Great Ideas Start Here

blog: a regularly updated web page, typically run by an individual or organization, containing relevant thoughts and ideas.
by: Christine Swartzendruber, Chief Technology Officer

You have a great idea for a cutting edge web site. You hire a web developer. Now what? Most web development companies have the know-how to complete your site from start to finish. They know every step in the process, so you shouldn’t have to. Right?

It’s true that the development process should be seemless to the client. Obviously clients don’t specialize in publishing a site to the web, high level database development or even site marketing once the site is done, but as a client what should you know? What questions should you ask your web developer so that you feel protected during the development process?

Who Owns My Domain?
Most web site owners have never registered a domain name before. They typically just let their web developer (who has ordered many) do this for them. While it’s fine to let your developer do this for you, it’s important to understand who owns the domain name once it has been registered. In some cases the web developer lists themself as the owner. If you are not the owner of your own domain name, you don’t really own your website. If you ever wanted to move to a new developer or make changes to your domain name service you would not have the power to do so. If your website became highly successful you wouldn’t really even be the legal owner. If you do let your developer register your domain name, either get it in writing that you are the legal owner, or make sure the developer registers it with you as the legal owner.

Once I Buy A Domain Name, Is It Mine Forever?
Yes and no. Yes, you remain the legal owner, but only if you continue to renew your service. Ask your developer what their process is for domain name renewal, and then follow-up yourself as well. You must make sure that the renewal is complete. Most registrar services have an automatic renewal process that you can opt in to. I highly recommend that you do. This is just too important to let lapse because if you don’t renew it on time it becomes available for anyone to purchase, and if you have a great domain name you can be sure there is someone just waiting to snatch it.

Where Is My Web Site Hosted?
Every web site has a home, and there are many to choose from. It is important that you are working with a reputable company. Your web developer will almost always handle this aspect of setup. It can be a difficult process and you need technical know-how to get it done. If you have made an agreement with your web developer that upon completion of the site, you own their code as well as copyright to the site, then you should have full access to the hosting control panel. Your developer should provide you with all usernames and passwords related to the account. You should be listed as the site owner and primary contact. However, if your developer maintains ownership of their code, then you would neither need nor be granted access to this service.

Who Owns The Copyright For The Site’s Code?
Most web developers have worked for years to gain the experience and knowledge for writing comprehensive code that makes a web site function. They are not likely to want to give you the rights to their actual code. You need to understand who owns the rights to the code when you purchase a site. Many development companies simply develop the site for you and you are afforded full use of the site and full copyright to things like your content and your photos and files, but rarely are you given full rights to the code. That means, if you choose to work with another developer in the future, they will have to start your site over from scratch, using only what they see as a guide.

How Can I Measure My Site’s Successes And Failures?
Ask your developer how to access your site’s statistical control panel. Most web hosting companies provide this service automatically and you can login to a control panel to view comprehensive reports about everything that happens on your site throughout the course of a day, month or any custom time period you choose. If your site does not automatically include this, you will need to tell your developer that you want your site hooked up to a statistical reporting service such as Google Analytics. It is critical that you track the progress of your site, so that you know where to make improvements and how to strategize your advertising initiatives.

What Technologies Are Being Used To Create My Site?
It may seem that this kind of information is too far over your head for you to ask about it, but it is actually important that you know what technologies are used to build your site. If you ever want to move your site, or add a plug-in to your site you will need to know this. There are many different options in technology today for creating sites, but the most popular options are; Microsoft .Net with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP with MySQL, Ruby on Rails, or an out of the box content management option like Drupal or Joomla. Find out which option your developer will use and keep a record of it in case you ever need to know.

Do I Have e-Commerce capability
Not all web sites have the ability to accept payments from users. You need to have an e-commerce solution built into your site in order to accept payments for things like purchases or donations. e-commerce is usually complicated to add to your site so it will probably require added expense. Make sure you discuss this option with your developer.

What Is My Role In The Development Process?
Too often, clients don’t clearly understand their role in the development process. If a developer tells you they can have your site deployed in two months, that time frame is dependant on how much of your part gets done in a timely manner. If you are going to supply photos and content for the site and you don’t get that finished when it’s expected, it will obviously delay your deployment. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what role you will play in the development, what elements you will provide the developer, such as content and photos, and when the developer will need these things from you. Make sure you have a clear development time line that includes your piece of the process.

How Much Will The Site Cost?
This is obviously the most important question. If you can’t afford the services of a specific web developer you will need to look for another. However, there are some basic questions about the break-down of cost that you should understand. How much will I pay for site hosting? What will be the cost of site ownership? For example: maintenance and updates, addition of new photos and media, addition of new sections or interactive forms, etc. What are the costs associated with site marketing and advertising? It is important to know what each element will cost before you jump head first into firm cost development, there are many associated costs once the site is complete as well.

Communication Is Key
These are some great questions to get you started, but remember, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your developer during the entire process. Ask questions as they come up, be open to thoughts and ideas from your developer, discuss everything. Don’t just sit on the sidelines, make sure that you understand as much as you can about your new site.