Finding someone to create your author website can be a daunting task if you’re not sure what qualities you should be looking for in a Web developer. Too often authors with little technological know-how are roped into working with a Web design company, only to find that they can’t update their site on their own and the developer has suddenly become incommunicado.
The trick is to know what you’re getting yourself into. Luckily, the questions you should ask a prospective designer are simpler than you’d think.
Here are 5 things to ask when a Web designer says, “Do you have any questions?”
“Are there additional fees?”
How much pricing information a website designer divulges up front can vary. Some designers lay out all of their prices on their website; others only give approximate prices or require prospective clients to speak with them first to get a price quote.
While there is nothing wrong with the latter approach, vague information on a designer’s site can leave the door open for surprise charges and fees that sneak in later on down the line.
Make sure you know right at the start what you will and will not be charged for. Are there fees for adding extra images to your pages? How about custom graphic design? Are certain elements designed at an hourly rate, or is everything done within one flat fee? It’s better to ask now than to find out when you get your final bill.
“Who will have ownership of the domain name?”
If you don’t already own your domain name, most developers are happy to register it for you. But who actually owns your domain name?
Consider: One day you might want to move your site to a different hosting service. If you don’t own your domain name and don’t have access to its registrar, you’ll have to ask your original developer to hand the keys over. Unfortunately, not all of them will do so for free, and you run the risk of losing it altogether.
There’s nothing wrong with having someone else register your domain for you—just make sure you have control if you need it.
“What happens if my site goes offline for some reason?”
Sometimes websites go down, and the cause behind it can be anything from a temporary server hiccup to a full-blown, hacker-induced meltdown. If your Web designer is also the person in charge of maintaining your site after launch, it’s good to know what their plan is for the worst-case scenario.
Will they be backing up your website regularly? Are they storing these backups locally or in a cloud (i.e., Is there a chance their backups can be lost too)? Will you be charged for the time it would take them to recover the site, even if it’s not your fault?
“Can I update and add content on my site, or will I have to pay you to make changes?”
It’s always a good idea to keep the content on your site as fresh as possible, even if you don’t blog regularly.
There are some developers who don’t give their clients access to the backend of their own sites. In other words, clients cannot make updates to the website on their own.
While this isn’t a totally awful practice, it can be risky if the developer is unreliable. We’ve had many clients come to Web Design Relief to revamp their author websites because their original designers have gone AWOL, taking the ability to update the site with them.
Check to see if you’ll be able to log in and update content whenever you want. If you can’t, ask questions about how available your developer will be to make these changes for you—and how much it will cost.
“Will I be able to see the site before it goes live?”
This one seems like a no-brainer, but every designer’s process is different. There are some who will keep you updated every step of the way, letting you see the design as it evolves so you can make changes before things are finalized. Others might not let you see it at all until it’s launched, believing that they know exactly what you want and how to give it to you.
If all conversations with your designer have left you feeling like your site is in great hands, then it might be okay to trust them with everything. But if you have a very specific idea in mind for how you want your site to look, you might be better off with a designer who doesn’t mind letting you in on the process.
Either way, know where you stand before making a commitment. This company will be spending many hours on your site, so it’s important to be on the same page.
An author website is a great marketing and publicity tool for any writer to have. But finding the right designer is like finding the perfect hairstylist—you need to find the right style.
We hope that these questions will help you feel empowered in your search!
Photo by bollilaurent
QUESTION: Do you prefer more or less flexibility when it comes to control over your author website?
Thanks a lot for these helpful tips. I’ll keep them in mind for when I’ll need to have a website designed in the future.