Web designers are a lovely bunch of people – creative, innovative and brilliant at making computer code sing. However a website is like a garden. Any shiny new website will need to be changed eventually. Here are some questions to ask web designers to make sure you sign up the right one:

 1. “Will we be able to access a content management system?”

Some of my clients get annoyed when we start looking at their web content and they realise they can’t update the websites themselves. But often it’s because they didn’t ask their web designer for this option in the first place.

It’s like ordering a cake. ‘Please bake me a chocolate cake’ is different to ‘Please can you bake me a chocolate cake in such a way that I can change the filling later?’ The latter is of course possible – probably coming to a Great British Bake Off challenge near you soon. But it needs to be planned from the start.

Some designers use a content management system they’ve written themselves. Others use a globally-recognised system like WordPress. That’s what this website uses. There are pros and cons to both, but make sure something is in place.

2. “What is your pricing structure for future changes to the website?”

Of all the questions to ask web designers, this probably feels the most awkward. However as your business expands you might need a new widget or interactivity you haven’t even thought of yet. For example responsive design – where websites automatically shrink to fit the device they’re on – became a hot topic when the iPad arrived.

Your prospective web designer may prefer to quote for projects as and when needed. Or you might plump for the reassurance of a monthly or yearly retainer fee. Just agree terms now.

3. “Will the website comply with the Disability Discrimination Act?”

Nearly twenty per cent of the UK’s adult population has some sort of disability. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) of 1995 makes it:

“unlawful for a provider of services to discriminate against a disabled person – in the standard of service which he provides to the disabled person or the manner in which he provides it to him.”

The DDA is not just about installing wheelchair ramps. Could a person who is blind and uses read-out-loud software access your website? What about those who can’t use a mouse? Do you really want to turn away a fifth of your potential customers? Good accessibility is also rewarded a higher ranking in Google.

Your website needs to be at least WAI Level AA. If the web designer has never heard of this, walk away.

Top tip: Sign up your domain name URL yourself

This is vital. Why? Think of the domain name or URL – such as – as a digital A-Board. It is not the ‘shop’ or website itself.

Imagine an A-board saying ‘Claire’s Cup Of Sanity Coffee Shop* this way ->’ It points me to the shop. But what happens when next month Claire moves to the larger premises opposite? If she owns the A-board she can just rub out the arrow and point it in a different direction.

If you ask a web designer to register your URL, they own and control this essential ‘A-Board’, not you. If you ever fall out and want to point your URL away from the website they designed, it can get very awkward.

For more explanation, check out the Site Wizard’s article How to Register Your Own Domain Name.

How much are URLs and where do you buy one from?

You can buy a URL for around £15 a year or even less. I promise it’s an easy process and you can do it before you even think about setting up a website. You can do this using a company such as Blue Host or GoDaddy.

I used to recommend TSO Host but sadly their customer service standards have fallen in recent years.

Ask these questions, and it should be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with your star developer.

*Courtesy of my niece when she was four: “I had a milkshake and Mummy had a sanity”.

Need some help or back-up?

I’m on a mission to remove the mystique from websites. I can of course provide web navigation structures and Google-friendly copy. But I can also accompany you to meetings with a longer list of questions to ask web designers than I’ve listed here. I can also give my professional opinion on any pitches you receive. Just get in contact for a no-obligation chat.