websites

6 things you need to consider if you're getting a new website built for your business

I’m working with a couple of clients at the moment on their websites.

One is a freelancer and wants a website ‘a bit like yours’ (that’s good to hear!) so I’m going to do it myself.

The other is a larger business, so I’ve written a website specification and gone out to agencies for responses. It’s a bigger project, but one I’ve got plenty of experience in, as I’ve managed site builds for a range of people and organisations; from sole traders who just need a Wordpress site, to long-term projects with £1m+ budgets and sites that will serve hundreds of thousands of customers.

You don’t to end up with a website like this … or do you? Despite the hilarious look and feel,  https://www.lingscars.com/  generates rather a lot of money for its owner.

You don’t to end up with a website like this … or do you? Despite the hilarious look and feel, https://www.lingscars.com/ generates rather a lot of money for its owner.

If you’re getting a website developed then there are a few things you need to think about if you’re asking someone to build it for you to make sure you get your money’s worth.

  1. You may not need a website at all - many businesses do very well just using a Facebook page and an Instagram account. It’s not essential, it depends on who your audience is and what you want to achieve. Don’t assume chucking money at a new website will be what you need, think about the business outcomes you want to achieve and take it from there.

  2. Ask for a guide on how to edit it yourself in the future. These days it usually isn’t that difficult, and will save you money in the long run. And the more (good) content you add to your site, the better your Google ranking will be.

  3. Write a specification and be clear WHO your site is aimed at and WHAT you want them to do, as well as the kind of content you’d like to include on your site. And - speaking on behalf of all the web developers here - please try to stick to what you want and don’t keep changing your mind. Scope creep can be a bit of a nightmare for us freelancers!

  4. Don’t forget domain registration. I suggest you do this yourself, so you always own your website address. I had one client who was the victim of domain name squatting. His web developer forgot to renew his domain when the 2 year agreement he had expired, and someone else bought it before he realised. It meant his website went down, and all his material with his web address on it - business cards, uniforms, vehicle livery - had to be rebranded. Nightmare! (NB - while this can happen, you can negotiate to get the website address back, particularly if you can prove you have rights over the domain).

  5. Building for mobile is critical. According to the latest Ofcom internet usage report from 2018, 70% of adults in the UK use their smartphone to go online, and phones are now more popular than a computer to get on the internet. So I would suggest you don’t just build your website for mobile, you think about mobile first.

  6. Do think about emergency recovery and support. If the company you are using to develop your website are also hosting it, ask about how often your site will be backed up, what the recovery plan is if your site goes down, and the hours that they provide support if something does happen.

Obviously there is a lot more you should consider, not least how much you are going to spend on a new website.

This is one question I do get asked a lot: “how much does a website cost?” The answer is, as always, it depends. Not helpful I know, but to give you an idea, the specification that I sent out that I mentioned above was sent to eight different freelancers and agencies. They all had the exact same spec, but the quotes varied wildly from £2k, up to £11k. This not only reflected the skills and experience of each agency, but they all had differing ideas about how the work could be done.

So before you go ahead and get a website for your business, have a think about why you need one - best to get it right first time.

A handy summary of the excellent new book from Nesta: “Finding ctrl: visions for the future internet”

Nesta is an organisation committed to global innovation, and they do some fantastic work across healthcare, housing, science, architecture, technology, education and much more. Their latest publication is an interactive book bringing together essays, interviews, stories and artworks reflecting on the internet’s past and future, from over thirty contributors from fifteen countries and five continents.

As an early adopter of internet and digital technology - I started coding aged 9 on my BBCB computer - I thoroughly enjoyed this, and it’s got some thought provoking commentary on the greatest invention of the 20th century (IMHO).

It’s hard to be wholly positive though, especially as NESTA points out “While early internet pioneers dreamed of an internet that would be open, free and decentralised, the story of the internet today is mostly a story of loss of control”. Given the last blog post I wrote was about racism on Twitter, I’m inclined to agree.

BirdsongConsultancy_NestaInternetBook

These are my top nine highlights if you don’t have time to read the whole book for yourself, but it is worth it. Please send me your suggestions for number 10 to add to the list!

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  1. Tim Berners-Lee put a proposal to his boss on 12 March 1989, Mike Sendall, who scribbled in the margins “Vague, but exciting.” What came next is history: just a few years later, Berners-Lee’s self-described “hypertext thing” – designed to be used for information management within CERN – became the World Wide Web. 

  2. The first ever image was uploaded on to the Web in March 1992, the year I started university. For future predictions, in 2039 Lithium will run out, meaning no more smartphones.

  3. There’s a fascinating interview with Jimmy Wales, he of Wikipedia fame: “Wikipedia is built by a lot of really nice people working in a community which works really hard to empower and believe in people. Facebook is a totally different platform with a totally different purpose (socialising with friends and family) but there are lots of nice people there too!”

  4. There’s also a somewhat disturbing Q&A with Professor Shoshana Zuboff from Harvard Business School on Surveillance Capitalism, and how the business models underlying the data economy are influencing us: “The age of surveillance capitalism originates in an even more startling and audacious mental invention, as surveillance capitalism declares private human experience as free raw material for translation into production and sales. It relies on hidden operations intentionally designed to bypass “user” awareness.”

  5. My favourite mention goes to the Londoner who got his fake restaurant, The Shed, to the coveted number 1 spot on Tripadvisor. If you don’t know this story it’s well worth a read.

  6. This February, we reached another important internet milestone: more than half of the world’s population is now online.

  7. Digital Culture expert Whitney Phillips talks trolling (although she no longer uses that term) and online hoaxes, and the role that journalists should play in combating this: “On the journalism side, it’s critical for journalists to understand that they are not just part of the amplification chain, they’re also often the trophy”

  8. There’s a precautionary tale from Jessica Furseth on how our digital habits could be endangering our entire visual history.

  9. Ted Hunt shows us a radically reimagined search engine. Open Index Internet rebuilds how the internet is both accessed and organised from the ground up. It is built on the premise of a European Union funded open-source internet index that would decentralise the search engine market currently monopolised by Google.

You can read the book at https://findingctrl.nesta.org.uk/

Credits: The book was curated and edited by Caroline Back, Katja Bego and Amelia Tait. The designs and development of the website behind the book were created by Manchester-based agency Toyfight.