It's become almost mandatory that businesses have a Web presence, or at the very least a website. This is largely because many customers now base who they purchase from largely off of whether the company has a website and what information about them can be found online. A common problem many business owners have however is that they don't have the skills or the time to manage a website. One answer is to turn to a webmaster for help.
What is a webmaster?
A webmaster is a person or company responsible for maintaining a website. In many small businesses, the webmaster will also be responsible for pretty much everything to do with the Web for that specific company. This might include ensuring content is written and uploaded, that the website is created and maintained properly, and even looking after SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Webmasters for small businesses are usually in charge of a company's entire online brand.
Because many small businesses operate on thin budgets, they often can't afford a full-time webmaster, opting instead to work with a company or consultant who may be looking after other websites as well.
There are a wide variety of companies out there that offer webmaster services specifically aimed at small businesses and if you are looking to pump up, or even establish your Web presence, you will likely turn to these companies for help. The question is, how do you pick the best for your business?
To help answer that question, here are seven questions you should ask any prospective webmaster.
1. Can I see your portfolio?
By asking for a portfolio of the webmaster's previous work you can quickly gain a good grasp of how technically competent that particular person or company is. The best webmasters should be able to readily share an in-depth portfolio that covers all manner of websites and technical skills.
It can also help to ask the webmaster for a list of their previous clients. If the webmaster is good, they will be more than happy to share a list of clients they have worked with in the past. If you contact these clients they can provide some extra feedback on the work they do.
More importantly, they will provide information on how the webmaster works. This is important as many webmasters don't work the usual 9-5 hours and may even be in a different timezone which you should be aware of.
2. What technology and platforms will you use to build and maintain my website?
There are so many different tools that you can use to build websites. From simple drag-and-drop tools to custom-made platforms that require months to code and build. Other platforms are easy to use while some require in-depth knowledge of advanced Web technology. Therefore, it is always a good idea to ask the webmaster what platform they will use to build and maintain your website.
The webmaster should first ask what you want to do with your website, and give you options based off of what you want. They should also be able to explain what the platform is and how it is used, and even give you any available options.
In general, the webmaster should suggest a platform that offers modern tools and can be maintained easily, while still meeting your needs. They should also be able to explain in general terms how it works, and how they will update it.
3. What special features can you build into my website?
Before contacting a webmaster you should first consider what you want on your website. You are going to need to go beyond static pages with information and a few pictures - these simply do not work anymore. Maybe you want integrated videos, a shopping cart where customers can buy products directly from your website, a forum, blog or even rotating banners.
Ask if the webmaster can build and maintain these features. More importantly you should ask whether they have done what you need, have experience with the features, and how long they think it will take to integrate them.
4. Who will create the content?
This is an important aspect to know because some webmasters don't produce written content; leaving it up to the company to develop their own content. Others work with content specialists who create customized content.
You will want a webmaster who can integrate content that you create and possibly someone who offers the services of a content creator.
5. How secure will my site be?
An increasingly important question for many small businesses is about security, largely because small business websites have been increasingly come under attack by hackers. It becomes even more important when you have online stores, forms, or even portals where client information is exchanged.
A webmaster should be able to offer solutions that help keep your site and the information on it secure. Be sure to ask questions like how often they backup your site, where the backups are kept, and how they will keep your site secure from common security threats.
6. Who owns the site?
This is important, especially if you are working with a webmaster who is not an employee of your company. While it may seem like you own the site because you paid for it and are paying someone to run it, you should ensure that you actually do own it. The best thing to do is to ask the webmaster to verify who owns the site and the copyrights related to it.
If they are unsure, ask them to sign a copyright agreement to ensure that you retain ownership over your content and site.
7. How much will it cost and how long will it take?
Finally, this is probably the most important question you should ask. Some webmasters offer their services on an hourly basis, others on a weekly fee, and some on contract, etc. You should have a clear picture of how much you will be charged, and what services are included. This is important because many webmasters actually offer extended services that cost extra.
Beyond that, you should also ask how long the webmaster will take to build the site and how long they need to implement updates, changes, etc. This will help set your expectations so you know roughly how much time to give the webmaster to get their work done.
If you are looking to improve your website, or even establish a strong Web presence, contact us today to see how we can help.