10 Questions You Should Ask a Prospective Web Design Company

By | Business Intelligence, Tips and Tricks, Web Design, Westward Strategy | 2 Comments

As a follow up to yesterday’s article on protecting your website and domain I thought I would provide 10 questions you should ask a prospective web design and development company. Not only will these questions give you a better understanding of who you are interviewing, but they should also raise any red flags early in the negotiation process.

1 ) How long have you been in business?

Think about what type of company you are comfortable working with before you meet with them. If they give an answer outside of your comfort level tell them immediately. Some businesses don’t mind working with startups or individuals with lesser experience if the price is right. Everyone has to start somewhere, but if this is a risk you are not willing to take just tell the designer upfront.

2 ) Can I see examples of your work?

This is a must have for any designer. Make sure they have actual websites you can review on your own computer at any time you want. Avoid designers that only show you their work in a PowerPoint presentation or only on their computer.

3 ) Do you have testimonials from other clients?

Good designers and companies will happily provide a list of satisfied clients, both past and present. We even make them publicly available on our website.

4 ) What is the experience level of your team?

While almost every company has a few noobs (pronounced newbies) there should be some senior members on the team. Again, this is a comfort level thing on your part. Don’t get caught up in sales pitches and listen to your instincts here.

5 ) What programming languages and development tools do you use?

Even though you may not care about the answer to this question, it is important information for you to know. At the very least they should be able to hand code html. Other acceptable languages are PHP, ASP, XHTML, CSS, AJAX and javascript.

For development tools look for names such as Adobe or Macromedia (although Adobe now owns Macromedia).

6 ) What is your process for designing and developing a website?

A well outlined plan or process ensures you and your vendor know each other’s respective roles in the design and development of your website. It also will help you gauge their level of experience. Beware of companies that don’t have a plan!

7 ) What is the change process after the website is finished?

At some point your website, no matter how great it is, will need some changes or updates made. Find out what the process is for having these changes made. One way to avoid having to work with your vendor for content updates is to see if they will implement a content management system on your website.

8 ) Do you provide hosting?

Ask very specific questions about where the site will be hosted. If you need to, review yesterday’s post!

9 ) What other services can you provide?

You never know what other services they may be able to provide unless you ask. It is often easier on you and can build a stronger brand identity if one company or designer can handle multiple aspects of your marketing. Ask them about direct marketing, email marketing, and natural search optimization services.

10) Who owns the website in the end?

There is only one acceptable answer here. No matter what, the client owns the website including all graphics and content. The only exception is if your website uses a content management system. Often the CMS is outlined in your contract with the vendor as belonging to the vendor as their intellectual property.

Protect Your Website and Domain

By | Business Intelligence, Tips and Tricks, Westward Strategy | No Comments

This month seems to be the month of horror stories from clients and prospects. Many of them have relayed stories of current or previous “solutions providers” that have taken them on some wild rides in terms of service and support. So we hope to provide a little bit of advice to business owners on how they can avoid a few pitfalls in their online journey.

Protecting Yourself and Your Web Presence

Avoid the just “get’r done” attitude by refusing to let any one employee or partner hold all the chips. When a domain is registered for your company make sure more than one internal person is listed on the contacts for that domain. One of the hardest things to do is prove to a registrar that you are who you say you are when your name isn’t associated with the domain in any way.

If you are working with an outside vendor ask them to put you down as the administrative contact and themselves as the technical contact. The same rule holds true for internal employees. Irate ex-employees have been known to do strange things when they leave. The last thing you want is your domain forwarded to some “adult novelty” website.

Your Site is Hosted Where?

Another difficult thing to do is get access to, or copies of, your website if you don’t know where it is hosted. Make sure the site is hosted by a reputable hosting provider or in a true, secure colocation facility. Ask for proof of this arrangement. If you vendor or employee is doing everything on the up and up they should not have a problem providing this.

The last thing you want is to have them hosting your site on some server in their living room, garage, or even their bathroom. I have seen this. The person responsible said the room’s exhaust fan helped cool the server. I’m not making this up.

If the server in any of the scenarios above were to crash it is possible your website files could be lost forever. Reputable providers take into account redundant measures to ensure your site files are backed up and your website remains accessible nearly 100% of the time. Sometimes you have to pay a little bit more for this backup service, but trust me it is worth every penny.

I invite you to share your own horror stories and how you resolved the issue by leaving a comment below.

The SEO Glossary – Industry Jargon Defined

By | Business Intelligence, Definitions, Search Engine Marketing, Tips and Tricks | One Comment

Whether you’re just looking to pick up a few new terms or you want to scour all the jargon forwards and backwards, the gang over at SEOmoz has created a great SEO Glossary for anyone interested in all the fun terms and acronyms that are essential to today’s search marketing professionals. Most of it is serious, but there are a few funny bits like:

SMWC (Slapping Myself With Celery) indicates an extreme reaction similar to a “spit take” but more vegan-trendy. Often combined with other exclamatory acronyms. – WTF/SMWC, or perhaps ROTFL/SMWC.

While their list format is not the easiest to get through, this is the most complete list I have seen. I also recommend the SEO Dictionary for quick reference.

Why We’re Not Adding a Sphinn It Button to Our Blog

By | Business Intelligence, Tips and Tricks, Westward Strategy, What Are People Saying | One Comment

I’m sure most of you read that headline and said “What’s a Sphinn it button?” Which is exactly the reason we’re not adding one to the blog.

Sphinn.com is, according to the website, “a social site for search and interactive marketers. It’s designed to allow you to share and discover news stories, read and take part in discussions, discover events of interest and network with others”.

A Sphinn it button, if placed here, would allow you to click on it and cast your vote for this post as a newsworthy search marketing topic.

Think Digg.com for search marketing. It’s a fantastic idea and a great website that is garnishing a lot of attention and praise in the search marketing arena. I believe in the concept as well as the site, heck I’ve even subscribed to the RSS feed.

Which again, is the reason we’re not adding a sphinn button to the blog. You, our loyal and dear reader, are not like me (one me is enough thank you) and you probably could give a rat’s hind end about the ins and outs of search marketing. After all you have a business to run! You don’t have time to become a search marketer, which is probably the reason why you’re here. You are the type of person we want here, the business owner or person in charge of marketing for your company, that wants to take a peak around, see what we’re up to, and maybe get some advice.

We’re not running a blog for search marketers. The search marketing industry at large, much like the design community at large, needs to stop speaking to ourselves and start communicating and educating the business community at large.

Which is exactly the reason why we’re not adding a Sphinn button to our blog.

The Seven Critical Traits of Top Entrepreneurs

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Fantastic post over on the Trump Blog. A succinct write up that contains many gems- my favorite is number 5.

Take action – When you know need what you need to know about a project or idea, you need to move decisively. Yet Mr. Trump also has a flexible philosophy and he’s willing to take a step back and start again – tenaciously – if the time is not right to move forward. So it is a matter of taking risks, but considered risks. Mr. Trump once said, “A lot of people are afraid to fail, so they don’t try. They talk, but they don’t do. That’s the perfect formula for failure.â€Â?