Choosing your web supplier

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Everybody seems to know a little about the Internet and websites (or claims to). Your problem is going to be sorting out those that know a little from those that actually know enough.

Here’s a few questions to ask:

    1. Is their main business about the Internet? Or is it a sideline? For example, it’s very common for graphic designers to offer web services. It’s not unlikely that they can come up with a nice looking design, but it’s very unlikely that they have the full set of Internet skills that will ensure success for your overall Internet presence. A house painter is good at painting, but not likely to be as good in home construction. So if you really like their graphic designs, let your Internet supplier coordinate with the graphic artist to use those designs. Neither should have a problem doing that.
    2. Can they and will they manage or provide everything you need? Images? Copywriting? Technology? SEO? Hosting? Regular reviews and maintenance? If they can’t or won’t it will mean that you must or that you must coordinate with more than one supplier to get what you want. That’s not a formula for a speedy solution or for success on the Internet.
    3. Do they fire and forget? Remember, creating and putting up the website is only a small piece of the whole job. Make sure you’re working with someone who can see it (and you) through to the complete integration of your site with your business.
    4. Are they nearby? This is a case of “build global but act local”. It’s important to work with someone you can see face to face. There are hundreds of horror stories about small businesses getting left high and dry because their Internet services were provided over the Internet by someone out of country who then decided to disappear on them.
    5. Do they offer a guarantee? Real simple – either they stand behind their work or they don’t.
    6. Can they show you examples of what they’ve done to create traffic for their customer’s websites? A website without traffic is not very useful. Your Internet supplier should be a key player in helping you get traffic.
    7. Can you make small changes in the website content without having to call them every time? This is important. If you have to pay $10 (or more) every time you make a change to the content of your website, it will be a very expensive website. Make sure your supplier offers a technology – and training – so that you or your own staff can make basic content changes.
    8. Do they use a technology that is readily available to other developers? Some suppliers use proprietary tools to make their services seem special or unique. This is actually a disadvantage to you. If you decide to change suppliers, it means you will have to remake your website. Good Internet tools are widely available and popular (and often ‘free’).
    9. Do they ensure that domain names and hosting accounts are in YOUR name? Your domain name is an important asset for you – something you will use for a long time. Make sure it’s registered in your name from the beginning. Your hosting account is almost as valuable – so make sure it’s in your name also. Be sure that your supplier turns over the credentials for both. Keep them in a safe place.
    10. Are their prices reasonable? Is the amount paid in advance minimal? Use the prices on the previous page as a guide to judge. Quality Internet suppliers don’t bother to “mark up” expenses like domain names or hosting expense. They also only require a minimum deposit to begin work (generally less than 10%). Make sure your payments are made when you see results, not when you hear mere promises.
    11. Do they understand other forms of Internet marketing besides websites? PPC? Do they understand permission-based email? Your website is only one piece of your Internet presence. Make sure your supplier has the capabilities and know how to do the others as well. They should be able to show you samples and discuss results.