1. Have You Built Websites For Home Builders Before?
There are thousands of website development shops throughout the U.S. and almost everyone “knows a guy” who does web development. But website development has become highly specialized and is more complex. You can no longer just put up a website and potential buyers will find you. You have to create content and an experience that is useful to your potential customer. How can a web company create useful information for a new home buyer when they don’t know the difference between a Plat Map and a Flat Map?
2. How Long Have You Been In Business?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of businesses will fail in the first year and 45% will fail in the first five years. This is not to say that if a web developer goes under, they won’t have an exit strategy for you. But, if you have to change website developers during a build, it will delay the project significantly, most likely increase your cost, and you will be working with a new company you aren’t familiar with. Whatever the case, look for a website development company that has been in business for at least five years.
3. Will I Own The Website?
This is CRITICAL. Every month we run across home builders stuck with a website and/or domain they don’t own. If you do not own your website, you are at the mercy of the web company. If you are unhappy and try to switch to another company for website maintenance or services, you may have to build a new website from scratch. Starting over with a new website will eliminate almost all the search engine optimization (SEO) value you’ve earned as well as being a time-consuming and costly endeavor.
RECOMMENDED READING: How Homebuilders Benefit From Custom Websites
4. Will The Website Be Built In An Open-Source Content Management System (CMS)?
A CMS is basically the framework in which your website will be built. There are standardized CMS’s like WordPress, SquareSpace, and Drupal. At Power Marketing, we build our websites in WordPress CMS. WordPress is the CMS for more than 50% of the websites in the U.S. and will give you flexibility in case you want to move your website development, maintenance, or support to another website developer. A home builder can find a WordPress CMS developer at pretty much any digital marketing firm in the U.S. This protects you in case the project goes poorly.
Stay clear of any website that is built in a “proprietary platform”. Proprietary platforms are typically created by a small group of people or individual companies. Those developers are the only individuals that can make changes. They can hold your website hostage and charge you large amounts for simple changes. Here is a great article by Eldersel about the dangers of proprietary CMS’s:
5. Will My Website Be Mobile Responsive?
Responsive design simply means it will be built to look and perform the same on mobile devices and your desktop. In our experience, around ½ of all internet searches for home builders start on a smartphone or tablet. This increases your conversion rate as well as helping your SEO value.
6. Where Will My Website Be Hosted And Is Support Included?
Ideally, your website will be on a dedicated server. That is a server in which you are the only client on it and all the support and resources are “dedicated” only to your business. This can be very expensive and probably isn’t necessary unless you have an enormous company handling large volumes of traffic on your website.
The next best option would be a private server. This service is offered by some web design companies in which all of the clients on the server are specific to that company. So only websites built by company X will be on the server. This allows web developers to incorporate specific security standards for all of their clients on the server. This keeps your website more secure and improves your SEO value because Google doesn’t want to direct traffic to websites that are vulnerable to hackers.
Shared servers are the most common. Basically, it’s like it sounds. Your website is put on a server with other websites from various web designers/web companies. The resources are shared and, therefore, the price is cheaper. The issue becomes all the websites on the server will have different protocols for security, access, and updating. In other words, your website may be surrounded by websites that can be easily hacked. This can open your website up to becoming hacked through your “neighbors” which could lead to downtime, exposing customer information, and damaging your SEO value.
7. Will My Website Be Updated?
Some people are under the misconception that you can just build a website and POOF! You are done. It is very much the opposite. Websites are like cars in the sense they need regular maintenance. If you neglect this maintenance, eventually the car is going to break down and create a major expense. Websites need routine maintenance in the form of security updates, updating website themes, updating plug-ins, and fixing broken links. If these items are not tended to, eventually you will most likely be hacked, or the site will just stop working correctly. Make sure website updates are included in your monthly hosting agreement.
8. How Long Will It Take To Complete the Website?
This question has multiple layers. The timeline can vary depending on the complexity of your build, the number of people working on your website, and the time of the year. Typically, it will take between 60 – 90 days to complete a website. BEWARE of any website development company that says they can be finished in less than 30 days. Typically, a reputable website company will have at least 30 days of website development to complete before they get to your project. If a company gives you an answer such as “we can finish in 2 -3 weeks”, they don’t have a lot of work in the pipeline.
On the other hand, some website companies will overload their pipeline so they can take as much business as possible. Unfortunately, this can cause long delays in the completion of your website. Ask your website developer about the last three websites they completed and how long it took them to finish. Or if the company has a portfolio of work on their website, call some of the companies highlighted and get their feedback.
BONUS: Notable Omission
The one question you were probably looking for an answer to and didn’t see is “How Much Does a Website Cost?” This is probably the most important question. But, the price of a website can vary between $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the features and functionality. Asking the cost of a website is like a client asking you “how much does a house cost?” A good idea is to get examples of websites you like and provide them to your potential website developer. That should give you a decent price range.
Power Marketing would be happy to speak with you about your goals, your business model, and your marketing strategy. Contact us today and let us help your business thrive!