What to look for when getting a new website?

When it’s time to refresh that aging website, it might seem like a minefield, when searching for a provider or even just thinking about the new website.

This blog piece hopes to condense some of the things you need to think about into some handy “take-aways”.

Step 1

Come up with a brief and even a tender document if you feel it’s necessary. Being a website designer ourselves, we know more than anyone, that a brief or tender document can be invaluable for all parties. It ensures that you (the client) has thought about the site in detail and that you know what you want. From the supplier point of view, it usually means that there are no doubts about the requirements and that an accurate price and plan can be provided.

This brief, should include the following, where possible.

  • Introduction
  • Business Objectives
  • Timeframe
  • Envisaged Solution
  • User Requirements
  • Technical Requirements
  • Support Requirements
  • Information on your existing site

Step 2

Find a prospective provider. This may be the difficult part! Try and go on word of mouth recommendations where possible as these will often provide the most benefit. We recommend approaching 2-3 with your brief so you can compare and contrast.

When looking for a provider try and find ones that are receptive of your budget. There is little point in even approaching high end developers if you only have £2000 to spend. Likewise, if your budget is £30,000+ then a small developer may not be the right fit.

Try and also look for ethical providers who are either not for profit or specifically work on an ethical basis. These providers will often provide more for the money you spend and are more likely to be a good partner.

Also try and look for a provider that has support at the heart of what they do. Delivering a website is one part of the journey – ultimately you may need to work with them for several years, so it’s important you think a provider who will work and support you in the long term.

Step 3

Send your brief’s out and wait for responses.

At this stage you may also want to have online meetings with the respective providers to develop that relationship.

Step 4

Analyse the responses you get internally and choose your provider.

Take your time over this step! It might be this requires multiple internal meetings and multiple clarifications with the various providers. Don’t worry about how long this takes as this is a key decision point in the project.

What to look for in your chosen provider?

  • Experienced and has a body of work that it can call upon (look for a portfolio and visit some of the sites)
  • Friendly and welcoming
  • Professional looking proposal that looks like it has had time spent on it
  • Competitive price
  • An understanding of your organisation and your goals
  • Expressed an important in support and has that at the heart at what they are trying to achieve
  • Proven development functions that can build whatever you may need in your website i.e. can they deliver shop systems or event calendars etc
  • Accessibility aware (i.e. are they aware of WCAG Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)
  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) aware (don’t count providers out who don’t offer specific SEO services with the project as you may be able to work with other providers to do that function, depending on the importance of this to you)
  • Don’t count out small teams. Sometimes small teams of people can deliver a better result due to the more focussed nature of their work. They will often work on fewer, smaller projects which may be a better fit.
  • Make sure your website hosting arrangments are clear and are in place. Check that you are not being overcharged. If your site is a low volume site (in terms of hits) then you shouldn’t be paying more than £125 per year for hosting, your domain name and an SSL certificate. We would always recommend to include website maintenance with any package to ensure your site is always secure and up to date. You shouldn’t need to pay more than £150 per year for this.
  • Make sure that the hosting package being sold to you is on good quality servers and check what exactly the provider is giving you. Ensure backup is rolled up in this package.

Step 5

Work with your chosen provider to deliver the end result both parties want.

Try and foster a productive relationship with the provider. Ultimately a good, honest working relationship will be a massive benefit as the project moves forward.

The process may continue over several months and may be a heavy feedback driven process so you may need multiple chat and meetings with the provider to deliver the project. Be prepared to invest that time.

Work with the provider to test the site as the site nears completion. There is nothing like proper user testing from the organisation, to truly test the site.

Double check against the deliverables that you are getting what you paid for.

Step 6

Going Live and beyond.

Set a good date and time for your website to go live. Try not to do this on Friday’s! Going live on a midweek day will ensure that the developer has time to resolve any issues.

Test any email functionality and any stats function you may rely on as an organisation. It’s vital that you can still receive emails from any website forms you have set up and that any stats systems (like Google Analytics) are set up and ready to go from day 1. Your website provider will probably do this for you but we always recommend this is checked.

After the website has gone live, check that you have all the support details and clarify support arrangements including any potential costs.

Contact Us

Do you need any help with your existing site or are you looking for a website designer to design your new site? Please contact me at matthew.morling@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk or on 01473 345321 and i’d be happy to have a discussion about anything in this area and provide a free quotation to you.