional website is not enough. You won’t get any sales or leads from your website if no one can find it on Google. SEO (search engine optimisation) is the process of optimising your website in order to rank in search engines for specific search terms.
This is where we find a lot of developers cutting corners to save time and make more profits because it’s not easy for a layman to know whether their website has SEO or not. Optimising a website for search engines is a very technical and time-consuming process.
Ensure that your web developer includes “On-page SEO” in their quote. Here are some essential SEO tasks that need to be completed:
- Keyword research (what search terms are people using in Google to find your services)
- The website should be https://
- SEO friendly URL structures
- Each page should have a Meta Title and Meta Description, containing the focus keyword
- All images must have alt-tags, containing the focus keyword
- Each page should be optimised around a focus keyword
- Each page should have at least 500 words of copy, containing the focus keyword & variations thereof
- The website pages need to be mobile responsive
- The website pages need to load fast
- The website should be submitted for indexing upon completion
These are just a few important checks. If you want to know whether your website has SEO or not, use our Website SEO Checker.
4. How will you secure my website?
WordPress is an open-source platform – this means that the code is available to anyone on the internet. It is a big reason why the platform is so successful, because it has millions of users, all working on and improving the software. But, there are nefarious individuals who try to exploit this open-source software for their own gain.
If your web developer does not take the right precautions when building your website, you could be vulnerable for hacking, attacks and malware. This goes for all website platforms, not just WordPress.
Here are some essential security precautions:
- Installing a security plugin like Sucuri or WordFence
- Blocking traffic from certain countries with a reputation for hacking
- Two-factor login authentication
- Hiding the login page
- Changing default database names
- Disabling the default registration pages
- Long & complex passwords, updated every few months
Your developer should provide you with a detailed description of how they will secure your website against potential hacks and threats.
5. Will I be trained to use my website?
Don’t be held hostage by your website developer. If you want to change an image or upload a blog article you should be able to do that without having to pay someone.
One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is that anyone can learn how to make changes & update the site. Even people who are not technically inclined. You don’t need to pay a web developer every time you want to make a change.
That being said, your web developer should still offer you some training when they handover the website to you. They should provide you with training or tutorials that cover basics like:
- Navigating the dashboard
- General website settings
- Adding, editing & removing menus (navigation)
- Adding, editing & removing pages
- Adding, editing & removing blog posts
- Adding, editing & removing media
- Adding, editing & removing users
- Updating the platform
- Updating Plugins
There are many things that you can easily do yourself, without having to hire a web developer every time.
BONUS: Things to check before hiring a web designer.
Choosing a web design company based on price alone is not advised. Because as I have just explained, the costs are low because they have cut corners. But let’s say that your developer passed the test, here are some additional things to check before hiring them:
Web designer or developer
I have used these terms interchangeably throughout this article for easy reading, but they are in fact two very different professions. Just like a car mechanic and a panel beater both work on cars, they perform very different duties:
- Web designer – is a graphic designer or artist who is focused on the visual aspect of a website – layout, style, content, user experience.
- Web developer – is someone that develops functionalities and applications for the internet, using code.
Often when using freelancers or smaller companies, they give you one or the other. It is important that you know who you are working with, so that you know their capabilities.
The best way to check whether a web developer is any good is to speak to past clients. Ask the developer to provide you with a portfolio of similar work, and then contact some of their past clients. Ask them how it was working with the developer, did they understand the brief, what were the timelines like etc.
Do not go into a website development project without signing a contract that protects both parties. The contract should clearly state what the definition of “completed” means. This is absolutely essential to ensure that you aren’t on the wrong side of a bad deal. It should be an immediate red flag if they do not have a contract.
Most developers require a 50% deposit to start work, with the remainder due before the website goes live. Avoid paying 100% upfront, but also don’t expect a developer to start any work without some sort of payment.
It is expected that you provide as much content (logos, images and copy) for the web designer in a zipped folder or shared drive. But it might not be expected that the developer writes any new content or sources new images.
It needs to be very clear from the start if content creation is included in the website quote. Do they write content for you, do they find images, do they create custom graphics – or are you expected to provide all the content, exactly as it needs to be on the website?
You can reduce unnecessary delays in work or misunderstandings by checking this information in advance.
Key Takeaway: Be Informed
In a perfect world, you would hire a web designer and they would deliver a beautiful, functional website on time at a good price. Instead, we hear countless stories of web designers taking advantage of clients or just not delivering what was promised.
It can be very easy for web designers to hold a client hostage with their own website.
The main cause for this is improper screening and vetting from the client’s side. Website development is an investment, therefore it is critical that you screen your web designer before making a hiring decision.