Howdy folks, I’ve been making websites for about 20 years and here are my best tips I wish clients would read before they came to me. Hope this helps someone avoid a danger trap!
1.Just say no to Weebly and Wix.
I know, they have slick marketing and an easy user interface. It is super tempting. But none of their plans are truly free, and their feature and ability limitations will likely leave you frustrated in the long run- they just hope that happens after you’re already too invested, because they give you no easy way to import/export your pages. If you need a drag and drop editor, I recommend Squarespace, which at least gives you full customization control. It still has some of the same downsides, but their mobile sites and designs are much better, and they give you more creative freedom.
2. Don’t buy your domain name yet!
Yes, it is a great name and I understand you don’t want anyone scooping it up. But, if it hasn’t already been registered in the last ten years, it probably won’t be today. I can’t tell you how many times folks buy a domain name and then talk to me (the web designer). At that point, I can’t help and they’re a big pain to move. Plus, lots of the best web hosting packages offer free domain names as part of it, so you only have one credit card to keep updated. Make your web designer happy- let them set up your domain name for you.
3. Don’t use Godaddy for hosting
They’re the Walmart of websites, except they’re not cheap. Maybe you bought your domain name there already, which is fine (I’ve done it myself, to be honest). But their hosting customer service and support is terrible, don’t let me go into the bad experiences I’ve had with their agents on live chat, we’ll be here all day. Plus, they really nickel and dime you for “extras” that everyone else includes for free- my (least) favorite example of this is $75/year for an SSL certificate to make your site secure, but runners up include really expensive email, privacy, and backups. Ridiculous! My favorite host is wind-powered, great tech support, has that stuff and a free domain name included, and costs $99/year. Total.
4. Research your CMS before you commit
If done right, websites are a long-term relationship. You want the underlying structure to be something flexible enough for you to work with down the road, so you won’t need to rebuild the whole thing from scratch in a year or two. Some questions to consider are: Does it have all the features you need? How easy is it to import/export? Is it open source? How much maintenance is needed? Not sure what this means, no worries, check out this blog post on website CMSs or I can walk you through your options on a free consult call.
5. Be prepared!
Make sure your project has an audience and a profit plan before investing in a nice website. It’s totally okay to start with a handsome single page site (starting at $500) or DIY your first draft before investing the big bucks (most websites cost at least $2 grand to build professionally, and the building cost isn’t easily recouped if you decide after it’s not really a project you want to pursue or the profit model isn’t really there. It’s also great when a client comes to me with a sense of website designs they like, and a sense of what words they want on each page.
6. Shop local
You may be familiar with outsourcing sites like Upwork and Fiverr. These can be much cheaper than sourcing local talent, and the fine folks in Pakistan and India and Budapest (etc) are indeed very skilled and willing to work for less. However, if project management and excellent communication aren’t already skills you have, you may find working with someone overseas frustrating. I’ve had hit or miss results myself. Sometimes you get lucky and get a deal that you’re happy with, sometimes the work delivered is not what you expected, and sometimes it ends up costing way more and you have to start over again. The biggest problem is if that freelancer goes unresponsive or is late, there’s really nothing you can do about it. That’s part of why I never outsource work. I am just too picky about quality and my clients care about deadlines. Better to support your local website artisans and have a phone number you can reach out to anytime for questions and support. Plus, they tend to be awake at the same time as you!
I hope by sharing my hard earned lessons, it helps another person avoid the same pitfalls I’ve experienced. If you have other questions or things you’d add to this list, feel free to comment or schedule a free coffee chat where we can discuss your unique project.