How to Interview a New Website Company

Having the best school website is very important, but trying to figure out which company to go with can be tricky. Here are five things to ask that are more important than price.

This is the time of year schools start to think about if they will be renewing their website with their current provider, or moving to another platform. Most budgets for public schools renew on July 1, and of course you have to allot time to build the site so there’s no lapse in coverage. Budget always plays a factor in deciding what company to go with, but here are five other things to consider:

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1.Everyone loves a good host!

This is something you don’t see, but if you’re managed by an unreliable host, it will affect every visitor to the site. Images videos will be slow to load, those trendy drone videos will be glitchy, and are you streaming your high school musical? Not with a bad host. Ask for cloud based hosting, with 99.99% uptime, backup servers, ddos mitigation. This is one of those things, you won’t know you need until you do. 

Edlio worked with a school in Nebraska where in their computer lab of 30 computers, when all 30 kids accessed the internet, the home page was their school site...and it would crash. Think of what would happen if there was a snow day, and all the parents in the district are checking the school website to see if school is cancelled. Ask how much space is available. There’s only one answer, and it should be unlimited.

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2. Does the company use multi-tenant architecture?

How is the software being updated? Does the company have to individually update each client’s software when there is a new security or product update? Or, do clients of the company run off of the most updated modern version? We’ve all had that Wordpress site where all of a sudden some of the widgets aren’t working, since you have to manually go in and update them. 

It’s important to choose a company that ensures all their clients are on their most secure, feature rich version of the software. Some companies will charge a premium to go to the next level of software, some will automatically update as a service with no extra charge. Always ask about software updates and if there is an upcharge for this!

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3. Implementation & training & tech support, Oh My!

When investing in a new software, no matter how easy to use, there will be an adjustment period. Your staff will have questions and need help onboarding. Are you going to have time to train and onboard them with this new technology? 

The hope would be you now would get to delegate some of the website updating responsibilities, if you’re purchasing a robust CMS. The tech support from the company needs to extend to all users, and preferably be unlimited. No one has time to manage tickets, and worry about being charged more for too many questions. Ask about the implementation process and if you will have a point of contact at the company. How much support will you have after you launch, and does that support extend to all of your users? The answers to these questions will determine how much effort you will be putting in post site launch, and is something to consider especially when paying another company. 

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4. Where did all the content go?

You’ve decided to make the move. Now you will need to get your “stuff” from one site to the other. Content migration is included with some companies, but not all—be sure to ask what will be moved over and if there is an additional cost. This is also a great time to consider reorganizing and maybe purging some old content. Make sure the company you’re working with is open to moving some, but not all content, or all content if you wish. 

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5. Try before you buy….but for real.

Sure, you saw a demo from a sales executive, and it looked super sleek and easy, and everything worked perfectly. Were you offered login credentials to a sandbox account to try it yourself? For every major personal purchase you either get to test drive it, or do many walk-throughs. For your school or district this should not be different, a CMS is a big purchase! 

I have never heard of a company not giving access to some sort of sandbox account to test out the technology. The buying experience is always better when you can take your time, lay on the mattress, test drive the car, walk though the new house (and look in the closets) and make an update with the new technology. Better yet, ask for a couple usernames and have the main stakeholders all try to update something or create a page. Also, be sure to try out their help center!

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