What you need to know before you hire someone to create a website for you

Creating your first website can be a wonderful experience. But it can also be a nightmare, especially if you don’t take certain steps to protect yourself. I’ve created dozens of websites and helped clients with theirs. Here are some important things you need to know.

#1. Make sure you own your domain. DwightClough.com is the domain for this website. I own it. I control it. You want to own and control your domain. I know of a church and another ministry who lost control over their websites because someone else owned the domain. Your website developer SHOULD NOT own your domain. You should.

#2. Make sure you have your domain registered with a reputable registrar. Go Daddy is popular. Pair Networks is good. There are others that are good. You shouldn’t be paying more than $20 per year for your domain registration. Some companies will charge $50 or more per MONTH. Avoid these. Some registrars will send you a bill for your domain even though your site is NOT even registered with them. Obviously, don’t pay them.

#3. Make sure you know how to change the nameservers with your domain registrar. This allows you to control who hosts your website. Your hosting company will give you the nameserver information. It’s usually up to you to make the changes with your domain registrar.

#4. Make sure the hosting account is in your name and you control who has access to the hosting account. If your web developer has the hosting account in his / her name, then you may need to rebuild your site from scratch with another hosting company if something goes south with your web developer.

#5. Choose a hosting account that is appropriate for your needs. Most people are served well with a shared hosting plan that will cost about $100 a year. Some are not. If you have a high traffic site, a shared hosting plan would be a disaster for you. Also make sure your hosting company doesn’t have restrictions that would prevent you from doing what you want to do. Do your research and make sure the hosting company and plan you choose will work for you.

#6. Make sure your contract with your web developer offers a walk away provision. If you don’t like the work your web developer is doing, you need to be able to end that business relationship and work with someone else.

#7. Make sure you know how to update your website. Many new websites are developed using WordPress. I recommend it for most sites. But whatever platform you are using, you need to know how to (1) update the software, (2) edit, add, or delete a page or post, (3) back up the site so it can be restored if it goes down. By the way, it’s important to update the software on your site promptly, or you can make your site vulnerable to getting hacked.

#8. Make sure you have all the elements a great website needs. Your website needs (a) solid development (good code that makes your site stable and responsive), (b) great design so it’s visually pleasing, easy to navigate, and serves your web visitors well, and (c) good copy—the words in your site are well written. Most web developers are strong in one or two areas, but not all three. For example, I’m strong in copy, but may or may not have the needed skills in the other two areas depending on the client.

#9. Make sure your website is working for you. Why do you want a website? What is it supposed to do for you? Is it accomplishing its mission? It’s easy to get wrapped up in developing the website and forget its purpose. Keep this in focus at all times.

#10. Be aware of any hidden costs. Read over your contract with your web developer to make sure that you understand and agree to the costs for (1) domain registration, (2) hosting, (3) initial site design, development, and deployment, (4) maintenance.

There are great web development companies out there who do great work. While I do all my own sites and sometimes help clients with theirs, when a site becomes more complex than I’m able to handle, I refer people to Lennart and Tony at Webstix.

Hope these thoughts help!

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