Over the past week, we’ve discussed how funeral home websites are priced and what goes on behind the scenes in the development process to take your vision from idea to reality. Hopefully, you’ve found this information educational, whether you’re in the market for a new site right now or you’re simply thinking ahead to a future redesign.
But as you evaluate all your different options, it’s important to remember that not all website providers are created equal. To be sure you wind up working with the team that’s right for you, interview several different possibilities and sees if they answer all of the following questions to your satisfaction:
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1. What’s included in my setup fee?
Different website developers price their packages and services in different ways. Some designers, for example, choose to create custom quotes for individual clients, based on the exact features they need. Others offer a series of packages that provide set groups of features at different pricing tiers.
No matter which provider you ultimately choose to work with or what type of pricing structure they offer, be certain that any “must have” features you want on your site are included in the setup fee quoted to you. If, for example, you definitely want rotating banners on your homepage, make sure the quote or package you’re looking at includes them. Don’t make assumptions — there’s nothing worse than having to pay more than expected for features you thought were included.
2. What kind of ongoing expenses can I expect?
In addition to your initial setup fee, you can also expect to pay a monthly fee to keep your site active. In all cases, your monthly fees will include your “hosting” (basically, the server space on which your site resides). But in some situations, funeral home website providers will offer other features as part of these fees, including tech support, future tech upgrades and more.
3. Have you worked in the funeral profession before?
When searching for a funeral home website provider, you’ll encounter two different groups — companies that serve the funeral profession exclusively and agencies (or individual designers) that do not specialize in any particular field. Either option has the potential to give you a great website, but it’s important to be aware that working with funeral specific providers can potentially save you time and money since they won’t need to “reinvent the wheel” for your site.
For example, may funeral profession providers will include pre-built forms — like a pre-arrangement or pre-planning form — in their initial setup fees. If you’re working with a designer or agency that has not worked in the profession before, you’ll likely be charged more to pay for a developer’s time spent coding the forms from scratch.
4. Will you help me move my obituaries and online condolences?
This is a big one. Your existing website likely has a number of obituaries and online condolences stored on it, depending on the number of calls you handle. There are two things you want to avoid when moving to a new website: losing this data or having to manually move it to your new site yourself!
The only way to avoid problems is to ask each funeral home website provider you’re thinking of working with whether they’ll handle this transition for you (and if the migration is included in your setup fees). If they aren’t confident that they can handle this task correctly, look elsewhere for website design services!
5. Do you work with my funeral home management software?
While it’s by no means a requirement, having your funeral home website connect with the management software your business is using can save you a ton of time and energy. As an example, when these types of connections exist, you may be able to enter your obituary data once and have it auto-populate to the website. Not all website designers or providers support this functionality, so be sure to ask before signing on the dotted line.
6. Do you work off of base layouts or are your sites fully custom?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. A fully custom website can be crafted to suit your needs from the ground up, but you’ll pay for the privilege. At the same time, a site that’s based on a standard layout can turn out to be visually stunning — if you’re able to make all of the modifications you need.
Not all funeral home website providers that work off of layouts allow you to customize the design of your new site, while others will update everything from the color scheme to the background image and more (depending on the package you purchase). Given how important it is to have an attractive, branded presence online these days, it’s important to be sure your provider will help you to make the changes you need.
7. Will I need to provide you with all the text for my site?
Some website developers will have you submit all new text for every page you want to have on your new site, while others will provide you with template content that can be used as a base. Again, there’s no right or wrong option here. If you want to have a hand in crafting every word that will be found on your new pages, look for a company that’ll let you submit your own text. If you don’t have the time, find a provider that’ll give you content you can work off of.
8. Will I be able to update my website on my own?
Say your business adds a new staff member. Will you be able to go into your website’s backend management system and tweak the text yourself, or will you have to contact your provider to make changes? And if you must go through your provider, how long will it take to get your changes made and what will you be charged to do so? In nearly all cases, you’re better off having control over your own data than waiting on another company to manage it for you, so look for providers that offer the backend editing features you’ll need.
9. Does my setup fee include any SEO work?
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to specific on-site and off-site activities that can be undertaken to make your site as appealing as possible to the search engines (consequently increasing your chances of ranking highly in the natural search results for certain queries). When websites are built, there are a number of different SEO techniques that should be implemented at the site structure level. If the website provider who you’re interviewing can’t explain whether these recommended actions have been carried out, look elsewhere!
10. Will you sell the layout I choose to my competitor?
This concern is funeral profession specific, but it’s incredibly important. If you choose to work with a funeral home website provider that works off of standard layouts (especially those that don’t allow you to change design features on your chosen template), be 100% certain that your developer won’t sell the same layout you’ve chosen to one of your competitors.
Your website is your funeral home’s online calling card. And if your calling card looks the same as your competitors, you risk having your customers wind up confused — or losing them altogether. If the provider you’re interviewing can’t guarantee that you won’t receive a duplicate site (or that your future competitors won’t be able to select the layout you’ve chosen), move on to your next option.