I have been researching “Top Questions to ask before Hiring a Website Designer” on Google. The results I have found are typical of ones that you would ask for any profession: What is the Price, the Timeframe, your Experience, Referrals, and your Availability? Some of the things I came across are web design specific, such as: Do you have a Portfolio, do you know the appropriate Programming Languages (HTML, CSS, PHP, etc), and do you understand Site Security? These are all great questions to ask, but it seems like there is one incredibly important question that is being overlooked.
This question is:
“Will I own my website, hosting and url and will I be able to make changes to the website on my own?”
What this VERY important questions asks is, “WHO HAS CONTROL?” Do you, the business owner, have ownership of your website, or does the website designer have this power (and do you trust them with it)?
The reason all these questions came about for me is because of a networking one-on-one I had this week. The colleague I was speaking with was meeting me for the first time, and he wanted to ascertain if I was a legitimate website designer or not. So he asked me whether I buy the domain names for clients or if I let them buy it themselves. My reply is that I usually have the clients buy their domain on their own, and only make recommendations of what url to purchase (so that it is SEO friendly) and how and where to obtain their own hosting.
This was a positive answer in the opinion of my colleague, because he has encountered crooked website designers who purchased the domain name and hosting for their clients only to abuse and extort their clients later. As soon as the domain name was up for renewal, these website designers would increase their prices to exorbitant levels. Apparently, they view their clients as sources of income rather than human beings.
As you know, there are people who make an entire profession of domain name reselling. Similar to a ticket scalper at a sporting event, these people buy “in-demand” domain names anticipating that a business might be willing to purchase them at inflated prices later. However, for a website design professional to engage in this type of activity is a clear conflict of interest.
It comes down to a basic question of ethics: Are clients only an avenue from which to gain money (self serving), or are they people who deserve your respect (serving others)?
It also frustrates me that some website designers force their clients to use proprietary programs for their websites. These custom-coded systems severely restrict the access that business owners have to their website, forcing them to pay the designer for any changes that need to be made. But why would a website designer force a client into a content management system that is accessible only to the designer, especially when there are so many reliable, universally supported open-source systems available to use? It may be argued that the custom content management system is more efficient for the designer because he knows the program so well. I would argue that this prioritizes convenience for the designer rather than prioritizing the goals of the client.
At Kropmark Design, we operate our business with integrity and look out for the interests of our clients. We will not purchase your domain name or hosting for you, unless you specifically request this. Although we do make web hosting recommendations and are affiliates of some hosting programs, we do not force our clients into any of these choices and are happy to work with any legitimate hosting company. And most important, we do not force our clients to use a proprietary website system that only we can edit. We only use well-supported content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla. These systems allow you, the business owner, to make most changes to the website yourself without the need to pay us another penny. And if you decide to work with another website designer for future website modifications, these systems will allow that (although we would be sad to lose you as a customer).
In other words, we give YOU, the business owner, CONTROL. We know that if you are smart enough to run your own business, then you are also smart enough to manage your own website. Once your website is completed, we will train you in how to manage your own online changes and will give you full administrator access to every aspect of your website. We hand over the keys to your website when the job is complete, and any website designer who does something less than this is suspect.
Don’t forget to ask the right questions of your website designer. Make sure that you can own and manage your website yourself and don’t feel forced into any situation where you feel you lack control or are getting a lower value product from your website designer.
Images courtesy of Pixomar and Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net