Here is an example set of questions and answers that you could consider asking your website designer, with some ‘comments’ from us thrown in for clarity:
I am one of the support team here that also handles the Web Design side of things.
I have tried to answer each of your queries below, obviously if anything isn’t clear or you have any further questions then feel free to contact me directly.
Q1 We will set up our own domain and hosting, so we want to check that we will be given full access to the website upon completion and own all IP rights associated with the website.
A1 If you wish to sort your own hosting and domain name then that is fine, we don’t have to host the site. Obviously when the site is complete and ready to go live then we would need to gain the relevant FTP access to the hosting in order to copy the files onto there. Once all payments for the site have been made then the website is yours and you can do what you wish with it. Obviously just be aware that bits like the search in the site will rely on an active subscription to the Software so if you cancelled that subscription then those bits of the site would cease to function.
Q2 We want to check that we will receive training on how to update the website once it is complete. How will this be provided?
A2 The only training we provide is on how to use the website software which is done remotely. With regards to updating the website the only part of that we would offer training/advice on is how to upload properties into the system and subsequently upload that data onto the property search on the site. We don’t offer any training on general updates or maintenance to the website or anything like that. Any changes to the site really would need to be done by us or someone who has a knowledge of website design / maintenance etc.
Q3 We would like to have input throughout the design and build processes. How many review sessions will there be?
A3 the way the build process works is you give us some initial design ideas, basic content like a logo etc and we will put together a rough 1st draft design which will be viewable on a test server here which we will send you a link to. You come back to us with any feedback on that draft, we make the required changes and it works from there until you are happy and the site is completed etc. It’s an ongoing process and there are no specific restrictions on the number of revisions etc – we can make changes to the design until you are happy with it.
Q4 What is the scope of the change requests? Are revisions/initial change requests included in quote? (want to know to avoid hidden costs)
A4 We will give you an initial quote for the website based on your requirements. In the design process as long as any revisions etc don’t involve adding things that were not in the initial requirements that we base the quote on then there is no additional charge or limit on general revisions to the design. Just be aware this is just in the design stage – any changes after the site has gone live would usually be charged for.
Q5 What happens about charging for the website’s changes if we want more changes once the website design projects commences?
A5 All billing is based on how long it is predicted something will take us to do so any additional work out of the initial scope is quoted for on an individual case by case basis.
Q6 Will we own and be given all the design source code and files for our advertising and internal useage as well as marketing use?
A6 I presume when you are talking about Design Source Files I presume you are talking about things like images used on the site etc? If that is the case then yes copies of anything like this used in the site can be provided for marketing use etc.
Q7 What additional procedures will you undertake to improve the security of the website?
A7 Not entirely sure what you are getting at in terms of security – you may need to clarify this and let me know any specific concerns you have. Obviously based on point 1 we are not going to be hosting the website so security in that sense will fall with your website host. Other than that the site won’t be processing any payments or any information of a sensitive nature so there shouldn’t be too many security concerns I would have thought but like I say please feel free to elaborate on that.
Q8 We really want the site to bring in lots of visitors via Google so will the website be search engine optimised? What specifically will you do to ensure on-page SEO?
A8 We don’t specialise in or offer any specific Search Engine Optimisation services with our sites. The sites are all built with some basics of SEO in mind to try and make the sites as friendly to the search engines as possible but we don’t do anything specific or offer any guarantees on rankings in the search engines etc.
Q9 We have been told website speed is an important factor for websites like ours, will the website that you create be fast loading? is it optimised for speed? If so what specifically will you do to ensure this and what steps do you take to ensure it loads fast?
A9 We don’t do anything to specifically optimise the sites for speed. Obviously as with the SEO above there are some basics when building a site that can be done to help with this kind of thing but like I say we don’t do anything specific and to be honest with the sites not really handling any major processing etc then all the pages are fairly basic text and image based pages and thus should run quickly anyway.
Q10 Do you provide any maintenance and support packages after completion of the website? How much and what does this specifically include?
A10 We don’t offer any ongoing maintenance contracts for the websites. Basically if we built you a site and you are using our software then as part of that we offer to look at any future maintenance you require to the site. Again this is quoted and charged for on a case by case basis depending on what it is you want doing. If it is just the odd text or image tweak that needs doing we don’t tend to charge for anything like that. Obviously if it is something more major that requires changing the layout or adding a whole new page etc then there will likely be a charge to cover that.
Q11 Will the website created by your website design company be optimised for all mobile / touch enabled devices and website browsers? Is this called responsive design?
A11 The sites are tested in all the main browsers. With regards to mobiles the answer to that is kind of the same as with the SEO – we don’t build a separate mobile version of the site or anything like that, nor are they guaranteed to be optimised for use on every platform but they are built with some basics in mind so that the site should be useable on most major platforms.
Q12 What is the CMS (content management system) that you want to use? Is it WordPress as we have heard this is popular and good
A12 The sites are not built with any kind of CMS system. The sites we build are not content managed in any way other than the Property Search section which updates from the Universal Software.
Q13 Do you offer a website promise or a guarentee? If so, what does this specifically include?
A13 We don’t offer any kind of warranty with the websites. Obviously they are put together based on constant contact with yourselves and the final 50% of the site isn’t payable until the site has gone live.
Q14 What is your estimated timeline to build this site? How is this broken down?
A14 Obviously each project is different. Our rough estimated timescale for a site is 4-6 weeks but it all depends on how much work we have on currently and mainly down to how quickly you can get us the info we need for the site, how quickly you get back to us with feedback etc. We have certainly done sites quicker than that timescale and some do run over that timescale. Obviously if you have a timescale/deadline you are working to then if you let us know we can do our best to try and work to that.
Q15 Will you be installing Google Analytics to allow us to track website statistics?
A15 We can install Google Analytics if you wish – you would sign up to the Google Analytics site which provides you with some code which if you pass to us we can embed accordingly in the site. This is totally up to you but subsequently the use of Google Analytics to track hits etc is down to you, we don’t offer any assistance on using Google Analytics etc.
Q16 Will the website be built on an existing theme, or built bespoke? If so, which theme?
A16 All our websites are built from scratch just using standard HTML and CSS, we don’t use templates and the sites are built bespoke from scratch. Obviously people sometimes see sites we have done for other agents or see another estate agency site somewhere online which they like the look of in which case we can sometimes base the site loosely on one of these existing designs but that doesn’t have to be the case. The only bit that isn’t fully customisable in terms of looks etc is the search facility which uses a standard plugin with the choice of a few set styles.
Q17 Do you have a dedicated project manager that will be managing this project?
A17 We have 2 member of the team which deal with the Web Design side of things, myself and my colleague. Should you proceed you will be assigned to one of us which just depends on current workloads.
Q18 Do you handle all development work in-house? How big is your team?
A18 All aspects of development here is done in house. As mentioned above there are 2 of us here which handle the Website Design.
Our comments on these replies:
Clearly this is a monthly subscription based website model that will not be supported and fail to work once you stop paying for it
They clearly just ‘sell’ this product and don’t want to help you build / promote the business / website going forward
By distancing themselves from SEO already they are not taking responsibility for this very important aspect that is crucial to your new websites’ success
They will be using a bespoke system that will be hard for other website designers to take over / update
They clearly wont be creating a responsive website which is short-sighted as so many people use touch enabled mobile devices now.
Their answers are quite good / generic standard but worrying that they claim their website will be written in html / css which is impossible for a database driven website and I believe you simply will get a template website not one written from scratch