Choosing the Right Webmaster

Tips on choosing the right webmaster

You need a website and don’t know where to start. You ask friends with websites, look on-line at web design companies, scan Kijiji or Craigslist for freelancers, maybe even place an ad yourself. Choosing the right person to create your website will either be a great experience, or you will end up feeling ripped off, frustrated and still looking for a site that you are happy with.

Some things to ask potential webmasters:

There are many technical aspects that most customers are not aware of, so wouldn’t think to ask. Here are some important questions to ask:

Can you arrange the domain and hosting and the renewals every year?

Every good website needs three things to be on the web:

  • domain name
  • website
  • space on a web server (hosting)

It may save, or even cost more, to buy the domain name and arrange hosting yourself, but if that seems too complex, your webmaster should be willing to perform this service for you. Both the domain and hosting are an annual bill, so be prepared to pay for these on a yearly (sometimes monthly) basis.

Will the domain name be in my name or my companies name?

Some webmasters will put the domain name they are registering for you in their name instead of yours. There is no good reason for them doing this, and it gives them complete control over your domain name. Sadly this happens quite often so it is really worth checking out. This is very bad for you in the long run as they can point the domain name to any site they choose or refuse to relinquish control if they are totally unscrupulous. You need to make sure that if someone else is registering a domain name on your behalf, that the domain name will be in the legitimate owners name.

Do you use open source code, .htaccess, the latest W3C Standards and know how to hand code?

This is a very technical question, but is important for the long term success, maintenance, security and cost of your website. Over 70% of websites are hosted in a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) environment, so if your site is outside the norm, you will be limited if a replacement webmaster is needed in the future. Your website should be coded using CSS and either HTML5, XHTML or PHP to ensure it will withstand the test of time. The larger the site, the more important it is that SSI is also included.

Some businesses may require or prefer a different environment, but no matter what your needs, there are qualified developers out there.

Will I have access to the code?

A reputable company or freelancer will use open source code, but regardless of the code used, will allow you access to code and databases upon fair, agreed terms of compensation. If you need to switch webmasters in the future, it will save you a great deal of money if you can give them the code and data to your existing site, rather than start from scratch again.

Will my site display properly in all browsers and be smartphone friendly?

There are many cases where customers spent over $30,000 for websites that only work right with Internet Explorer. That means a large number of web surfers are NOT seeing your site properly. A good webmaster will test your site in many different browsers. Also, the mobile market is one of the fastest growing markets now, so a site that displays nice and is useable on a mobile device has an advantage over the competition.

Are there any additional fees for software licensing or other extra costs?

It is usually not necessary to enter into any licensing agreements to operate a website, but sometimes third party modules are integrated into a site and may include a one time, monthly or subscription fee. Ongoing costs likely include domain name and hosting renewals and site maintenance or upgrades

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