Buying a website can feel a bit like buying a used car. Unless you’re an expert, all the technical jargon can be overwhelming. You’re left wondering how on earth you’ll make the right choice.
I know the feeling; I’ve bought plenty of used cars. I’ve also bought a fair number of websites too (in previous jobs, I commissioned dozens of them). I know what it’s like from both sides.
The key to a smooth commissioning process is a little bit of thinking ahead. If you know what the web developers will need, it can make your life (and theirs) a lot easier.
Here’s what I’ve learnt about buying (or commissioning) a website:
- Give the developers as much information as you can right from the start.
Don’t hold anything back. Adding new information later will complicate things, adding to the time and cost of getting the new site up and running.
- You don’t need to know geek-speak.
Tell the developers what you want in plain English. A good web development company will translate what you need into technical specifications. To commission something, you say what you want the supplier to supply. Let them worry about the nerdy stuff.
- Plan ahead a little.
Before you go visiting web agencies, think about the questions they are likely to ask you.
We normally ask things like:
- What business are you in?
We want to know what sort of business sector you operate in. What’s your place within it? Give us a feel for the landscape.
- What are the primary objectives of this website / web application?
Think about what you are hoping to gain from the project – e.g. saving time, increasing sales, increasing your company’s profile, etc. Tell us simply what your goals and objectives are.
- What’s your target audience?
There may be more than one. List them all. Tell us about the audiences you want to appeal to, and why. Give us as much detail as you can.
- Do you have an existing website you are looking to replace or upgrade?
If so, tell us why. If there are aspects of it that are working fine, tell us what they are.
- What features do you need?
This can be tricky, because you might not know what features you need in advance. Will you want to update your site yourself, frequently? Will you be selling products online? Do your customers need access to any special services, multimedia files, or access to secure members-only sections? As I said above, you don’t need to know the geek-speak. Just tell us what you need, and we’ll tell you how we can build it. Feel free to ask us for advice at this point. If you’ve been able to tell us plenty of detail about your industry, your business, and your aims, we’ll probably have some suggestions.
- Is there a brand or visual identity for the project?
Make sure you pass on any brand guidelines as well as logos and other visuals.
- Who are your competitors?
What do you think of your competitors’ websites? Are there any other sites you particularly like? Tell us which ones, and why. Tell us about sites you don’t like, too. What is it about a site that annoys or frustrates you?
It will also help to consider the following:
- Are there any important timings or deadlines that can’t be altered which will affect the website development schedule?
- Do you have the resources within your team to stick to a schedule once its been agreed?
You’ll need to allow time for progress meetings, adding content, and testing once development is complete.
- How will you be marketing your new website?
- How will you measure the project’s success?
OK, so that’s a long list of questions and things to think about. But it’s worth going through them; you’ll save yourself time, and your business money, if you plan ahead a bit before starting the commissioning process.