5 Awesome Questions to Ask Before Creating a Website

Beach and mountains.

It can be a confusing question – “How can I choose?” When you’re creating a website or hiring a developer there are many factors that come into play, and you want to get the best result for your website. So here are 5 questions for you to keep in mind:

1. How much is this supposed to cost?

2. Does the site need to be built using a specific platform?

3. Do I want to make edits to the content myself in the future?

4. Which platform should I use if I want a blog?

5. 5. How can I get great SEO, cross-browser compatibility, and page speed optimization?

6. BONUS QUESTION: How do I pick a theme?

So let’s dive into each of these questions.

1. How much is this supposed to cost?

It’s dizzying to try and figure out how much a website is supposed to cost. With “It depends.” coming as an answer from all angles, and the internet making it more confusing with hourly prices that range from $5/hour to $120/hour. The truth is, that if you want a 5-page website built with a CMS only for displaying info (i.e. no ecommerce), then the price usually starts at $500 and goes up from there. However, with the internet providing global competition, it’s possible these days to have your website built much cheaper – down to $100 or even less for the whole package. Sites like Upwork link developers from all over the world, where the cost of living is much less than that in the United States. There are also many developers who are looking to build their portfolio, and the best way for them to do this is to do jobs for cheap, so you might get lucky. However, the results are uncertain when hiring someone who doesn’t have legitimate experience, so do this at your own risk!

To see for yourself how much bang you can get for your buck, create your own Upwork client profile and list your project to open it up to offers from all around the world. Make sure to write a description explaining the important details of the project and your expectations, so the clients know what they’re working with. The complexity of your project will determine how many proposals you get, and at what price these come in. Upwork makes it very transparent for clients to see the quality of their developer – providing a robust developer portfolio. You can see how many projects the developer has completed, all of the customer reviews for those projects, how much money the developer has made from all of their work, their portfolio of projects, and even client testimonials. If you’d like, you can view my profile on Upwork!

So you can get developers from different backgrounds that can fit your budget. However, cheaper price often does come at a cost! So be sure to verify your developer’s reviews and past projects before you click “Hire”.

2. Does the site need to be built using a specific platform?

There are many platforms to choose from: Wix, SquareSpace, Weebly – the list goes on. However, most sites, whether for simply displaying information, or even for ecommerce – can be built with WordPress for free. In addition to not having to pay for the software, WordPress offers more features for free that may not be so obvious at first. For example, other paid Content Management Systems (CMS’s for short) require a more advanced plan than the basic plan to make specific edits to the style code (CSS) of the website. This could mean double the monthly payment, just to get rid of an unnecessary element in a theme. In WordPress, all files and code can be edited for free.

In addition, WordPress offers thousands upon thousands of “plugins” – add-on programs that are installed to the website software to provide an additional feature, service, or element. A very popular free plugin for ecommerce websites is Woocommerce. Woocommerce makes it possible for you to set up your own online store and collect payments without a monthly cost (though you do pay a small percentage of your sales) – something other CMS’s may also require an upgrade for.

WordPress is a bit complex, and can be a little harder to get started with than Wix or Squarespace. It also has less customer support, can be a bit trickier to modify than a site with Wix or Squarespace. Though anyone can learn if they want – if you think it’s worth it to pay for extra simplicity in making design changes yourself, then Wix or Squarespace may be more appropriate for you.

3. Do I want to make edits to the content myself in the future?

Once the heavy lifting of setting up the initial website is complete, you may want to add or change content in the future – images, text, links, etc. So you may be wondering, “Which platform would make it easiest for me to make my own website edits in the future.” Well, I’m glad you asked!

All CMSs make it pretty easy to edit content. WordPress makes it quite simple to add content and change images. WordPress does have a bit more of a learning curve than simpler CMSs such as Squarespace. Additionally, there are unlimited free resources to learn anything you want in WordPress. And with plugins like Elementor that allow for drag-and-drop customization, WordPress can be just as easy to modify as Wix or Squarespace, though it may take a bit longer to learn how to use.

4. Which platform should I use if I want a blog?

Any big CMS will provide functionality to easily create new blog posts. So no need to worry. Whether WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, or other web development platform – so many people are blogging these days that it’s essential for these sites to create excellent functionality for these. In any of the mentioned platforms, you can create a new blog post and start writing within under a minute. And publishing is just as easy.

5. How can I get great SEO, cross-browser compatibility, and page speed optimization?

Everyone wants great SEO. It’s tough to get on the first page of Google, but of course it can be done. There are some major things that we can to to achieve results. These are:

  • Publishing & updating great content – on your site, and on social media.
    • Having content keeps new traffic driven to your site, especially with the help of social media. You can post on social media and have a much larger impression rate (the amount of people that see your content) than you could hope for in a Google search, especially if you’re just starting out with your business, blog, etc. Social media marketing is critical these days, and in order to grow your following and gain the most traffic, it’s wise to be posting content every day on all the biggest platforms. Gary Vaynerchuck, founder of Vayner Media, advocates posting at least 100 peices of content a day, if you’re trying to grow your business. People want to see what you’re up to!
    • Keeping your content updated is also helpful for your search rankings. Everything is moving at a fast pace now, and Google likes to see that things are up to date. (Credit to Michigan Tech)
  • Add links to your content.
    • Having links inside your blog posts, website, etc. will help to connect you to other places on the web, and this improves your SEO. The best way to do this is to make a string of words into a link, rather than just a “click here” or an “http://www.thatsite.com”. That is, add a link to the phrase “at this site you can find all the fresh vegetables and fruits you need”. This string contains keywords that will aid in the SEO that comes with the embedded link. (Credit to Michigan Tech)
  • “Backlinking” your website to your social media platforms.
    • Adding links to all of your social media accounts is the first step – the second step is to go to those social media accounts, and link back to your website: in your profile, posts, etc. This is called “backlinking”, and it helps you write the narrative around your website’s SEO.
  • Use “alt” text in your images and videos.
    • This is one of the oldest ways to improve SEO. “alt” text, or “alternative” text, should be written in a form that describes the content of the image, without saying that the image is an image. For example, “Girl with yellow dress in a field of sunflowers.” is better than “Photo of girl with dress in a field of sunflowers.” Alternative text is not only used for SEO, but also for “screen readers” – programs that read the contents of the site out loud to those with sight disabilities. So following alt text rules helps these people to use your site.

It’s important for us to be creating content for our business. People enjoy seeing the process as well, and if you show your process on social media, you position yourself as an expert in your area. This gives people confidence in you and helps your brand. We want others to see what we’re doing, and backlinking to our social media accounts will boost our SEO, as well as drive more traffic to our sites.

In addition, there are many SEO plugins for WordPress, like All in One SEO, to give your site a boost, and to have some help generated automatically!

6. BONUS QUESTION: How do I pick a theme?

The most important thing is to use a design that’s a simple as possible, while still satisfying your aesthetic requirements. More complex designs seem to add disproportionately more problems to responsive web design. This means that they will be more expensive to build and to maintain, and more things will break at different browser widths, and on different device’s screens.

We don’t want to spend too much time choosing a theme. There can be many to pick, and it can be tantalizing to pine through all the different themes and templates. Try to keep the search simple, and make sure to check the theme at different browser widths, and on as many different computers and devices as you can.

It’s so easy to get bored of a design we have, and to have something new seems fresh and cooler – but then again look at all the companies that we are used to, who go and change the design of their website entirely. Do we think it’s cool and fresh? Usually the answer is “No”, and we’re annoyed that we need to re-learn this whole new environment that they have forced us into. We like familiarity, and the design is secondary to function. It’s important to pick something, then stick with it. A theme you like, someone else won’t care for, and vice versa. This keeps things simple, and keeps your website and it’s responsiveness from having to be rebuilt from scratch.

I believe once the site looks good we can forget about the design, and then we need to move on to more important questions – such as how can I get more people to know about my product/service, how can I sell better, etc.

So now we have some starting questions to ask before hiring a developer. I wish you luck with your web development project!

Aerial view of ocean.

Beach and Mountains image by Derek Thompson on Unsplash

Aerial view of ocean photo by Sierra Blair on Unsplash

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