A Web designer used to be the person who only designs the way your site looks, aka front-end work. A Web developer used to be the person who would only do programming or coding, aka back-end work.
Some Web companies may still be structured this way. However, nowadays, smaller Web companies (1-5 person shop) have people with both these skills and may hire out for higher level design skills or programming skills.
For brevity, I used the term developer for this post.
I am always hearing stories from clients about some disaster that occurred with their last Web developer.
They vary in detail but the common thread between them is the client feels the developer did not do what the client thought the developer was going to do.
Have you ever tried to communicate with someone when you don’t speak the same language? (English/French, Chinese/Italian, etc.)
People who work in the technology field speak their own language, which is not the same language people outside of the field speak in business. This is the main reason why these misunderstandings happen.
I have traveled in foreign countries and have spoken that county’s language. If I know it “well enough” I might think I am saying, “Is this seat taken?” But because sometimes accents or suffixes used change the meaning of words, that simple question, in another language, could end being, “Is your butt married?”
If you are not in the technology field, how are you going to understand what a developer means when saying x, y and z? Do you need to go to school and learn all the jargon to get a website done or redesigned?
No, you do not but you do need to make sure that if you do not understand what the developer is telling you that you ask for an explanation.
That does not always solve the problem if the developer does not know how to answer your questions so you can understand them.
- See the site structure.
In the early stages of the project, make sure you see a list of the specific pages and sections that will be on your site. (This can be presented in many forms, e. g., graphically, simple text, spreadsheet style.)
- Discuss your domain name.
You may or may not already have one (yoursite.com). If needed, the developer should be able to help you pick a new domain name. If you have one, the developer needs to know who hosts it. (This is a separate issue from who hosts your website, if you have one. To read more about this subject, read my post on The difference between hosting a website and hosting a domain name.)
- Discuss who maintains your website after it is finished.
If you are, you need to know the cost of training you to do this and what training materials, if any, the developer provides you with at the end of the project. Doing a website with an easy to use Content Management System (CMS) is generally the best option.
- Agree on who is responsible for developing the “content.”
Content means all text, photos, graphics, logos and videos needed for the website.
- Make sure your website will be optimized for search engines.
(SEO = Search Engine Optimization) Your text needs to be written in a way that search engines like Google can index the words on your pages and use them to help find your pages when someone is doing a search. Search engines use mathematical equations to accomplish this. In good optimization, more factors are brought in besides the text on your page.
- Understand what you are paying for.
You may want a lot from your developer. The more you want, the more it will cost. Having a clearly stated list of deliverables from your developer at the beginning of the project is a must. If your developer does not provide you with a list, I guarantee, misunderstandings will happen.
- Have your developer tell you what parts you can do to help stay within budget.
There are many things a client, without technical skills, can accomplish in a website project.
- Times to communicate.
However you meet, have planned times to discuss your project, as it goes along, to make sure you are understand where it is and if your developer is waiting for you to do something (e.g., provide text, images, project sign-offs, additional payment).
- See development of site
Make sure the developer provides a way for you to see the development of the site as it progresses.
- Browsers + mobile
If you are paying for this, ask the the developer if s/he has checked your new site on the most common browsers and platforms (desktop computers, tablets and smart phones). Your developer should be testing your site on these browsers and platforms.
- Content Management System (CMS)
- Cross Platform
- Domain Name
- Email Blasts
- Meta tags
- Photo Gallery
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media
- Using Video
- Web Designer/Developer
- What is a Blog?