Are you being scammed? 8 questions to ask when buying a website.

Your organization needs a website. If you don’t have one, you’re invisible in an age where smartphones have become our electronic appendages. You know this of course. With that in mind, perhaps you’re reading this post right now because you’re about to hire an agency or freelancer to build or improve an existing website, and are looking for pitfalls to avoid when deciding who to trust with this critical investment.

If that’s you, then hello, I’m Josh Lambert with Centrevile Tech, and I’m here to help!

When people bring a proposal to my desk and ask me to help evaluate if the development/design investment they’re about to make is a good fit for their business, I review those proposals against the questions below. They’ve helped others, perhaps they’ll help you too!

Question #1: What monthly investment are you required to make to maintain your website long term?

In almost every case, there are monthly costs associated with the maintenance of a website presence. Often these will come in the form of things such as:

  1. Monthly Hosting. This is the rent you pay to place your website on a server out on the internet. This cost can range from free (don’t use a free host, please!!!) to several hundred dollars a month. You’ll get what you pay for on this line item. If you spend $5/mo, you’ll likely be sharing a server with hundreds of others sites. If one of those sites gets hit with a traffic surge, your site will likely be negatively impacted as well. Hello downtime! Often times investing a little money in reliable hosting means you can get things like a dedicated server that is exclusively reserved for serving traffic coming to your site. If you’re a larger organization serving business-critical traffic, this investment could be a no-brainer.
  2. Monthly Maintenace. This money you’ll pay to reserve developer hours with a firm every month to make sure the code on your website runs as intended. Those developer hours will be used to handle things such as server updates, plugin updates, browser changes, etc. Again, this is money well spent in almost every case, but you should know what this cost will be to ensure you can keep your website functioning properly for years to come.
  3. Backups. This is a monthly cost you may pay to someone such as CodeGuard or BackBlaze to secure your website in case of server failure, hacking, or other data loss events. The monthly costs on this could range from $5/mo to $100/mo (or more) depending on the content of your site. If you host videos on the site for example, that’ll take a lot more space for backups then a basic text and photos site.
  4. Uptime Monitoring. This would be a service such as StatusCake or Pingdom that monitors your website, and automatically notifies either the agency you hired or yourself, when there’s an outage so action can be taken to mitigate it.
  5. Domain renewal. (Making sure you own the rights to your website name, such as CentrevilleTech.com. Often this is billed annually.)
  6. SSL certificates for providing that trusted green lock on the address bar of your browser toolbar.

You’ll want to make sure the agency or freelancer properly documents and itemizes each of these costs and lets you know what they’ll be in total every month. This is also a good time to find out if their credit card is charged, or yours, for these services each month. If it’s yours, you’ll need to set up internal controls to make sure you pay the bill on time, or your site could go down. We’ve found recurring calendar invites are helpful for this. If they’re handling the billing on these services, you might ask for a copy of the policy they follow internally to make sure these are paid on time every month. I’ve seen lax practices in this area bring down websites before. Don’t let that be your site.

 

Question #2: Are we making a commitment to use this firm or freelancer exclusively for the development and maintenance for any period of time?

It’s not necessarily a problem to sign a contract with a company to be your exclusive web partner for a period of time. Both you and the vendor are busy. Nobody wants to be re-negotiating a contract every other month to keep a website up.

With that in mind, hope for the best, but plan for the worst. What happens if you find your organization and the agency or freelancer you hired are not a good fit for each other? Does the contract allow you to walk and find someone else to do the work if things do not work out as you’d like? You’ll want to know what that process looks like, and if there’s a fee to walk away from the business arrangement.

 

Question #3: Are you able to maintain the content (copy/photos/text) yourself in the future if updates or edits are required? If no, what do they charge to make said edits for you?

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Question #4: Do you maintain DNS control of your domain name, or are they expecting you to transfer it to them?

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Question #5: Who are they expecting to author the copy (text content) for your site?

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Question #6: Are they furnishing properly licensed imagery for the site using a reputable company such as Adobe? If no, are you expected to purchase said image licenses separate from whatever the development cost of the site is?

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Question #7: What analytics will be available for you to track the performance of your site?

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Question #8: What is their proposed security and backup plan in case of a hacking event?

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Hopefully, these questions help you evaluate if the investment you’re about to make in your web presence will positively benefit your organization and equip you for success for years to come!

 

NOTE TO KYLE: Add a form here with a CTA about how we do websites for SOME organizations.

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