Are you planning on having someone build a professional WordPress website for your business?
Before you go signing any contracts or making any payments you better know exactly what you’re getting and why.
In this article we are going to help you avoid a negative website experience by getting answers to 17 necessary questions to ask your WordPress developer.
When a Website Project Goes Bad
If you’ve been marketing your business online for at least 5-10 years now, then we’d be willing to bet that you’ve gone through at least 2-3 different website developers, if not more.
And amongst those vendors or freelancers we’d bet that at least one of them gave you such a bad experience that you’d prefer to never talk about it again.
Sounding about right?
Well, if it makes you feel any better you’re not alone. Many businesses find themselves going through a few different website companies / developers before they finally find someone they can trust and rely on.
As a matter of fact, the following experiences have seemingly become commonplace for most of the businesses that come to us looking for help:
Symptons of a Bad Website Project Experience
- Unresponsiveness after money has been received
- Additional costs that were never communicated
- Extended or excessive project delays
- Deliverables that completely missed what was initially communicated
- Issues that arose only upon project “completion”
- Important aspects getting left out entirely only to be found after the fact by someone else
- Reluctance to provide access or clear answers
We’re sure you have many more of your own that you could probably add to this list.
The good news is that these experiences can be avoided and we want to help you learn how. It’s one thing to have a bad experience, but it’s another to lose money and time as a result.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to make your next website development project a great one – specifically if you’re going with WordPress.
WordPress Development Questions You Must Ask
There’s no reason why any company should lose time or money on a website development project….especially when the website is being built on WordPress.
Unfortunately it is very easy for a lot of issues, small and large, to arise when the right questions are not asked upfront.
To help make your next WordPress website one that is built, optimized and supported properly we encourage you to go through these questions with your developer before you pay or sign anything…
17 Questions You Need Answers To
What do I need to provide?
If you go into any new website project expecting to be responsibility-free, then you can guarantee that your project will go off-track at some point.
There are certain things that you, as the representative of your business, should always expect to provide if you want your project to go smoothly from start to finish.
These things include:
- Understanding, acknowledging and approving all terms and conditions (yes, you need to read them all)
- Some form of upfront payment to start work
- Website assets (e.g. logo files, image files, content)
- Existing domain, content management system and web host login information
- Existing social media account URLs and usernames
- Existing analytics and webmaster tools account login information
- Communicating answers to important online marketing strategy questions
You can mitigate unnecessary delays by providing all of these items upfront.
How will you be building my website? Using an existing theme? A custom theme?
Although this is a more technical question that you may not know the right or wrong answer to, what you’re really looking for here is a clear answer as to why the website is being constructed the way it is.
There are really only three options here [with WordPress]:
- Using an existing theme (as is)
- Customizing an existing theme
- Building a custom theme from scratch
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to each of these options:
Using an existing theme (as is)
pros: Inexpensive (most themes cost anywhere from $15 – $75), reasonably quick to setup, typically built for someone with limited technical WordPress experience
cons: Extraneous code, limited options for customization, reliance on theme developer for support and updates, same design as many other companies with the same theme
Customizing an existing theme or starter theme (as a child theme)
pros: Typically little design work needed, shorter development time
cons: Future updates breaking designs and functionality if not coded properly (common), unnecessary code, reliance on multiple developers to support updates
Building a custom theme from scratch
pros: Built specifically to meet business objectives, lighter code base (when built correctly), more flexible for customization’s
cons: More expensive, longer development time
What access do I get to my website?
This may be controversial for some companies that sell websites built on proprietary software, but if you’re using WordPress (recommended), then there’s no exception in our opinion.
Don’t you dare build a new website unless you have full, 100% access and ownership of it.
To protect your best interests and to give yourself the flexibility you may sometimes need to support and grow your website you must make sure you ask for and get the following:
- WordPress administrative access
- FTP access
- Database access
- DNS settings access
You most likely will never need these if you find a good website development and hosting company, but you should never have to fight for this information.
How will you make it easy for me to manage the content on my website?
WordPress is one of the most user-friendly content management systems you will come across, but don’t assume that this will be the case with your website.
A poorly built WordPress site can be just as difficult and restricting as an outdated custom, proprietary CMS. If you’re interested in adding, changing and testing different types of content throughout your site, then you must make sure your website is built accordingly.
If you’re not looking to learn WordPress development or becoming accustomed to FTP, then you’re going to want your website to be built so editing defined blocks of content is very easy for you.
More specifically, make sure the following things are done:
- Homepage content blocks are controlled by Widgets or Pages
- Navigation menus are controlled by WordPress’ native Menus feature
- Page layout options are provided as page Templates
- Sidebars and footers are controlled by WordPress’ Sidebar feature
- Primary on-page SEO elements are not hard coded
What plugins will be included with my initial install / build?
One of the biggest advantages to using WordPress for your website is that the community of developers behind it has produced a massive library of plugins for webmasters to use. If there’s a feature you need on your website, then someone has probably already built a plugin for it.
As with anything though, plugins need to be used in moderation. And unfortunately a lot of developers continue to overload their websites with an excessive amount of plugins. Don’t let your developer make the same mistake.
If your developer is going to use plugins, then you want to be sure that each one is absolutely necessary.
Here are some plugins that we recommend limiting your website to:
- W3 Total Cache (or WP Super Cache)
- WordPress SEO by Yoast
- Gravity Forms
Will my website be mobile-friendly?
Your website needs to be mobile-friendly. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
And the best time to establish your mobile strategy is during the build of your website as the experience you provide to your mobile visitors will dictate how successfully you can market to them in the future.
There are a few different ways to make your website mobile-friendly:
- Make your website responsive (recommended)
- Build a mobile website specifically for mobile users
- Create a mobile application
What will you be doing to preserve my current website’s history and SEO value?
This may be the most forgotten, under-appreciated question of them all so you need to understand something important here…
If you have an existing website that has been online for awhile, then you MUST do the proper migration work to preserve any history or SEO value that your website may have accumulated over the years.
If you or your web developer fail to do this work then you may experience the following:
- Drop in organic rankings
- Broken links from other websites that have linked to you
- Increase in 404 errors on your site
What SEO features / fundamentals will be included with my website?
WordPress is already one of the most SEO friendly frameworks to build a website on; however, implementation of SEO work and best practices are still needed for optimal results.
Any reputable website development company should be familiar with the best ways to setup and optimize WordPress beyond what’s included with the core code base.
To be safe, here are some of the essentials that you will want addressed on your website:
- No canonicalization issues with the main domain
- Unnecessary archive pages do not get indexed
- Title and meta descriptions are unique for each page
- Permalinks are clean and consistent throughout the site
- Social graph and schema markup are baked in
How will the website convert visitors?
If you rely solely on your developer to make sure that your website converts, then you’re going to find yourself pretty disappointed after a few months of little to no results.
As the business representative, it is your job to have a conversion strategy.
This involves knowing and communicating the following to your developer:
- Who your audience is (are they local? national? international?)
- What your USP (unique selling proposition) is
- What your main calls to action are
- What your inbound web lead process is
Once this information is clearly communicated to your developer, then they should be able to use this information to properly design and develop the proper elements to attract, capture and log conversions for you.
How and where will my website be hosted?
Hosting is one of the things that gets undervalued as we have become so accustomed to quick, cheap hosting solutions from companies like GoDaddy or Bluehost.
This is unfortunate because how and where your website is hosted is incredibly important for a lot of different reasons.
Here are just some of the main reasons you want a great hosting solution / provider:
- Host location fits the geographic location(s) of your target audience
- Hosting setup (e.g. database settings, server settings, etc) is properly implemented and prepared depending on your expected traffic
- Available bandwidth and disk space is tailored to your business to avoid lag time and file upload issues
- Responsiveness and reliability of your hosting provider can save you a lot of time and stress when things go down (which they can sometimes)
- Access to your hosting settings (e.g. DNS, MX records, A records, etc) is provided in cases where you need to hire someone else or do something during off-hours
What will you be doing to keep my WordPress site secure?
There aren’t many downsides to using WordPress, except for this one…
WordPress can be vulnerable to being hacked as it is a popular, open-source platform.
However, hacking should never be an issue as long as your developer does the following:
- Properly codes the website to prevent easy entrances for hackers
- Only uses themes and plugins from reputable developers that actively support their code
- Helps you keep the website updated (i.e. core, theme and plugin updates)
- Recommends / uses preemptive security tools (e.g. CloudFlare)
Will you be performing WordPress core, theme and plugin updates as they become available?
One of the most common oversights we see with businesses that come to us with an existing WordPress website is the failure (by them or their current company) to keep their website properly updated.
It’s not unusual for us to see the following:
- WordPress version being used is numerous versions behind
- Theme version being used has never been updated
- 30+ plugins installed with most being out of date or just sitting unused
These may seem harmless, but just one of the these can hinder the performance of your site and make it vulnerable for anyone that feels like being malicious.
Will you be keeping backups of my site?
Although this is not 100% necessary we do recommend that every WordPress website come with some type of backup solution.
You never know when something can happen to your site or when you might need to restore an old version of your site so having a backed up version to pull from can save you a lot of time and money.
Some great backup solutions for WordPress sites are:
How easy will it be to add features / functionality to my website in the future?
If you’re expecting to get results from your website, then you need to plan to keep optimizing it in the future. Many times this involves adding different types of content, but also various features or functionality that helps visitors convert.
To accomplish these things and to maintain a good relationship with your web developer you want to find out – upfront – how easy this process will be and how much it may or may not cost you.
Here are some things that you may want or need done after launch that you’ll need clarification on:
- Adding / changing / removing plugins
- Changing themes
- Adding page templates (e.g. landing pages)
- Adding e-Commerce functionality
What will be used to help me track my website traffic?
One of the most frustrating things we come across when a company brings their current website to us for review, redesign or rebuild is when they have no type of tracking in place.
Getting an analytics program setup on site launch needs to become an industry-wide standard as it’s nearly impossible to optimize a website without any type of data to work with.
To improve your website you need to have constant access to data on the following metrics (at the very least):
- Traffic (visitors, traffic sources)
- Usability (site performance, bounce rate)
- Engagement (top content)
- Conversion (conversion rate, top conversion funnels)
How do I request help if I need something and is this included in what I am paying for?
If you’re the type of customer that doesn’t have the time or patience to find answers and solutions to your own questions, then you are going to need some clarification on how to get support after launch.
To prevent frustration from having your questions and issues go unanswered make sure you understand how to get support.
Here are some questions you’ll want to get answers to:
- What is the quickest way to get a response on a question?
- What hours can I expect you to be available for support?
- What type of response time can I expect?
- Do you have a knowledgebase online that I can reference if you’re unavailable?
- How much technical support is included with my monthly fee? Does this not cover any certain types of support?
Are there any additional fees outside of what I have paid / am paying?
No one likes to be ‘nickel and dimed’ especially after spending a considerable amount on a new website.
That said, if you don’t get a clear understanding of what exactly is included with the website you’re paying for, then you are going to leave a lot of room for your developer to want / need to charge you for more work.
Some surefire ways to mitigate “after the fact” costs is to ask for, understand, acknowledge and agree to the following:
- Detailed project scope of the entire project (e.g. elements, requirements, hours, costs)
- Terms and conditions (e.g. if you decide to go MIA don’t expect your developer to get right back on your project)
- Payment terms
Making Your WordPress Website Your Best Online Investment
There are a lot of website options to choose from, but we’ve yet to come across a framework to build on top of that is more flexible, scalable, user-friendly and SEO friendly – all at the same time – other than WordPress.
Because of these reasons, and many others, it’s no surprise that WordPress currently powers about 20% of all websites on the web.
When a WordPress website meets the following criteria there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be the best investment a business can make in an online asset or marketing tool:
- Built, hosted and supported properly
- Optimized for users and search engines
- Updated with relevant, useful content
- Tested and improved regularly
To make your next WordPress website an effective one that meets the criteria above you must ask the right questions at the very beginning of the process. The 17 questions in this post will not only help you select the best developer for your next project, but will also ensure that your experience is efficient and enjoyable.
Thank you for choosing Creative Studios as your website design agency.