How to Choose a Web Developer

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Choosing a web developer or firm can be confusing. These days, everyone and their sister-in-law can design websites, right? So why do I need to pay someone?

I can tell you, we come across this all of the time. With all of the software out there and free website builders, who even needs a web design firm? The answer is simple: unless you are a professional web designer, YOU do!

Of course, this mostly applies to business websites. If you have a personal or informational website, a website builder or a friend is just fine. However, if you are starting a business or are creating an online presence for your existing business, professionalism is key!

So what does a professional web developer know that Dreamweaver doesn't?
Business. Today's business web developers need to know business, marketing and internet strategies. If your developer knows business and marketing, they can build a better website. There needs to be a fine mix of graphic design, marketing and tech savvy. A great design alone won't get you visitors, and a functional, hi-tech site alone won't grab your customers either.

What should I look for in a web developer?
When you start discussing your website with a potential designer, you should get feedback about your ideas and suggestions on new ones. A developer should never discount your business ideas, since it is what you know - and a developer should never try to upsell you on all of their expensive products, either. A good developer will give you cost-cutting ideas along with long-term saving ideas and be honest about up front costs.

Your discussion should also lead to marketing ideas and questions about your business. If you developer shows no interest in your business and what you do, chances are they don't really care. Today's great web developers should be very concerned about your potential customers, who your audience is and what your products and services are. By understanding your business, your goals and your customers, then the best potential website can be developed.

Make sure you see examples of work. Seeing a developer's portfolio is important. It gives you an idea of their design talents as well as their programming expertise. It's best to go over previously created sites while you're talking with your new developer; this way the developer can explain the details of the site, what was difficult or specialized, and how they met the owner's goals.

What should I beware of in a web developer?
There are some clear signs that should help you steer clear of less than professional firms or developers. Here's a good start:

  1. Avoid Package Pricing
    It's always a good idea to avoid developers or firms who have fixed pricing packages. If they sell you a "business website package" with a fixed price, chances are they already have a stock idea of what they are putting on your site and it won't be suited to your specific needs.

  2. Avoid Low-Cost Solutions
    Although a website should not be in the multiple thousands to develop, it's important to avoid bottom-barrel pricing as well. No good developer or firm can build a great website for $200. Unless you just need a page up for looks and not generating business, then your professional business presence should be at least over $500. It takes a professional time to research your business, look at the competition and perfect your corporate identity and if you're only paying a couple of hundred dollars, you're not going to get it.

  3. Avoid Giving Control
    Many business owners are inexperienced when it comes to technology and they put their faith and control in a web developer. You need to do some research before creating your online presence. There is the domain name, the website and the hosting of that site. You should have complete access, control and ownership of those items. Any firm or developer who says they'll take care of it all for you and not to worry about it is not working for YOU. Your domain name, website and hosting should all be in your name only and you should have all of the relevant passwords for accessing them. If you don't, you're looking for trouble in the future.

  4. Avoid 'Add-Ons'
    Any good developer will suggest ideas for improving your marketing and overall impact of your site. However, many developers try to add on items for the purposes of making money. If a developer is trying to add-on forums, shopping carts, blogs, etc. to your website, it's a good sign they're not for you. Many website 'add-ons' are free or low cost enough not to be a big money-maker for a good developer. A good developer will suggest what is important for your site now and what can come at a later date. Many times spending more money now to avoid costly updates later is a good idea - many times it's necessary to see what the site does before adding more functionality. A good developer will be honest about what is needed and what isn't needed for your site.
All in all, it's not that daunting of a task to hire a web developer. The thing to remember is, are they working for you or your money? A good firm will work hard to make your business a success, and not take the money and run. Your success means their success. Not only will you tell others about how good they are, but they will then have something to be proud to show other potential clients.

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