Is Your Web Developer Legit? Red Flags For Fitness & Wellness Businesses

Overseeing health, fitness or wellness website development is tough. Are you paying too much? Getting good advice? Is your developer up to date?

While the list of potential gotchas is long, these red flags shout “buyer beware!”

1) Your web developer owns your domain or other key assets

You or your business should own your own domain name. There’s never a good business reason for your developer to own your domain name. Period.

Why? If your current web developer’s performance is unsatisfactory, you need the freedom to switch to another developer. However, if you don’t own your domain name, you don’t have the ability to control changes to your site – at least, not without paying a chunk of cash in “domain transfer fees” to your current developer. If you’re not sure who currently owns your domain, look up your domain name at www.whois.net and see who’s listed as the owner.

Make sure you have the login information for the vendor that’s hosting your site, the vendor where your domain name is registered, and vendor names and logins for all third-party services and software used on your site. If it’s a premium third-party tool or service that you had to reimburse your developer for, get the receipt from the developer.

Don’t forget to get copies of any purchased stock graphics, as well. The versions on your website have probably been cropped and may be lower-resolution than the original versions purchased. You want the originals.

2) Your web developer blames you for his incomplete content and missed deadlines.

Obviously your business is responsible for providing content for the web pages themselves.

But your developer should ask you to provide keywords, page titles and page descriptions for each page, and then they should fully populate the meta data. If they promise to provide keywords for you, they should be interviewing you about how your customers find you. Ask them which discovery tools they use to identify potential keywords.

3) Your web developer skips critical tasks because “he doesn’t want to distract you.”

Last year, the web developer for one of our wellness center clients didn’t bother to complete the meta data for the web pages on the site. As a result, their site when launched simply showed up as “Home Page” in Google…rather than the name of the company. Extremely embarrassing. Their reason? “We knew you were getting ready for a big presentation and didn’t want to bother you.”

Were they lazy or just misguided? Who knows…but either way, the result is bad.

Another critical task: installing web analytics on your site so that you can analyze site traffic. However, many small web development businesses skip this step, which means you have no insight into how many visitors you’re getting and what they do on your site.

4) Your web developer dazzles you into buying stuff you don’t need.

Good developers recommend solutions that are appropriate for the maturity of your business. They don’t sell a health club a full-blown shopping cart solution if you only sell one or two products online. They don’t recommend live chat for yoga studios when your potential customers aren’t likely to use it.

5) Your web developer advertises on your site.

Have you ever seen a link to the web developer’s site at the bottom of a small company’s home page? You’re essentially providing them with free advertising – and what’s worse, if anyone clicks on the link they’ll LEAVE your site! Small-time web developers like this strategy because it increases the number of links that point to their site – which improves their position in search results.

You wouldn’t let your graphic designer put a small ad for her business on your brochure, would you? So don’t let your web developer hitch a free ride on your fitness center’s website.

6) Your web developer wants to be paid in full upfront.

It’s reasonable to pay 25 – 30% upfront to demonstrate your commitment to the project. However, the remaining fees should be paid only as the developer completes agreed-upon milestones to your satisfaction.

7) Your business doesn’t have a copy of your website.

Your developer should provide you with a copy of your website, for example, as a zip file that you can download from Dropbox or that he emails to you. This practice is especially important if the domain name is registered in your developer’s name, not your company’s name.

8) Your developer owns the copyright for your website.

Your website development agreement should specify that your business holds all the rights to the text, images and other content on your site. You should not allow your developer to hold those rights.

Why? Because if you decide to switch developers, your current developer can refuse to allow you to use any content from your existing site. Fighting this can quickly cost you thousands in legal fees.

9) Your web developer dodges your questions, calls or emails

Good developers are born explainers. They like to talk about what they’re doing and why. If your developer insists on doing something because “this is what everyone’s doing now,” keep digging. If you ask questions and they respond by saying “I know what I’m doing, don’t you trust me?” or shooing you away with the accusation that “you’re not letting me do my job”, that’s a major warning sign too.

10) Your web developer hosts your site himself

If your developer offers to host your site himself, ask these questions before agreeing:

  • Are you reselling hosting services from another web host? If yes, who? Then, Google this web host and see what other clients are saying. Compare prices. Super-cheap web-hosting often means frequent downtime for your site and extremely hard-to-reach (and often hard-to-understand) customer service and technical support.
  • If he says no, ask him how where his servers are located. If the answer is in his office (or bedroom closet), we suggest you find another developer as well as a different web host. He’s looking out for his profits, not the best interests of your business.

11) Your developer is hand-cranking  your site

These days, no small-to-medium-sized business should have a website that’s actually hand-cranked HTML. The smallest businesses should consider drag-and-drop sitebuilders like Wix, Weebly and Squarespace with integrated e-commerce. Everyone else should be looking very seriously at WordPress and third-party hosted e-commerce solutions. With the exception of WordPress, watch out for open-source. It’s free, but support and complexity are often issues that small businesses fail to fully appreciate until they’re struggling to update their sites.

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Leslie Nolen, Radial's president, is the nationally-known expert on the art and science of selling health and wellness.

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