In recognition of being in business for 10 years, I thought I’d share ten questions that I get asked most often as a professional website developer. Some of them I’m sure other like-minded professionals have also had to answer. These are in no particular order, but I hope they help:
1. How much will my website cost?
Yes, this one is a no-brainer and you’d think there was something seriously wrong if a potential client didn’t ask you this. Often, this question comes loaded with a long list of thoughts/ideas/goals a potential client has in mind. So the question goes something like this: “…I want x,y,z done with a bit of a,b and c and I’d really love it if we could throw in d, e and f…is this doable and within a reasonable price range…” Once I hit them with the budget question (“do you have a budget?”) and get replies like “…a couple hundred bucks…I have no idea…several thousand…” I get a better handle on a) how important the work is to them and b) how realistic they are willing to be. Well usually, anyway.
2. How soon can this be done?
How many times have I had a potential client come to me wanting the sun, moon and stars within three weeks? It’s amazing how many people think they understand the importance of planning for branding, content development, website design, etc. but they fail to understand that it takes time to do these things well. On the flip side, I occasionally get clients who want to pay a retainer to start a project but they specify an overly long turn around that doesn’t fit with the scope—like 6 or 8 months. There’s nothing more frustrating to a website developer than a project that has more time than it requires, and often when this happens it can be considered a red flag.
3. I love this site…can you make mine look like this?
Even though I get this question on a regular basis it doesn’t typically lead to a problem. Once I explain to clients about the reasons why we (speaking for all Professional Developers here) don’t copy a design, they usually understand and go for a compromise or even better – something totally new and unique. I have actually lost a job because I wouldn’t copy another design, but that’s ok by me—I’d rather not do the work at all than feel wrong about doing it in the first place.
4. How soon will my site be found on Google?
I really don’t like getting asked this question because I’m not an SEO expert, but I do get asked this quite often (and understandably so – achieving good SEO can make or break a business). Clients can be surprised when I tell them it may cost a lot more to guarantee a top 20 ranking – and it won’t come from me. I see a lot of people who have no idea about what’s involved with good, effective search engine optimization, and if they don’t want to work at achieving the results themselves, they’d better be prepared to spend hundreds or thousands to get the work done right. I’ve even lost jobs because I’m not an SEO expert. Many people just don’t realize that professional website development and search engine optimization are often offered by separate companies (and for good reason).
5. Can you fancy it up a bit?
I really don’t like getting vague requests, and as a website developer I see my share of them. My preference is to design clean, often minimalistic websites. Usually, a client will gather this when they look at my portfolio, but not always. That’s when I get the “…make this more colorful…can you fancy this up a bit…make it more feminine…I’d like to see more…” type questions. On the up side, working outside my comfort zone from time to time is probably a good thing, and I admit that I do like a creative challenge. I never shy away from working with a client’s vision—even if they have poor taste—and I never shy away from giving them my professional opinion either.
6. Can you add e-commerce to my site?
I get asked this question on a regular basis. Usually it means the project scope just changed and I may have to explain this to the client. Depending on what they have in mind, adding the e-commerce software can be pretty simple or it can end up being a whole new project aside from the current project. Sometimes once they realize what’s involved with adding e-commerce they scrap the idea or they wait until the business is more established and plan for it as a future expense. I see a lot of clients who assume adding e-commerce functionality to a website is an easy task (and it may be, but not always).
7. Can you develop my site in Flash?
I’m not a flash developer (it’s on my wish list of things to learn…so for now I outsource), so there’s nothing more disappointing than to have a very cool project turn into a 99% flash development project. It probably means I’ve just lost the job, and not for reasons that I’d necessarily agree with. Too much Flash is never a good thing for your server, for a visitor’s patience, for many browsers, for the search engines, for usability or for accessibility.
8. Can you write my site content for me?
I get this request a lot…I actually have clients from all walks of life expecting me to develop their website content for them. They either forget that they are the experts in their own fields, or perhaps they just don’t want the hassle of having to sit down and actually write something meaningful for the website. So I get dozens of requests to write content for plumbers, carpenters, artists, authors (believe it or not!), coaches…you name it! My response to every one of them is the same: if it’s going to be a big problem give me your content in point format and I’ll refine it for you. That usually solves the problem.
9. Do I need to have a photo of myself on my site?
It’s amazing how often I still get asked this question. I always tell clients the same thing: it depends on the business. So for a Professional Coach I say “yes, definitely…” but for a Finish Carpenter I say “…it’s not absolutely necessary…professional photos of your work are much more relevant…” I am still surprised at how many people aren’t sure about what’s expected here.
10. Can I maintain my site myself?
In the past couple of years I’ve been getting asked this question more often. Clients are definitely becoming more confident in their ability to maintain their own website. I’d assume that’s partly to do with blogging software like WordPress or TypePad, and probably because of social media applications like FaceBook and Twitter. Now clients come to me with some experience under their belts already in adding or updating pages on a blog or maintaining a Twitter page, so now they naturally want this level of functionality with their website. The good news is I always tell them “yes…no problem!”
What other questions have you heard? And how do you answer them?
We’d love to hear your input on frequent questions that your clients have asked you as you have been working as a designer. Share them with us by leaving a comment.