Five questions to ask when selecting a website development vendor

Tim Summers

You’ve decided it’s time for a new website. You've narrowed down your choices to a short list of web development vendors to call. Unfortunately, you’re not sure what questions to ask.

Don’t worry, here are 5 questions to get the conversation started.

1. What technology do you use to develop websites?

Today’s websites are often built on one of three technology platforms:

  • proprietary
  • content management systems
  • industry standard technology

Proprietary (includes platforms such as Wix, Weebly, Hibu and Squarespace) Websites built in a proprietary format lock you into this vendor.  You typically cannot take your website with you.  If you wish to later move to a vendor with lower fees you often have to rebuild your website.

Content management systems (includes platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or custom content management systems) Content management systems (CMS) are all the rage today because of their available plugins and less need to know web programming.  However, a CMS often requires more ongoing maintenance to keep it secure which can increase your ongoing costs.

Industry standard technology including HTML, PHP, CSS and JavaScript These websites are much less complex than the other two other options allowing them to run for long periods of time without edits however, you trade away the fancy plugins and features you get in the other two.  Less features = less ongoing costs and improved security.

2. Who will own my domain name?

This is a very important question to ask a potential website developer. Some website developers list themselves as the domain’s Owner Contact when registering a domain name on behalf of their client.

If you need to have your domain name registered, be certain the developer registers it in your name. You should request to see the domain name registration information used.

See our previous article "Who REALLY Owns Your Domain Name?"

3. Who will own my website?

This depends on a couple of things:

  • Is your website being developed with proprietary software?
  • What are the terms of the contract between you and your developer?

Typically, you will own the majority of the text content on your website regardless of how it was built.  You will also retain ownership of any in-house photos that you provided to the developer. However, you may not have rights to any other photos provided by the developer or platform vendor. 

In addition, the look and feel of your website might be dependent upon a proprietary platform like Wix, Weebly, Hibu and Squarespace.  In those instances, you will need to rebuild the look & feel of your website from scratch if you ever decide to change hosting providers.  Always ask this question and read the fine print of any contracts.

4. How might I move my website to another vendor?

Typically, your new web master or new website developer will be able to assist you in moving your website however, don’t wait until then to ask this question!  You may be surprised by the difficulty or expense.

Proprietary (such as Wix, Weebly, Hibu and Squarespace) - Websites built in a proprietary format typically cannot be moved.  You will need to copy down whatever text and photos you are allowed to keep and rebuild a new website from scratch!

Content management systems (such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or custom content management systems) - Content management systems can typically be moved from hosting company to hosting company but must be moved with care. 

Their complexity, themes and plugins will need to be thoroughly tested on the new hosting server.  Also make sure that the new hosting company is willing to make the necessary setting changes to their hosting server to support the CMS.  Average time to move can be 2 to 8 hours.

Industry standard technology (including HTML, PHP, CSS and JavaScript) - These are the easiest websites to move and can often be completed with little to no downtime depending on your domain name settings.  Average time to move can be 1 hour.

5. Will I be given all necessary logins to my domain name and website?

Believe it or not, some web developers refuse to give client’s direct access to their own domain names or website hosting space.  This is dangerous because web development companies can go out of business or the individual building websites part-time from their home can become unresponsive. 

Always make sure you are working with a company who is willing to give you login access to your domain and website files.  Without this information, you could find yourself stuck registering a new domain name, setting up new business emails or being forced to build a new website.



About Tim Summers

Tim Summers is a long-time nerd and the owner of Diversified Computer Solutions, Inc. Tim has built a reputation within the Dayton, Ohio area as an honest and reliable computer consultant who blends sound business principles with quality technical advice and service. Tim spends most of his waking hours in front of a computer and some of his sleeping hours as well. Currently, Tim splits his time between providing I.T. support services, building websites, and trying to train a high energy Dachshund mix named Gizmo.

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