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The Real Cost of Building a Website: Website Builders vs Web Designers

October 28th, 2020

It’s a big debate in the online business world. Why use a web designer or a web design agency when you can use a commercial website builder that doesn’t make you financially commit a set sum of money upfront?

Written by Lauren Sternberg
Contributed to by Aisha El-Tahlawi

It’s a big debate in the online business world. Why use a web designer or a web design agency when you can use a commercial website builder that doesn’t make you financially commit a set sum of money upfront? With an increasing amount of commercial website builders to choose from and those whose advertising campaigns are everywhere you look, it’s no surprise that many people these days are convinced that these website builders are the way to go – and many are more than willing to take a shot at using one to get their business online.

Why do I need a web designer/agency if I can make a website myself?

You might think web designers are biased in their opinion on this one. Fair enough. You might say that of course a web designer is going to discourage the use of commercial website builders because they could essentially put us out of a job. Well, everyone in the web design industry has had to accept that the existence of commercial website builders has, at one point or another, taken business away from independent web designers or web design agencies. For some people, these commercial builders are the right fit. If you’re someone who is tech-savvy and just starting out, looking for a quick online presence to sell yourself/product/services, and are seeking that textbook-trendy-looking website, then you’re probably in the right place with using a website builder (if you have the time to do so).

However, these commercial website builders can also be very “cookie cutter.” IKEA is a good parallel example of this. They sell the most current trendy look and feel of a product, for affordable upfront pricing. Similarly, with commercial website builders, you practically buy the look/template of a website you like. In both cases, you spend a little time putting it together, add your content/stuff onto it and it’s done. Don’t get us wrong – we’re not hating on IKEA. Almost all of our office furniture is from there! But the common theme here is that, it’s mass-produced and we manage our expectations based on that. It generally doesn’t last a lifetime, as you’ll already know if you’ve ever found yourself trying to duct-tape a Billy bookcase back together. It’s not bespoke; it’s produced for the masses- which is obvious when you see their furniture in someone else’s house and you immediately know where it came from. Websites aren’t much different in this vein – you’ll recognize the same “look and feel” of websites that span different industries.

So, what does it do for you? What does it say about your business and ingenuity? Your ability to be innovative? It’s not exactly unique and certainly won’t make you stand out amongst your competitors. It’s not suited for everyone and it won’t necessarily sell your product or service any better than their site will. However, for many business owners, their online presence is what will make or break them. It’s not a game; it’s serious business – especially if your only storefront is a digital one.

Commercial website builders are not meant for those looking for long-term progression. Oftentimes, as your business grows, these commercial builders no longer suit your needs and you end up paying more money – either more to the builder or separately to a design agency. But if you had the money to buy a new bookcase, would you buy the same exact one that didn’t stand the test of time? Why would you throw more money at a website builder knowing it still isn’t going to be what you really want and that you’ll be paying for that monthly?

Websites built on commercial builders are quick and fast to make but they’re not a good investment as you’ll soon see when we show you their costs over a long period of time. While the ability to pay a monthly fee is less terrifying than the upfront financial commitment of hiring a web designer/web design agency, you’ll quickly learn there are disadvantages to getting involved in a commercial website builder – beyond the financial ones.

The Disadvantages of Using Commercial Website Builders

1. Restricted themes and premium add-ons

You’ll find yourself quite restricted in functionality with the theme/template you choose in a commercial website builder. You’ll quickly learn that the more functions you want your site to have, the more you’ll end up paying in a monthly cost. Inevitably, you’ll realize that it’s not even the site you want but you don’t know how to break into the website builder’s code to make it work the way you want to. Even if you could, it’s not going to be easy to make it function exactly as you planned, as you’ll have to try and overwrite many lines of codes to do so.

2. Mobile responsiveness is not guaranteed

Some commercial website builders offer templates that are completely mobile-responsive but some, however, do not. In the US in 2018, 81% percent of adults age 18+ owned a smartphone, which means that we’re living in an age where people are increasingly accessing the internet via their cell phones rather than desktop computer (Pew Research). If you’ve ever had a poor user experience using a website on your phone that was far inferior to the same site on a desktop computer, then you’ll have an understanding of why mobile responsiveness is so important. If your commercial website builder doesn’t guarantee your website will be fully mobile-responsive, run, don’t walk.

3. Your website is not really yours to keep

With commercial website builders, they more or less own your website and you actually pay them for the honor. Should you decide that their prices are increasing beyond your budget, they have a security breach, or they go out of business, you won’t be able to transfer the site you created with them to another website builder or WordPress. In comparison, when a web designer or web design agency builds a website for you using straight code or a content management system like WordPress, you are in total control of your site – even if you decide to move on to another designer, another hosting company, or another theme. There are no restrictions. You own your site regardless of who designed it or who is hosting it.

4. Mass produced themes/templates are not SEO-friendly

These mass-produced themes/templates are known to be unnecessarily large in size. This is because they contain a great deal of unused code in them so that an average Joe can customize them without having any knowledge of writing code. While some may think this isn’t a big deal, it is. Heavy sites take longer load, which creates a poor experience for a cell phone user. Not only that, code that is redundant and not well-written can negatively impact a site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking. It’s actually ironic because a lot of these commercial builders boast about the premium SEO features they offer, but fail to take into account the coding practices that produce strikes against a website’s ranking.

The inevitable of paying twice for a website

Down the line, you’ll most likely find yourself contacting a web designer to make you a new site, therefore paying twice for the same product. We’ve been that web designer so many times, we’ve lost count. Having a well-built, useable and eye-catching website is an important part of business success in the 21st century. A poorly-designed site with a lackluster user experience, minimal functionality and a lack of ingenuity behind your brand can be detrimental to your business. Taking the plunge and making a better long-term investment by choosing a web designer or web design agency can save a lot of headaches and money along the way.

Finding the right fit for you

Commercial website builders allow you to pick whatever off-the-shelf look/theme for your website with no thought behind the design “does this fit with my audience?” A website for a trendy startup company is not going to work well for a small local business selling baked goods, for example. As web designers, we research your target audience, your competitors, what look are they portraying, how you can stand out from others in your design – all while bringing your Unique Selling Point (USP) to the forefront. We make something completely unique, custom and tailored to your business through color, typography and design.

“I don’t have the budget for a web designer.”

This is something that we can absolutely understand and to be honest, there are a lot of web designers and design agencies out there that are taking people for a ride. If you want to know more about what to look out for, check out our article, Avoiding Digital Back Alleys. It’s an unfortunate aspect of an industry that isn’t regulated. Spending time doing a little research before you delve in will serve you well. If you can get a recommendation of a web designer from a personal connection, even better! Commercial website builders are not as cheap as you may think and can cost you more money in the long run than hiring a designer would! You’ll think, gosh, that can’t be true. However, the way it works with most web designers and agencies is:

  1. We make your website for you
  2. It’s a fixed term contract; once the website is done, our duty is also done and we don’t require any further payments. You only pay for your hosting and your domain, which can be as inexpensive as $4 per month.

Commercial website builders’ costs do not end once you’ve finished making your website- you still pay for that builder every month for as long as you keep that website.

Think about that cost over the years of your business running.

In a couple of years, you will likely have exceeded the cost of using an independent web designer/agency and it doesn’t end just there- you’ll most definitely have added extras to pay for, as these commercial website builders capitalize on their premium add-ons. Any extras you could need for your business will be an add-on that you’ll be paying for every month.

Ok, so, why don’t you give me some scenarios where this happened?

Sure thing.

First we’ll start with some of the things we’ve heard from clients who had a commercial website builder and came to us to redo their site.

  • “I don’t know what I’m paying $200 a year for, my site doesn’t have any special features and yet the price has increased over time for the same service.”
  • “I used a website builder but my site doesn’t look professional at all.”
  • “The look of the website I built myself doesn’t fit in with others in my industry, it needs to be modern.”
  • “The site I built on [commercial website builder] looks terrible on mobile.”
  • “I wanted to add to my site, but every time I wanted to add a feature, the monthly price increased.”

We’ll come back to an earlier point: There undoubtedly is something less anxiety-producing about seeing costs broken down into smaller numbers. It’s the same psychology behind the whole $0.99 method of advertising. If you see a product advertised for $5.99 or $6.00, our gut tells us to favor the former. We see a smaller number before the decimal point, and that triggers something favorable in our brains. But if the cost was $6.00 or $6.01, would that really make a difference? No, of course not. We’re talking about 1¢.

So, when we see the cost of a normal website (not a business one) on a commercial website builder labeled as $12/month, we think, ah, that’s doable for my side hustle.

Well, first of all, that price is when you commit annually.

The price if you just want a monthly commitment (crucial if you’re just starting out) is actually $16. But it still doesn’t break the bank, does it?

Now what about when you want to start adding features beyond what you signed up for? Well, that makes things add up. So let’s say for argument’s sake, on this one website builder, they’ll throw in a lot of things you may not need but not include two things you definitely need that would be free on WordPress: A robust SEO plugin that guides you through optimizing your site for searches (you want to have some control over how you appear in them, right? That’s going to cost you $15/month) and the ability to have comments on your blog ($5/month)

$16 x 12= $192 (just the site itself)

$20 x 12= $240 (two add ons)

Yearly cost: $432.

Not to mention that many site builders increase their prices after your first contract with them – but hey, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and pretend they won’t do that – because we will still prove our point.

If you have this basic site for more than 2 years, you’re already paying more to run it on a website builder than to have it built by a relatively inexpensive small agency. If it’s more than 3 years, some of the bigger ones.

By our own average, of our projects that were rebuilds of website builder sites, those sites had typically been online 3-5 years.

Let’s do the math.

  • 3 years = $1,296
  • 4 years= $1,728
  • 5 years = $2,160.

And most times, it’s not even the site you really want – a common sentiment among those who come to us looking for a rebuild.

But if you want a case study, we’ll give you one without mentioning too many identifying details.

We had a client come to us who was in an industry where aesthetics reigned supreme over everything else, but still needed a site that showcased their brick and mortar business in the best possible light.

The client had previously purchased a website builder from their domain company. The client received one price for the first two years, and then the price increased by 66% for the next two years. Following that, the client was signed on for things they were told they needed to increase their business – premium business options, marketing, SEO, etc. By the final year they were using the website builder, their price had increased 232% for a two-year contract.

The client paid approximately $1400 for a site that was online for 4 years.

A site that the client says, lacked the design and aesthetic needed to be competitive in their industry because:

  1. The client lacked the digital skills needed to create that aesthetic
  2. The design of the site was heavily restricted due to the commercial website builder’s limitations.

The same kind of website the client originally created, in terms of size and design, would have cost $665 with us.

Ultimately, the client chose to expand the functionality of the site, which included choosing a fully customized design and aesthetic. We built the website on WordPress so that the client could log in and make text and image edits as needed, which is crucial for a business where prices can change. And that site, which was exactly what the client wanted, cost $1065.

Still cheaper than a commercial website builder.

Fine, tell me more about WordPress.

Web designers and developers more than any other option, turn to WordPress when building websites. Reason one, it’s the #1 content management system in the world, which means you’d be hard-pressed to find a competent web designer who doesn’t know how to build on it. Reason two, the dashboard interface of WordPress is suitable for a wide range of digital proficiency, which means that after a website is built, the client is able to go in and edit most of their written and image content.

Back when web design was in its infancy, sites were primarily built using HTML, CSS and Javascript. What this meant was that if you had a website built for you or your business this way, you had to pay a web designer or developer every time you needed something changed because it was unlikely you knew the coding languages required to do this yourself.

When WordPress came along, it introduced the world to a friendly-looking backend system where making simple changes was just that… simple.

What web designers do is they use the WordPress interface and create a design theme – a “look and feel”, along with a layout – to create your site. We do this using those same coding languages above, but it’s only for the design of the site – not the actual content. This allows the client to keep their website up to date without any fear of messing up code used to create the site’s design. Can’t beat that, right?

In summary

Ultimately, the decision will always come down to you and the needs of your business. Regardless of whether you choose to go with a commercial website builder or an independent design agency, we hope that we have raised your awareness of the different experiences that you can encounter with both.

Hopefully, you can now see that not all independent web designers and agencies are financially out of your reach. It may take some time to figure out cost comparisons for sites that will be online long-term, but it’s worth sitting down to do some research.

To see examples of our pricing at Star Mountain, Design for Web, check out our services page.

Avoiding Digital Back Alleys

July 15th, 2020

In a world that is increasingly moving online, and exponentially more so with the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to jump by leaps and bounds into the virtual world, creating a lot more uncertainty in the products we buy.

Written by Lauren Sternberg

Avoiding Digital Back Alleys

In a world that is increasingly moving online, and exponentially more so with the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been forced to jump by leaps and bounds into the virtual world, creating a lot more uncertainty in the products we buy.

While many of us have had that experience with Amazon where we buy something that ends up being a lot different than it looked in the photo, we also have the ability to easily make a return, minus the drama.

But what about when the product is a digital service?

About two years ago, a couple of months after I launched Star Mountain, I was chatting with a friend who told me that a great selling point to our business is that you know who and what you’re getting.

I must have seemed puzzled, so he explained further.

Someone he knew had started a web design agency. But this person didn’t know anything about web design. Instead, this person based the company in the UK, had a full front to the business online, but outsourced the work to Southeast Asia, where the labor was cheaper.

Surely this must be the exception, rather than the norm, I told him. It happens, he told me. You’ll see.

A few months later, an acquaintance of mine came to us in the hopes that as an agency now, we could complete a project that had turned into every entrepreneur’s nightmare; the agency that had been building his business’s website had been held up – the project had been in development for several months with no sign of completion. It was nearly impossible to speak to someone working on the project. Various important parts of the site, including its e-commerce, were not working.

We inspected the code on the development site from our end and were met with a hall of horrors. Although the company claimed it created unique themes, this was an off-the-shelf WordPress theme that had been badly hacksawed, for lack of a better expression. We had never seen anything like it in our experience working on the web.

Avoiding Digital Back Alleys

We looked up the agency. It advertised on its website that it was physically in London (as well as New York). But we learned from the client that the operation was completely based in India and simply utilized addresses in major cities for their website, which explained why getting answers about the progress of the site came at non-working hours in the UK – and hence why the agency was reluctant to speak to any of its clients on the phone.

The site could not be salvaged in its current form. There was too much conflicting code, which undoubtedly was a result of a disorganised operation where a lot of people were working remotely on it and not communicating with each other. To clean up that code would have cost the client more hourly than simply rebuilding it in the same style. And we did – we rebuilt the entire site for the client – but not without major challenges along the way trying to get back passwords and vital information.

In the end, he paid for the same project twice.

But again, it had to be a rarity, right?

I still refused to believe there were a lot of agencies out there that were hiding behind a façade.

I wasn’t even fully convinced when a client came to us last year stating that her website was still in the process of being built, a year and a half from its start. It wasn’t a complicated site by any means; basic information, a booking system and a small e-commerce shop. She said the agency building it was a UK-based agency, and when we looked at the agency’s website, we couldn’t immediately see evidence of the contrary. There was a London address in the footer of the site. The prices were very modest – you could easily be tempted in with the promise of lots of bells and whistles at a cost that anyone would find appealing. The catch? You had to pay the cost of the entire site upfront.

However, she said, a lot of things didn’t add up as time went on. The e-mails came at off-hours. The site had nothing done to it for long periods of time with no explanations. When she asked to speak to someone by phone several times, she would be turned down. When she threatened to leave/report them, she would get a call, but she said the accent of the person on the phone never stayed consistent– “John Smith” had a few different accents, though she wasn’t sure where from and said as the conversation progressed, “John Smith” found it harder to stay in one character.

Avoiding Digital Dark Alleys

The agency promised to work on her site and get it done, but then they lapsed again and often were slow to reply to her queries. When the client came back to us, we went to the original company’s website again – and found they had rebranded under a new name and new logo. No hint of the previous company; the only evidence of its past life was that the old domain forwarded to the new one.

Since the company had a chat bot, I decided to do a little digging. I simply inquired about building a website. After some small talk, I asked where the company was based- they now said they were in the United States. I said I like to do everything above-board and since we wouldn’t be able to meet in person, I wanted to know that they were a legitimate business. I was told they were registered in California, but surprise! I found no evidence of this company in the state’s business registration system.

I asked for the company’s exact name/registration number. They refused to give me anything. They said they would send me all of the information I requested, if I provided my exact details and e-mail addresses of everyone involved.

I replied that if they’re legally registered, that would all be public record anyway. And then came a wave of insults and personal attacks, out of nowhere. The written English which had been impeccable, Queen’s English, at the start, became extremely hard to understand. Which said to me that the people who were on the other side of the chat bots, had a script and I posed questions they were unprepared for.

Back here in London, the client told the agency that she intended to take her site to another developer, to which they said if she wanted her site files, it would be a £200 ($252 USD) cancellation charge (interesting to note the currency, as this company was now fronting as an American company).

I asked her about the contract she had with them – surely, as in the case with standard digital development contracts, once the site is paid for, the client owns all of the design and content contained in it. It’s pretty standard. She had paid everything up front, therefore, she was entitled to her files.

She went through her emails and found an estimate. But there was no contract or signed agreement. She had never signed one, and she didn’t know she was supposed to.

We actually found her site files in the directory of the company’s site – along with every other site they were building. No passwords or dirty tricks required – they were all out there for the taking. We could have downloaded her whole site (and anyone else’s) and uploaded it elsewhere. We don’t need to tell you how that could turn out, so you can only imagine how careful they were with passwords and credit card details. We did inspect the code of what was currently in development online. The structure of the site and the hatchet-job taken to the theme (see a pattern here?) could not be fixed cheaply without hours of rebuilding. It was literally cheaper for her to allow us to build her site again with an altered design – and since the other company had not provided her a domain or hosting, there was nothing she needed from them. We advised her to just walk away instead of paying the “cancellation fee.”

In the end… she did just that. She too, paid for the same project twice.

It’s extremely unfortunate that the general public has no real awareness that these scam agencies exist. If these “companies” produced the products requested resulting in happy clients, it would be one thing. But clients often get ripped off and chances are, the agency owner is getting rich while exploiting cheaper labor abroad.

And then, the plot twist. It happened to us. From another angle.

We had decided to check out a popular digital jobs forum several months and register as an agency. We had left it for a while, because business was going well for us. However, COVID-19 was wreaking havoc on businesses and we knew everything could change pretty quickly – we wanted to have backup options if we needed them, so we decided to explore the platform more seriously. One of the quirks of this platform is that you have to take a few ridiculously underpaid jobs to prove yourself, before the well-paid ones come your way.

We took one that seemed a little “off” to begin with – the person who hired us would not say what their connection to the business was, and there were several other things that didn’t add up as we built the site – including being able to tag that the site was built by us. Immediately after the site was built, the person asked us to build another site for an unrelated business for the same, ridiculously cheap price. We produced a counter offer that was inexpensive, but not even remotely close to the bargain that was the previous job. It was denied, naturally. Something seemed off and I needed answers.

I called up the business whose website we built – we had never had any communication with them directly. I asked the owner if they knew who built their website. The owner did not know.

I later learned that the person who had hired us had started a digital agency and did not build websites themselves but advertised it as a service. That agency was not even registered and still isn’t, at the time of the publication of this article. When I questioned if the agency was being fair to the clients by not telling them who was actually creating their digital products, I was met with a “No, but it’s not illegal.”

And that’s the truth, my friends. None of this is illegal. Is it immoral? Yes.*

I put an asterisk there, because there is nothing wrong with having an agency and choosing to outsource additional developers and designers to complement a set staff. Lots of bona fide agencies do it, especially when they cannot manage the volume of work they have during a particular period, but are not in a financial position to take on another hire.

There is something wrong with not being upfront about it to your clients, especially if they think they are getting a product fully produced in the country of the agency. Especially if they expect they’ll be able to call during normal business hours to discuss the development or bits of the project, but are unable to because all of the people working on the project are abroad, and in different time zones.

Now here’s the real point of this post – to tell you how you can avoid it happening to you on a client side and why it’s important.

Why it’s important to research who is building your digital product:

1. As an industry, web design, web development and the rest of the digital design shebang are not industry-regulated. Anyone can call themselves a web or graphic designer as long as they have the right tools. There are no accreditations, organizations or anything else that monitors people who work in this field.

2. If it’s a website, they’re going to know a lot of your passwords if you’re not tech-proficient enough to provide the information they need – for example, the FTP server information, DNS information, etc. They’ll know the password to your domain provider, your hosting provider, and your WordPress (or other content management system) if you want them to be able to monitor your site for updates and crashes, after the site is built. If you have an Instagram feed in your website, they’ll know the password to that too, and it can’t be changed after the build without changing the API key in the site’s dashboard as well – which the average person won’t know how to do.

(I will note here that there are clients who are digitally proficient enough to handle this, but the majority will not be – chances are, if they knew how this stuff worked already, they would have chosen to build their website themselves).

3. A digital company you can have a good rapport with results in a better outcome. We live in a world where (especially in a time of a pandemic) face-to-face interactions are becoming a relic of the past. Find a company who you can at least have Zoom / Skype / Facetime sessions with. Get to know the company you’re working with. Developing a mutual respect means that they will make it a top priority to give you a product that you don’t just like, but you love.

4. You’ll want to make sure the people you hire to build your product are sufficiently trained in their area of expertise. In a time where anyone can build a website on any of the popular commercial website builders – you know which ones they are because they have strong advertising campaigns – it’s important to make sure the people you hire actually know how to code. Why? Because those particular website builders can be limited in the scope of what they can do, and most are “Freemium” – meaning you can have a certain amount of features for free before you start paying monthly for upgrades. In addition, designers who code know how to change certain parts of a website without constantly upping the price on the commercial website builder’s end. If it seems like these people want to charge you a lot for a website – ask where and how it’s getting built – and find out what their experience is. Ask for a cost breakdown. People who are proficient in code know how to produce a great, mobile-responsive, well-built website efficiently without bloated, exorbitant costs to the client.

One thing worth pointing out – if you build your website on WordPress (which is free) the only basic, barebones, monthly fees you would incur would be your hosting provider. This is basically the “rent” you pay for your site to live on the internet. If you’re a small business with a fairly uncomplicated website this is usually under $10/month.

Your domain (ex: www.yoursite.com) would be considered a yearly (or every 2, 5, etc. year) cost.

Any other costs would be associated with plugins your site uses (certain booking system plugins, form plugins, SEO plugins, and so on incur costs, but you can decide for yourself if that’s right for you).

5. This is the most important. People or fronting agencies that know they are doing something wrong will get defensive, make threats and deliver personal attacks. They will stop at nothing to cover their own asses (sorry for the language!) even if it means locking you out of your site, refusing to deliver content that belongs to you (such as logos, graphics, site files) and changing passwords.

Avoiding Digital Back Alleys

So, what can you do?

1. Do your homework. Don’t go with the first agency that pops up on your Google search and assume because they’re in a high spot, that they’re the best for the job. There are many dirty SEO (search engine optimization) tricks, better known as Black Hat SEO, known in the web development world that are employed by businesses to make them show up higher in searches. Google has tried to crack down on these practices in recent years, but they still exist and new tricks can be found.

2. If you know someone who has used an agency/sole proprietor for graphic design, advertising or web design and YOU like the work you’ve seen, ask who they are and how the experience was. Look up their website/portfolio and make sure they will fit your needs and vision. Then, reach out. In a day and age where we live and breathe digital information, oftentimes the best (and most trustworthy!) recommendations are from the good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

3. If you don’t have that option, look at a suggested agency/sole proprietor’s website. See if they tell you who works for them. If everyone’s photo looks like stock photos and all the names are very generic, they might not be the people creating your project. You will want to know who is building your site or designing your brand. You will want to know who you are going to be talking to and who is going to be creating something that will be your business’s online, social media and in some cases, graphic presence.

4. Remember that testimonials on an agency’s (or any business’s) front page reflect their best reviews. Look at reviews on Google, Trustpilot, and so on – just remember that sometimes it goes the other way too, and it’s impossible to make some customers happy.

5. Look for a company registration. This is not a make-or-break as some don’t list them on their websites, but if other things don’t add up, look to take this step by searching public records. In the US, business registrations are usually available on an individual state’s Department of State (or the equivalent’s) website. In the UK, businesses are registered on Companies House. Other countries will have similar business registration systems and usually a simple web search will point you in the right direction.

The reason I say that locating the company registration is not a make-or-break requirement is that some companies are registered under a different name to the one their website and merchandise displays. For example, a restaurant called “Burrito Bonanza” might be registered under “So-and-So Foods.” Usually an agency website will tell you they’re registered, at the very least, in their footer. Even if they don’t, you have every right to ask – and should!

6. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT. I cannot stress this enough and I am putting it last because if nothing else, walk away with this. Contracts are legally binding and can save you a whole lot of heartache. Even if your friend Bob tells you he can do a quick website for a hundred bucks, put everything in writing. It saves aggravation and friendships. Remember that legitimate agencies/businesses will want to protect themselves (especially if the client is only paying a deposit upfront) and will want you to feel protected too. Read all the fine print. Look for a section that clearly states that the rights, particularly the copyright, in the website and all of its content are assigned to you. Make sure that the contract states that when you’ve paid the final payment in full, you will receive access to all of your site files, content, and graphics zipped into a file sent by the agency at no extra cost and that you are its rightful owner. Register the domain you’re using yourself to ensure it is in your name only. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT settle for client/agency relationship that does not involve a contract. You can thank me later.

And that is really about it when it comes to shopping around for a digital agency. While we would love for you to check us out at Star Mountain, my real reason for writing this article is to save businesses and other unsuspecting clients from getting caught up in one of these scenarios – as well as shout out the other great digital agencies out there that do their work efficiently, honestly and with pride!

If you have any questions, always feel free to e-mail me at lauren@starmountain.co.uk.

10 Key Steps to Building a Great Small Business Website

August 27th, 2019

We would tell you this anyway – but still worth reading if you’re thinking about a website for your small business!

13 Key Steps to Website Management

September 21st, 2018

We often get asked asked by clients what they need to do to keep their website running after the build is done. There is that fear of – what if the website goes down and we don’t realize right away? What if it crashes? While oftentimes we will get asked to add a maintenance plan to a contract, sometimes the client prefers to manage the aftercare of the site themselves.

This article lists some important steps to making that happen:

 

Smashing UX on a Small Budget

August 15th, 2018

A conversation that often comes up for small businesses is how they can make their site super user-friendly but still appealing and purposeful. There is no magic formula for getting UX (user experience) right, but knowing your customers will be a benefit. Here’s a few things both small businesses and designers can do, together, to find the system that works best for them.

 

 

Happy GDPR Day!

May 25th, 2018

Ah, but it’s not really the happiest of days, is it?  Regardless of whether you live in the EU or outside of it, chances are you’ve received dozens of e-mails from companies whose e-mail lists you subscribe to informing you that changes are taking place with how your data is used and how your privacy is protected.

But what happens when small businesses find themselves ill-equipped and ill-informed on the changes happening?  Here’s a look at some businesses in Wales (UK) and what the changes in data regulations means to them.

If you are a small business struggling to implement a GDPR privacy policy on your site, please drop us a note and we’ll send you some resources to help.

 

Read the story here

 

What Brexit Means For Your EU Domain

April 1st, 2018

Even if Brexit won’t have a direct impact on your business or startup once the United Kingdom leaves the European Union in 2019, it is worth noting that if you are a UK registrant with an .eu domain, your domain could be cancelled once the change happens.

Read the story

Thinking About UX in the Business World

March 27th, 2018

Came across this article on twitter which illustrates quite well why there’s such a need for businesses to put an emphasis on user experience when designing not only their business website, but their business systems as well. Have a read.