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What services are available for building a website?

A toolkit

You can put your own website together using either a web package or online tools. But the other option is to hire someone to build it for you. Here are some pointers to make sure you get what you want for your money.

Guy Clapperton | 9th September 2010

There are many reasons why you might want to get an external designer to build your website, rather than doing it yourself - time; you want to make it look professional; you want it to do well in search engines; you don’t have the search engine optimisation skills.

Loads of reasons, then. But choosing a web designer is like choosing a builder – a good one is brilliant, a bad one can do a lot of damage.

How to get it right

The first thing you need is an idea of what the site is for. If you’re selling something, then the wording - not just the design - has to be compelling. If it’s to get them to engage with you on the phone, then it’s got to have the phone number prominently displayed. If it’s to display pictures, then the gallery pages need clear labelling.

Work out what it’s for and include it in the brief. Maybe do a Google search on whatever your site’s about and see what comes to the top. Tell your designer about a site that’s doing well and suggest using some of its ideas.

Above all, it needs to be your property rather than that of the builder. If you change your designer, who owns the rights to your site’s appearance? That needs to be in the contract. If you’re a small business and have letterheads and a logo, the font (typeface) and colours need to be consistent on the web.

Related to ownership, you need to be able to update it when you want. Too many people commission a website then ask the designer to change or update it. But the designer only does this after a few days, when other jobs are complete. If you’re announcing something important, it’s got to be immediate.

Link it to other things

Integration with other sites is also important. If you’re on Twitter, Facebook or other social networks, you should ideally put links to those on your site. This isn’t difficult but your designer needs to know.

If you have a blog, should this be on the site itself or hosted elsewhere? The latter might be a better option because if you change/fall out with your designer, they won’t be able to touch the blog and you can link back to it immediately. But can you make it look exactly right – and do you want people moving away from your main page to read your blog? Or should you just use the blog as your website?

That’s a lot of questions - and the answers will depend on your website and its objectives. But they should start pointing you in the right direction. Good luck!

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton

Guy Clapperton is a journalist specialising in writing about technology as well as small business for several major broadsheets. He broadcasts occasionally on BBC Radio stations and reviews the newspapers on the BBC News Channel.