Keep IT Local

Making the decision to choose a web designer is an especially important one. It should take careful thought into who you want to choose because they are holding a piece of your business into their hands. You want to work with someone that can help you with your vision for your website and take you into the future of the Internet – and your business. When making your checklist to find a design firm, ensuring they are local should be on it. There are advantages that are more apparent than it would appear.

Choosing a local company is preferable and can net you several benefits now and in the future.

  • Being local, your web designer knows your area. A web design firm in southern California is not going to know the nuances of your city like someone who lives in or near your community. It’s a cultural difference, and understanding what makes your city unique goes a long way in designing a website that fits your local niche. That understanding will help your website come to fruition much faster and with better results.
  • Meeting becomes much easier and less of a hassle. Meeting to go over details of your website is far easier going this route than with someone out of state where there are often tie ups with phone calls and other logistical issues. As with any business, effective and timely communication helps move projects forward.
  • You support your local community and the benefits are great. Supporting locally-owned businesses mean you are putting money back into the local economy and by extension, the state. Supporting such a greater cause improves your local communities and it puts your name out there in the realm of your community.
  • When potential customers see you have partnered with a local business, you have a greater chance to earn their business. Drawing traffic to your website is important, but when your website is done locally, your clientele base drastically improves. It goes off the idea that when you support local businesses, you are supporting your state and have your best interests in mind.

Certainly a good local web designer has your best interests in mind. The benefits are more far reaching than one would think because ultimately no one knows more about your community than someone who lives in it. When looking for a web designer, consider a local designer and reap the benefits.

Why I Won’t Recommend SquareSpace

While there are a handful of reasons why I don’t generally think that Squarespace is the best option as website/blogging platform, the main issue I have with Squarespace is the same as I have with sites like Blogger, and far outweighs things like not having full control over your design. (Although, I think that’s a pretty big issue too, let’s be real.)

The simple fact of the matter is, with sites like Squarespace and Blogger, you don’t own your content. Which is why it blows my MIND to see so many businesses on Squarespace.

Now to be clear, if you’re a new blogger and you’re just getting your feet wet, great! Explore every possibility there is, make sure you find what’s right for you, and that blogging is something you’re going to stick with before you invest a ton of money into something. We all started out somewhere and there’s always possibility and room for growth to a self-hosted solution in the future.

For a business though? Come on, now.

The Difference Between Squarespace & A Traditional Host

Yes, you pay for Squarespace, just like you would pay for a host, but you’re paying for an easy ‘do-it-yourself’ all-in-one solution, rather than a company that specializes in specific areas of technology meant to keep your site afloat.

Squarespace is not a hosting company and what they specialize in is not the same as what a host would specialize in. They have their feet dipped into all areas of the pool, rather than just focusing on one specific thing.


So, let’s take a look at some of Squarespace’s Terms of Service, compared to a traditional host’s Terms of Service. The following excerpts were taken from Squarespace’s Terms of service, and each section is noted at the bottom of each term.

  • Services may be terminated by us, without cause, at any time.
    Notice of termination of Services by Squarespace may be sent to the contact e-mail associated with your account. Upon termination, Squarespace has the right to delete all data, files, or other information that is stored in your account.Section 12. Termination
  • We may modify, replace, refuse access to, suspend or discontinue the Services, partially or entirely, or add, change and modify prices for all or part of the Services for you or for all our users at any time and in our sole discretion. All of these changes shall be effective upon their posting on the Site or by direct communication to you unless otherwise noted. We further reserve the right to withhold, remove and or discard any content available as part of your account, with or without notice if deemed by us to be contrary to this Agreement. For avoidance of doubt, Squarespace has no obligation to store, maintain or provide you a copy of any content that you or other users provide when using the Services.
    Section 18. Termination/Exclusion

So based on the above excerpts from Squarespace’s Terms of Service there is a myriad of things that Squarespace can do to your site, which as a business owner who doesn’t use them, still makes me sick to my stomach to think about.

termination of your site

They can terminate your service with no warning and upon doing so, delete all of your files – they MAY email you, but they don’t guarantee or promise that they will or that they’ll make any sort of extensive measures to contact you about deleting YOUR ENTIRE WEBSITE.

Furthermore, they can suspend or discontinue their services at any time and the only way you’ll know is because they’ll post it on their website (or email you, but that’s not required.) If your site does go down, or servers crash or any cataclysmic things of that nature and you lose your information, they have no obligation to store, maintain or provide you with any of the content you had on their servers. Despite the fact that there is probably a 99.99% chance that they do daily and nightly backups.

bug fixes + uptime

If there is a error for some reason, they make no promises to fix it, or that if they do fix it, that said fix will be adequate or acceptable.

They don’t guarantee any sort of uptime, or any sort of compensation for their services being down, or causing you any sort of loss of profit. If their service goes down and you’re unable to access/use your site, your only option is to… stop using the site.

emails / contact forms sent through squarespace

If that isn’t enough, they also don’t guarantee that any emails sent through their service will make it to you. Wait, what? YUP. If you’re running a business on Squarespace, and you have a form where your clients can get ahold of you, book a project, request a meeting, etc – Squarespace makes NO guarantees that you will get those emails. And since you don’t have actual access to your “hosting” you can’t even check your /maildir to see if there are any sitting in there that got lost in process.

Other Hosting Prodivers

Since it’s what I’m familiar with I will be using InMotion Terms of Service as a reference point, but I can’t guarantee that any other hosts will have the same or similar points in their Terms of Service. Your best case is to just… read the Terms of Service for your host.

Now, to be fair, my host does have some similar items in their Terms of Service, but not quite so severe. The two biggest differences is that Inmotion’s TOS not only protects them, but it protects me as well. Also, it’s pretty damn simple to read, unlike Squarespace’s which looks more like a legal document rather than something it’s users need to be able to read and navigate.

  • This contract may be terminated by either party, without cause, by giving the other party 14 days written notice.
  • Inmotion guarantees 99.9% uptime. A failure to provide 99.9% uptime will result in customer compensation pursuant to guidelines established herein.
  • Customer is entitled to compensation if Customer’s web site, databases, email, FTP, SSH or webmail become unusable as a result of failure(s) in InMotion systems for reasons other than previously announced scheduled maintenance, coding or configuration errors on the part of the Customer.
  • Customer will receive InMotion credit equal to the Customer’s current hosting cost for 1 (one) day of service for each 1 (one) hour (or fraction thereof) of service interruption, up to a maximum of 10% of customer’s next pre-paid hosting renewal fee.
  • InMotion’s assessment of downtime begins when Customer opens a support ticket to report the problem.

InMotion does also have a termination clause, but unless you’re doing something illegal or haven’t paid them, they give you 14 days before you have to GTFO. And if you forget to pay them, or just can’t right now, you have something like 60 days (two billing cycles) to catch up on your bill before they’ll actually shut your site down. (That last bit is from personal experience, not in their TOS.)

bug fixes + uptime

And while InMotion does say that they make no ultimate guarantees of service (which is understandable since they are a company and need to protect themselves and their employees), they do promise uptime, and compensation if for some reason not only my website isn’t accessible, but my email, FTP, databases, etc. So the problem doesn’t have to be my website as a whole, but any integral part of my hosting service in order to qualify for compensation – which is usually a discount on my bill.

Now, according to the last clause that I mentioned above, you are only compensated if you report downtime. If you don’t make a report of it then, to them, you didn’t experience it. However, there is only one time I can remember the servers being down for any period of time that I noticed and InMotion emailed me and offered me a discount on my bill for that downtime, even though I never contacted them.

email + contact forms

This isn’t in their TOS, but it’s a personal experience that I’ve had with InMotion wherein I was having issues with my email, and contacted InMotion hosting to see if they could help. Little did I know at the time it wasn’t a InMotion issue at all, but they still went through the trouble of helping me solve it.

But Self-Hosting Costs More!

Month-to-month, Squarespace costs $12 – I pay $13 at InMotion. If you pay yearly, Squarespace costs $96, InMotion costs $156, and they include a free domain with every new plan.

That’s at the lowest plan available for Squarespace, whereas that’s you can go as low as $5.99 a month at InMotion. With InMotion you can have multiple domains, subdomains, a shop, you can sell as many items as you’d like with full access to your FTP/files/backend, ability to hook up Google Apps, without paying more.


And yes, if you have to run maintenance and stuff then your site on a self-hosted platform (WordPress or otherwise) it will take more time. But if you’re a business, and you operate through your website – either as a shop or onboarding clients then the value of your website is technically… all of the bills it pays. I’m guessing the 2-3 hours a month you’d have to spend to maintain your self-hosted site or the $300-400/yr you’d pay someone to maintain it for you pales in comparison to what your site makes you.

But I Don’t Know How / Don’t Want To Have To Deal With Updates

Well sometimes, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. No one said owning a business was going to be easy and I’m sure there are other things you have to deal with that you don’t particularly want to. But you do, don’t cha? Because you have to. Accounting, anybody?

I view online businesses like I do any other business (ie, offline, brick and mortar, etc)

If you want to open a bar, you need to learn about health regulations, licenses, trademarks, distances from other properties, and hours of operations and a whole other slew of things, and maybe you don’t know how to do any of this at first, but if it’s always been a dream of yours, you figure it out or hire someone to figure it out for you.

Every business has things that are required of it that you might not like doing, but if it’s a part of how your business functions then I think you need to be aware of how it works, how to handle it, and to properly control it. If you don’t then you can’t really complain when something happens to it.

I think if you own a business that pays your bills, and puts a roof over your head, and having a site is an imperative part of that, then you shouldn’t be opting for the ‘easy’ way out just because you don’t want to have to deal with something. Businesses are an investment, of time and money, and I think it’s incredibly sad that we live in a world that facilitates taking the ‘easy way out’ for things that feed our families, and keep our bills paid, especially when realistically it’s not the best option.

In Conclusion

You don’t have to listen to ANYTHING I’ve said in this post, you don’t have to take into account what could happen with your site on Squarespace, or the insane Terms of Service they provide – I mean because the likelihood of them dying and never coming back is low, right?

Most of the second half of this post is an opinion, and just reasons myself that I don’t think that Squarespace should be a viable option for businesses. Because if something does happen and you’re left with no website and all of that hard work you put into your site is gone… it’s really not going to matter what you’re paying, that they handle maintenance, how clean the designs are, or how easy it is, is it?

44 Questions You Should Ask Your Potential Web Developer

1. What services do you offer?

In addition to all facets of website design, many web design companies offer web development, hosting, copywriting, e-commerce solutions, and digital marketing services such as social media, SEO, or PPC management. While it’s very common to assume all of these services are related, they are, in fact, very different services requiring very different skill sets.

Do not assume that a company is good at one thing just because they offer another. Almost every web design company on Earth now offers digital marketing services as well; it doesn’t mean they really know their stuff so don’t make that assumption. It’s great to have one company handle most or all of your digital work, but it’s more important to get a solid result.

For example, our expertise is heavily weighted toward digital marketing. While we offer web design services, we strictly limit what we’ll work on. We won’t build e-commerce or social media sites and we don’t build custom web apps anymore. We are, however, quite good at building lead generation sites for B2C and B2B service businesses. We’re a small company; if we tried to tackle everything we wouldn’t be really good at any of it.

2. Do you custom design websites or use pre-made templates?

Often times, web design companies offer both options to meet the needs of their clients. Some businesses want to establish a strong brand, so they want the unique look and functionality a website designed from scratch provides. Other businesses are not that reliant on an online presence and opt to save money with a template that can be customized. Discuss your website needs and ask for a price comparison of the two before making your decision.

3. Can you provide examples of websites that your company designed?

Looking at the design style of these sites will help you evaluate the design diversity of the firm. Also note the performance of the sites, whether the navigation is easy to use, if the websites are well-crafted, if the designs are current and modern, and how well the design matches the business style. Ask questions. Find out why things were done the way they were. You may think an example site looks too simple only to find out that was exactly what the client needed.

4. Do you have case studies that show the results your web designs provided for businesses?

A website is not just about having an online presence with a site that looks good. It’s about getting a return on investment and having that website deliver business results. Ask for case studies. These case studies should provide specific results, such as increased online sales by a certain percentage, increased leads by a certain amount, or boosted the conversion rate by a certain percentage in a specific time period.

5. What strategies will you use to generate revenue for my site?

The company you select to design your website should be just as concerned about generating revenue for your website as you are. As such, they should be able to list proven strategies that they typically incorporate into a site design. These results-oriented strategies should be in line with your goals, such as prominent placement of your business phone number, an appealing slideshow on the home page that reinforces your business, featured products or sales prominently appearing on every page of the site, and calls to action that are prominently positioned to grab the visitors’ attention.

6. Will you review my current website and analyze its performance before making your design decisions?

If you have an existing website, not all pages may need a redesign, especially if they are hitting high performance marks. Find out if the web design firm plans to analyze your current site’s metrics to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses before implemented any design changes.

7. What is your policy regarding building websites for my competitors?

This can be a good or bad thing. For example, if a company has designed websites in the past similar to yours, they may have a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. That said, you don’t want a clear conflict of interest. This is a good question to ask and to use in your evaluation process, but I wouldn’t rule someone out entirely if they built a website last year in the same industry but don’t have an ongoing relationship with that client.

8. How will my project be managed?

Typically, a website design process includes four stages: strategy/research, design, site development, and launch and evaluate. When learning about the project management process of a web design firm, ask whether there will be a specific manager or contact person for your project, a timeline for the different stages, the manner in which you will receive progress reports and whether a project management system is used to manage tasks.

9. How much time is devoted to analyzing my business, market and competitors?

Planning out your website is key to ensuring its success. This requires researching your industry and performing a basic market analysis before planning the website’s overall functionality, content structure, elements, delivery and other components.

10. Who will be working on my website?

Some web design companies may devote one person or a team of individuals to your project, depending on the scope of the work you want performed. For example, you could have a graphic designer, programmer and copywriter working on your website. Knowing who will be working on which components of your project is important for understanding how your project will be managed.

11. What are the qualifications of those working on my project?

It’s important to know the scope of experience of the person or team working on your project. Feel free to ask for samples of other websites they have done, discuss the expertise they have in web design and development tools, and request client references. The portfolio and references should be updated with the most current work.

12. How long will it take to complete my website?

Typically, the turnaround time for a website design is based on the scope of the work required and how quickly you provide them with needed information, such as text. But you should ask how much time the firm will be devoting to your project and its average turnaround time if they have all the content. It’s also worth discussing what happens if they don’t meet their target date.

13. How many pages will my website be?

This is something that you will work out with the site design firm once content has been agreed upon. Search engines like websites with several pages of quality text and typically websites have standard pages, such as About Us, FAQs, Contact Us, and Privacy and Terms of Conditions. Together, you and the firm you select will determine other pages based on your business, such as Products or Services, Resource Center, a Blog, Case Studies or Testimonials, Photo Gallery, etc.

14. How much input will I have with my website design?

During your initial consultation, a web design firm should ask you questions to get a feel for your business, the tone and style you want to portray, and the types of web design styles you like. This will give the designer an idea of the type of aesthetics you’re looking for in terms of site components and provide strategic information as to the purpose of your new site, your target audience and the content it should contain. Most firms work hand-in-hand with its clients to be certain they are providing them with the type of website they desire.

15. What happens if I don’t like the initial design?

Generally, initial project agreements call for either unlimited changes or a certain number of revisions. Others have multiple sign-offs on proposed colors, design layout, images and type fonts so you have an idea what the end design will look like. It’s important to review the process and the policy for changes with the design firm.

16. What do you need from me to get started?

Typically, you need to provide any images, text, or other content you want on your site. If you choose to have the text done by the firm’s copywriters, you’ll need to provide basic information. If you provide your own copy, it may need a few tweaks for better search engine optimization or design presentation. Whatever the case may be, you should be notified in advance of any revisions needed to your copy and why they are needed.

17. Will my website be built to expand as my business grows?

It’s critical that your website is built with room to grow, especially if your company may add new products or services in the future. Inquire about the scalability of the design and whether new navigation buttons can be added without having to pay for an entire site redesign.

18. Can you create a logo for my site?

Most website designers can create a logo for your business as part of your initial project quote or for an additional fee. Ask about experience in this area and look at other logos the firm has created, paying particular attention to graphic appeal, how well the style matches the focus of the business and how well the logo establishes brand identity.

19. Can you help me get images for my website?

Having actual photos pertaining to your business is always best for that unique factor, but oftentimes stock images are necessary. So there are no concerns over copyright infringement, ask designers whether they have access to a large selection of public domain images, or if you need to pay royalty fees based on usage.

20. I already have an established brand, will my website provide a consistent look?

For companies with an established brand, you want to be certain the website development firm creating your new website has experience in maintaining brand consistency. Ask how they approach such projects and what steps they will take to ensure the web design is in line with your current marketing strategies.

21. Will you be outsourcing any of the work?

Some design companies use independent contractors for certain components of a project. This allows them to offer a wider range of services in a cost-effective manner. If outsourcing is done, ask for the credentials of all independent contractors who will be working on your website and how project coordination is handled in-house.

22. How do you price your services?

The pricing structure of web design varies among companies, so ask whether a flat project price or hourly rate is used. Keep in mind that price is based on experience, expertise and the scope of the project. The pricing should be in line with the quality of the firm’s work, which will reflect in how they value your brand and the importance of its online presence.

23. What is included in the price?

It’s important to know exactly what you’re paying for when given a project quote. Ask for an itemized list of deliverables that are included in the price and ask what isn’t included. For example, some firms offer hosting or maintenance that is not included in the initial project’s price.

24. What is the billing procedure for work outside the project’s initial quote or agreed upon deliverables?

As your project progresses, you might want additional services outside the original scope of the project. Find out how billing works if you decide to add other features or elements after work on your website has begun.

25. Will my website be compatible with smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices?

Mobile websites are a must for businesses with an online presence. Find out how the web design firm approaches the mobile component of web design. For instance, a responsive design may be used to accommodate all visitors, whether accessing it from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Or, a separate mobile site may be included as part of the initial website design. The important factor to determine is the breadth of experience the web design company has in developing mobile applications and the reasoning behind the approach it takes.

26. Do you build search engine optimization into websites?

Nowadays, almost all websites should be coded with SEO in mind. There are all kinds of technical issues that a new website can introduce. If you’re having a new site designed, it’s a good idea to have a third party SEO firm conduct an SEO audit prior to launch to make sure there aren’t any major issues.

27. How do you determine keywords for my site?

Having the right keywords on each page of your site is an essential SEO marketing component. That said, a full keyword study is completely outside the scope of most website designs. It’s important to consider how keywords will be used. If you are relying on organic search traffic to meet your goals it would be a good idea to have a third-party SEO company not only conduct a site audit, but also a keyword study.

28. Do you perform other SEO services?

If so, ask about the experience of those who will be providing these SEO and SEM services and the strategies used. Request examples of past projects that show results of their efforts. Also determine whether these services can be included in the scope of your project or if they must be billed separately.

29. Do you do A/B testing?

Conversion and usability testing will allow you to see whether your Web pages are optimized to give the best results. A/B or multivariate testing involves creating two different Web pages and testing their performance against each other to determine which is garnering the most conversion rates. Ask if the website design company offers split A/B testing as a follow-up service and what the cost will be.

30. What type of content management system do you use?

The content management system allows you to manage your website’s content without the need for coding. The most advantageous content management system offers the option of updating your website yourself or having the website firm integrate the content and do the updates for you. Ask whether the type of system used is a third-party system or a custom built one of their own. You also want to find out if it’s a web-based interface, if it supports WordPress and e-commerce platforms, whether it works in all types of browsers, including new and previous versions, if it looks professional and unique, and whether you have access to all its functionalities. If you’re not familiar with using a live content management system, ask if training is offered.

31. Do you offer e-commerce services?

In addition to web design and development, a comprehensive website design company offers e-commerce services for businesses conducting online sales. Ask for specifics when inquiring about e-commerce solutions because they vary among web design firms. Some commonly offered e-commerce services are shopping carts; the ability to add discounts; support for multi-currencies; a customer database that interacts with your online store; cross and up sell features; inventory control; customization; reporting; and SEO integration.

32. What web standards and practices do you follow?

A web design and development company should be current on all design trends and follow current web development standards so your website works on all operating platforms and in all browsers. Inquire as to whether the web design firm is current on CSS and HTML standards established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Be sure to ask if its conduct code validation to ensure site coding complies with W3C standards.

33. What type of IP address will my website have?

If the web design company is handling this for you, ask if you will receive a unique IP address rather than a static IP address. A unique IP address ranks higher on search engines and is not considered spam by most e-mail providers.

34. Do you offer domain name registration?

Before a website can go live, it needs a name. Most full-service web design firms will handle domain name registration. Ask the firm if it will check whether the name you want for your site is available, if they will register it for you, how many years the domain name registration is for and the cost for performing this service.

35. Will I be able to see the website as you’re creating it?

Reputable web design firms will make your in-progress website available for viewing during each phase so you can make suggestions, changes, or content edits. Inquire about the review and input process that you can expect.

36. Will the functionality of my website be tested before it goes live?

Web design companies typically test new web design functionality prior to launching it live. As part of this testing phase, you should determine if it includes testing for syntax errors, cross-browser compatibility, correctly uploaded files, and functionality of forms, links, scripts and other elements on the website.

37. Will my current site experience downtime as you update it?

Once the redesigned site is ready to go live, it’s important to know how it may impact your current website. Ask what will be involved in the transfer process, if there are any risks and how any downtime can be minimized.

38. Will I own my website once it’s completed?

It’s important to find out whether you will own the domain name (registered in your name, not the web design company’s), website design and hosting account (registered in your name, not the design firm’s), or if the website design company requires your site to be hosted on their servers. Also find out if you will receive all source files for your site and access to your hosting account, backend administration platform and server. Also be sure to ask if you will be required to lock into an ongoing contract to keep your site live and functioning, or if the completed site will be delivered to you upon completion. You also need to know the name of the company where your website’s domain name is registered, all user names and passwords and the name of the hosting company.

39. Who owns the site’s artwork?

Some designers may copyright their original artwork. You need to know the firm’s policy and negotiate terms in advance so you own all original artwork and content on your site. Also ask whether you will be given the original graphic files.

40. Do you offer web hosting services?

As part of their website services, web design companies offer web hosting. This means your website will reside on its hosting server. Even if you already have a web hosting provider, it’s a good idea to ask what the web design firm offers in terms of hosting plans, whether the fee includes a unique IP address, how much bandwidth, processing power and disk space are included, its guaranteed uptime and speed of access, the type of control panel or user interface, methods of access to tech support, and if there are fees for sponsored links, pay-per-click, search engine submission or optimization, or any other additional fees. You might find a better deal than your current one.

41. Will you integrate social media into my web design?

Linking social networking sites to your website is now part of the norm in website design. Find out if the web designer will do this and at what cost. Some web design companies go a step further and offer social media integration services to help you generate more leads and turn them into sales. Ask about social media marketing plans, like setup and management, blogger outreach, and monitoring and measuring.

42. Do you offer on-going maintenance after my site goes live?

As technology and trends change, you may want to have additional web design and development work done on your website. This could include updating content or updating compatibility with browser changes. Ask the web design firm if they offer maintenance services and if they are provided on an as-needed, on-going, or retainer arrangement. Find out what the prices are to update content, and make minor and major edits.

43. How do you measure results after the site goes live?

Your relationship with the web design company should not end once your site goes live. The firm should measure the results of its web design. You might hear terms like page views, unique visits, time on site, bounce rate, conversion rate, inbound links, search engine ranking, etc. Ask how this is done in terms of analytic tools and what numbers or benchmarks you should expect your website to produce. Find out how often you are provided with these statistics and the procedure for improving any that don’t meet performance marks.

44. Will I be able to access my website statistics without contacting you?

Web design businesses use various analytics to monitor the performance of websites. They should be willing to provide you with access to this interface. Ask about obtaining a password so you can view your website statistics online at any time.

Your new website design should be a reflection of your strategic business goals. It’s important that the web design and development company you select is on board to help you achieve them. Taking the time to ask far-reaching questions before hiring a web design firm will ensure you retain a results-oriented partner that will help you achieve tangible results that translate into a measurable return on your website investment.