Your website is such a vital part of your business. It’s really important to be in control of this area of your business, as well as understand access and costs if you’re working with a designer or an agency.

In my own business as a web designer it never ceases to amaze me how little information clients ask for before they put the security of their web site in my hands.

Here are 10 questions everyone should be asking their web designer…

1. Will I own the rights to my business domain name?

This is very important, the domain needs to belong to YOU and not your web designer. Your domain is a valuable part of your business.  It makes sense for you to own this, it must be registered in your name, and not that of your developer.  If you part ways, for whatever reason, you need to be taking this with you.

2. Which hosting company will you use?

You need to know who this so that you can contact them if you need to, for setting up email addresses etc.  Your host company can provide you with key support tasks and are a valuable resource to you.  Sometimes your developer will have their own hosting offerings on a ‘reseller’ account, even so, be clear on finding out who will provide support to you if you need help with technical tasks such as backups, security, email etc.

Hosting support often becomes really important when things go wrong.  Make sure you know how to access this, they are like the breakdown assistance of the website world.

3. How much will hosting cost me moving forwards?

You may well be getting a free period of hosting, but it’s crucial to know when that runs out what you will be paying. Plus what it includes.  You should never pay extra for SSL or backups, in this day and age this should be included.

A really good WordPress hosting package for example is probably going to cost you around £12-£15 per month, any less I’d be concerned what you are getting and any more I would want to know what extras they are providing. This varies if you are using site builders such as Squarespace or Wix, so check those package costs out too.

4. Will I be in control of the hosting account?

In my world, I set up my clients hosting accounts so the set up is top notch, but I do that registered to them and they have full access. This isn’t always the case, it depends on your developers set up, but definitely worth asking the question.  If you do have access, ensure you keep a note of the web address, login name and password for your account and check you know how to login, in case you ever need that.

Conversely, if you have set up the hosting yourself, check with your designer what the minimum requirements are for the site they are going to build you and also if they will liaise with your hosting company on technical issues.  It can be really difficult when you are acting as a go-between your developer and your hosting provider when you aren’t technical.

5. What WordPress security measures will be in place on my account?

Don’t take it for granted that your web designer has installed the correct security software to protect your site.  Sometimes these are provided on the hosting/server side or as an extra function within your site software.

They may offer maintenance services to keep your site software up to date.  It is often an extra charge and sometimes includes reports, so be clear on those charges, and if you need to keep an eye on your budget ask them to show you how to do those yourself.  It is not a difficult task to do your updates, but it must be done, ideally each month.

It’s really good to understand what their suggested measures and processes are to keep your site secure.

6. If I need content and design changes can I make them myself and if I need help what will it cost?

Understanding if you can make content and design changes yourself is really important. If you are working with a system like WordPress, there is no reason why you cannot have access to every part of your website and be able to change your content and images

Also if you need additional work, you need to be clear on how your designer charges.  Do they charge by the day, the hour, or part thereof.   Do they work on retainer, or can you contact them anytime.  Will you get billed on a timesheet or a monthly charge.  If it is a monthly charge be very clear what you are getting for your money.

The cost of design work varies massively from off-shore cut price development at less than £30 per hour to upwards of £120 per hour for a very experienced developer/designer.

7. Is there any backup strategy in place?

There are a couple of ways your site can be backed up and you should make sure you discuss this!  The idea situation is a nightly backup which is automated.  In the event of a problem it should be a simple call to your designer or hosting company for a restore.

8. Can I see your previous work for this kind of site?

Always ask to see some previous work so you know what you are getting!  Ask to see examples of sites where you can go an actually visit the website and see the work.  We can all make our work look good in a mockup on a portfolio, go and visit the websites that they have done.

9. Will you provide me with any documentation?

Make sure that your web designer provides you with documentation listing all your accounts and relevant usernames, passwords etc for your site.  Even if its a one page document, it is great to have that all in once place.

10. Will you supply training on how to maintain the site?

Make sure that when your site is finished that you have the skills you need to maintain it!  This is key for any business owner, who wants to be in the driving seat of this fantastic marketing tool that they have. It’s fantastic, if the person who designed your site can deliver the training because they will know it inside out. If not go and get yourself a one-to-one session with an expert who can fast track you straight to the tasks that you need to master.

There are so many designers and agencies out there, and you have to find the right one for you!

Choose someone whose work you have seen, and is willing to answer all of these questions. Your partnership should be about collaboration and trust and providing you with the best possible solution to help your business grow.