A professionally built website is the cornerstone of your digital marketing plan, every link, every post, every advertisement should lead to your website. That’s why having a properly built website deserves your attention. Unfortunately there are many people out there claiming to be digital marketing experts, website developers, business coaches or marketing coaches that shouldn’t be giving advice and definitely not charging for it. If you are a business owner, but not an expert restaurant website designer or marketing expert, how do you know how to interview a website designer? It’s tricky if you are not a professional, especially with so many people “padding” their resume with buzzwords trying to trick you with a fake till I make an attitude of confidence.
Here is a quick process you can use as a non-expert business owner to interview somebody you are considering hiring for website development work. You can also apply these tests to your own website you currently have in order to see if you should be investing in getting a new one. Remember, results on the internet are a competition, so do not share this information 🙂
Step 1: Ask for at least 3 websites of live websites
You are not a guinea pig, at the very least they should have 3 active websites that are in use to showcase their work. Remember, even if they are offering to do your website for free…a bad website not helping you gain revenue can be making you lose more money than the upfront amount you save with a free website. Do the math of the real cost of a free and bad website over 3 months.
Step 2: Review their websites for baseline website building techniques
You can have a nice looking website..but that is only half of what you need to review: you need a website that google “likes” so you can be more readily found. Every page result higher and for the right search terms leads to more revenue. Here are some baseline tools a non-expert can use:
Check the Website Speed
When I first check a website, I start here. This gives the fastest generalized background information on the website build, you are looking for B+ to A result. If I want to dig deeper, I then use the Google’s online page speed testing tool. However if the site is getting B or lower…move on. There is no need to continue the interview
Check the Structured Data
Schema data or structured data is helpful for the Google search crawlers to understand and categorize a website. Having more complete information for Google improves the odds of your search results. It’s an art form that requires its own level of expertise, and if the person showing you examples of their work has 0 schema data or a very small amount of schema other than a title and description, that’s another redflag. This is another baseline scenario that indicates…run. Do not educate them, do not get into arguments and allow them to “explain themselves” …there is no point. You are not hiring a person to learn on the job with your business. It will make you lose money.
Keep in mind that what I am explaining is BASELINE..all of these things I cover require skill and talent in addition to actually doing them, simply doing them is a baseline…but not enough. The things I am showing you are non-starter type things to help you weed through the fakers that have no problems swindling you out of money and hurting your business.
Check the Website Builder
Back in the “olden” days, websites were hand coded. They were all very customized, but updating them took expertise and a lot more time to manage. In modern times, websites have evolved to having a “database” to hold the content, a computer that processes how that data is going to look with the content and then displays it to the customer. As things evolved further, there became services that do these things for lots of websites for a subscription fee. Why am I giving you this very high level history lesson? I want to demystify what the main website builders do and help you understand what makes them better or worse. The StoreGear Website Builder, square websites, weebly, wix and shopify are all examples of these services. But not all are built the same. When a website designer uses one of these services, they are not the website developer…they are the website user and they only have the control of the content. They do not have full control of the processing of the structure of content to the final output. They can only control what the builder allows them to control. The builder’s processing of the final output determines how fast it loads, how it looks, and technical structure behind the scenes. A website designer can only control that as much as the builder allows them to.
So if a user is using square space, they can only build it to load as fast as square space will allow the process to load.
While you can get acceptable results with these builders, the StoreGear website builder can require a little more expertise…but can be tweaked to load faster and output better schema data..which gives better results in Google when people are searching for both your name and things related to your business.
Check for https in the domain name
This is non-negotiable. If they are showing you a site that has http, it should automatically redirect to https. Not having https can create a negative response by the viewer and make people not visit your website. If a person showcases a non-http website…move on.
Check the functionality of the aesthetics
A website might look pretty, but pretty doesn’t mean profits. When I am reviewing a website I have a large list of items, but one of the most important things are: is there a clear thing you want the customer to do when they first land on the website on both mobile and desktop. That means no scrolling, no waiting, no interference to get them to start a series of actions to a goal. Ie on a restaurant website, I want that user to see a menu or order button without scrolling. Depending on the goals of the website it could be anything, but there has to be a primary goal.
Properly naming images and setting alt data
This is helpful for search and screen readers (ADA compliance). Inspect the images and look in the code for alt description and the file name. Is it human readable? If its nothing then…again this person is not an expert. This is baseline stuff, not even expert stuff. Here’s how to inspect the source of a webpage and view the code for alt text and image file names:
Step 1: Inspect the image by right clicking an image (on a mac hold down the option button on the keyboard and click and image) and then select “inspect”
Step2: Look for the file name of the image (the image will end with jpg or png or webp, and also look for the alt=”something something” where something describes the image.
Content Writing, Call to Action, Ascetics, Keyword research, ADA compliance
There are many other factors to distinguish if somebody knows what they are doing….but if the person doesn’t even have the baseline stuff mentioned above…move along. The stuff above takes work, and there will surely be websites built by talented people that don’t include the above items, but there can be factors that cause that: difficult client, budget, speed to launch etc.
So that’s why it’s important to ask the person you might hire for proper examples of their work, stuff that they want judged. If the stuff they want you to judge can’t even pass these very baseline tests…move on to the next candidate.