There’s cheap, and there’s too cheap. Togethernet websites certainly aren’t expensive when you consider what’s included. But I’ve seen people offering to build a ‘professional business site’ for £99. Now I don’t mind fair competition but I get worried when I see some crazily low prices being quoted by some web design companies. So I took a look at what’s on offer and not surprisingly, found one or two shortcomings.
Here’s my list of those, and you can probably think of a few more I’ve overlooked.
1) Your brand.
Be very wary of dealing with anyone who suggests they can build you a website but who doesn’t even take five minutes to discuss your brand with you. They know nothing about what you stand for, let alone how you want to portray your business online. Would you let someone pick out a suit of clothes for you without even seeing you?
2) 30% of local searches are on smartphones
Tthat 30% may already be out of date as the figure is rising all of the time. Let’s face it, everyone now has a smartphone or will have soon. Will a cheap web company trouble themselves to ensure your website is as easy to use on smartphones and tablets as on a desktop? It’s unlikely.
4) Spam avoidance
Woe betide you if you leave your email address visible to bots crawling the web. But that’s exactly what so many sites built by cheap web designers do. A deluge of spam is more or less guaranteed. You need a well designed contact form.
5) Contact forms
Ok. Some cheap website designers do provide a contact form. But they rarely bother to include well-branded courtesy email responses to enquiries. Or a captcha to cut down on the spam you’re going to get.
6) Content management
You’re going to want to make changes to your site and wouldn’t it be best if you could make these changes yourself? For that you need a content management system (CMS). Something that’s often completely overlooked by those offering cheap website design. They may even offer to make the changes themselves – for a fee – thus locking you in to using them forever – and costing you money. And even if they do include some sort of CMS, will they help you learn how to use it? Make sure that training aids are available and at a reasonable cost.
Guess what – people seem to think it’s ok to take photos off other websites and put them on their own. Sometimes it is, but most of the time, it isn’t. Being in the public domain isn’t the same thing as being visible to the public. It’s easier than ever now to trace the use of images around the internet, so if you decide to use a cheap website designer just double check that you have the right to use all of the images that are included in your site. Just in case.
Even a very basic website is vulnerable to being hacked. Is someone going to be around to do something about the situation should that happen – and is anyone available to install security updates to prevent it happening? If you’ve gone to the cheap web designer you may just find the answer is no. Or worse, suddenly the cheap guy is the most expensive on the block when it comes to putting things right.
Cheap web designers love to give you a templated site that’s exactly the same as everyone else’s. How can they do otherwise? They don’t put any thought or effort in. They don’t add Titles or ALT tags, and any text is the same or very similar to everyone else’s. Don’t be surprised if the search engines ignore it.
10) The Favicon
Another thing that’s usually missing if you go to a cheap web design company is the favicon – the small unique icon that appears in the browser bar and favourites menu.
11) Loading speed
Nobody likes to use a slow website. But unless you take the time and trouble to optimise the site for fast loading, the likelihood is that it will be pretty slow. For example, image file sizes need to be no larger than necessary to display where they are needed. Guess who won’t take the time and trouble to do all this?
12) Mailing list integration
Why lose a customer you worked so hard to attract? Once your visitor is on your site, make it easy for them to contact you, or at least leave their details so you can contact them. And then, put that information straight into your customer database. This is a fair bit of work – not work that the cheap web companies are likely to include in their oh-so-low quotations.
13) Social media
Not every low priced web designer can be bothered to properly integrate the site they make for you with your own particular choices of social media – such as Twitter, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn account, Pinterest page and so on. That’s just plain daft.
14) Spelling and grammar
It isn’t only the cheap website developers who can’t spell – I’ve seen some pretty major typos on the front pages of websites whose owners should know better. But you can be sure that unless someone is taking a modicum of time and trouble over the job, errors are going to creep in. I’d advise you, at the very least, to make sure your site is being built by someone who can speak your language.
15) Cheap hosting
Hosting isn’t expensive these days so you can afford decent quality. For a start, why not opt for having your site hosted in this country? If you do, it will perform better, other things being equal, simply because of the time taken for every server request to get there, and for the information to come back. If you let the cheap hosting provider sort this for you, make sure you have access to it yourself. Otherwise you are at their mercy – you simply don’t have control of your own site.
I’m already thinking of more – how about Google analytics for instance. But 15 is enough to be going along with, I reckon.