TRUE STORY…BEWARE! A business hires an inexperienced freelancer or an offshore development company at $20 an hour, and the company estimates the project will take 50 hours to complete. OVER 100 HOURS LATER, the website doesn’t work and no one knows why. The developers keep adding hours and demanding more money. The business pays through the nose, then gives up on the developer and hires a more qualified, experienced company that charges $85 / hr. The company reviews the code and discovers the problem: The website has built-in errors deep in the code. In the end, it takes the new company only 75 hours to create the website…and it works perfectly.
True story? Yes, yes, and yes. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing a development firm, many businesses make “cost” the deciding factor. Sure, cost is vital, but cost-cutting can be a real problem if things don’t work out! Here are 4 quick and easy tips to help you, as a business, choose the RIGHT web developer or development the first time around.
1: Look at their previous work. Probably the quickest and easiest way to determine whether a developer or designer is a good fit is to take a good look at their portfolio. A strong portfolio provides a variety of examples that showcase the company’s best work. They should reflect the level of professionalism that you believe is important for your company. Most of all, the sites should WORK! Visit the websites that are in the portfolio. Click on the links. If something doesn’t seem right, contact the developer you are interviewing and ask why…and contact the website owner as well. Most people are happy to talk about their experiences.
2: Review the company profile. Who will be working on your site? Ideally, you want to know that the people who will be building your site have a wide variety of skills in the areas you need. Remember, a website is much more than a nice design and layout. Functionality is key. No matter how good it looks, if a website doesn’t work, or if it runs incredibly slowly, you will lose visitors. Here are some skill sets to look for:
Designer – Look at the portfolio, contact the designer’s previous clients, and ask them how satisfied they are with their design. Does the design portfolio have a look that you are wanting for your site? Every designer has a unique “look” that represents their work. Make sure it matches what you are intending for the site to look like. Ideally, a good designer will have some basic programming knowledge to ensure the design is usable in a web site.
Developer – A good developer will be able to meet all of your needs. Do you need components added on? Modifications to existing components? If you are modifying something, ask the developer if they have worked with the piece of software before. Do you want a lot of visitors? If your site isn’t built to optimize SEO from the outset, you could be missing out on a lot of traffic! Finally, developers should be up-to-date on the latest web technologies and applications that can make their job — and your job — easier. Once again, check their portfolio, visit the websites that are on it, and ask questions.
Project Manager - sure, this may sound like a waste of money – you already have your designer and developer, right? … but the truth is, without someone to coordinate both efforts, a lot of time and money could be lost and vital information could slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, many programmers are not necessarily good communicators with clients. Project managers are able to convey messages between programmers and clients much more efficiently and with a much lower degree of error. A good project manager provides the most accurate quote possible based on previous experience and the abilities of the company to manage that project. The project manager should be professional and responsive to your questions and needs from the outset.
3: Consider hiring an all-service company. There are design companies and development companies, and then there are all-service companies. While it may occasionally be cost effective to hire designers and developers separately, we recommend all-service companies because the entire process is fully integrated from the beginning – meaning, the designers and developers are on a team. They know each other, they communicate well, and they specialize in coordinating their efforts with each other to make sure everything gets done on time and on spec. Without this essential communication, vital pieces of information can fall through the cracks when they’re “shipped” from one company to another, getting lost in translation, so to speak.
4: Contact the developer’s previous clients! If you haven’t noticed, this has been mentioned in almost every section above. We cannot overstate how important it is to speak to previous clients and ask them about their experience. Here are the TOP 3 QUESTIONS we recommend you ask the previous clients. These may save you a lot of time, money and hassle!
How responsive was the web development company? — Did they strive to meet your needs? Did they answer your emails and/or phone calls in a timely manner? Were they polite and professional?
What was their original cost and time estimate for the project…and how much time/money did it actually take? — If it took longer or cost more to make the website than the original estimate, ask why. It’s possible the development company is actually a good candidate that overcame unusual challenges. Were there power outages, snags due to software updates, or Acts of God during the development process? Also, did the client make drastic changes midway through development? Keep in mind, any changes you make to the original website design require additional time and money to complete. Be sure to ask the development company about their policy for dealing with changes.
Were you satisfied with the results? If they were not completely satisfied, ask why. More importantly, would they hire the development company again?
It’s true — building on a budget is tough. But finding someone to build it right from the beginning is even tougher. Of course, we’re hoping you’ll consider hiring us…but our goal here is to help you choose the best developer for you. The lesson here is, don’t just hire the cheapest person you find – hire someone who can meet your needs so you don’t get caught wishing you could go back in time and save money from the outset!