As the marketplace keeps getting more complicated and competitive, small businesses need ways to simplify and streamline wherever possible, to conveniently outsource what can’t be effectively accomplished in-house, and to save both time and money.
One way to achieve those goals when it comes to your company’s website is to pick a website developer who can do it all for you: design, SEO, security, copywriting and content development, hosting, backups, maintenance, social media marketing—the whole enchilada served up on a single plate.
How do you find just the right full-service company to meet your individual needs and appeal to your personal tastes? Here are the primary factors to consider when you’re shopping for the best-suited website developer to help you grow your business:
Experience & Expertise
The best way to gauge a developer’s talent and proficiency is to assess work they’ve already done, so ask to see portfolio samples that showcase the developer’s abilities and that align with the type of site you envision for yourself. Most often, small businesses are looking for overhauls to their existing sites to modernize them and modify them in ways that will generate better outcomes, so you’ll want to zero in on the developer’s technical expertise by investigating:
- What coding language(s) they use
- What tools and strategies they employ for SEO
- How they’ll track traffic metrics and UX measures
- What security protocols will be put in place
- How and how often they’ll back up your site in the event of a crash or a hack
No matter how digitized the world becomes, word of mouth will always carry weight when people are making costly decisions. If you were building a house, putting in a pool, or retaining an attorney, you wouldn’t just hire the first nice guy or gal who walked through your door, and the same applies in the web sphere. Go beyond always-positive testimonials posted by the company itself by asking for referrals you can contact directly to research things like the developer’s track record, dependability, responsiveness, availability, and overall know-how.
An adept website developer should express clear interest in how you want your site to look, feel, and operate. What branding elements do you want to highlight? What color scheme do you have in mind? What navigation preferences? Most importantly, what will appeal to your customer base—what first impression do you want to make when a visitor encounters your landing page? Do you want to come across as bold and edgy or classic and conservative? If the developer doesn’t ask you these kinds of questions, you’ll probably end up with a one-size-fits-all template that doesn’t fit you at all. A great shortcut here is to come to the consult with a small collection of websites that really speak to you—give the developer a launching pad, and you’ll get to successful takeoff sooner and more affordably.
Underneath a website’s attractive exterior, of course, lies the actual mechanics of how things function. The ratio of static to active content. The inclusion of videos and animations that run smoothly and reliably. Incorporation of social media feeds. The behavior of input fields. If you have an online store, how will your customers’ data be secured? If you include a blog, how will notifications of new postings go out? What will protect you from phishing, cyberattacks, and malware? You’ll want to ensure that the website developer knows how to make happen what you need to happen. In other words, you want a site that has beauty and brains!
Finding a talented website developer is one thing; finding one you can afford is another. Discuss up front how the developer bills: by the task? by the hour? Will the developer pay the subcontractors brought on board, or will you be expected to pay them directly? What will the monthly or yearly retainer be once the initial development phase is complete? Are hosting and domain charges included or separate? How is invoicing done and what are the payment terms? What’s the cost of an after-hours S.O.S. intervention? “This job could run anywhere from $2K to $10K” is a red flag; an experienced developer will be able to give you a firmer estimate of what you can expect to pay throughout the duration of your partnership.
Finally, a good working relationship requires good communication. If you were a webmaster yourself, you wouldn’t need to hire one, right? So for those who aren’t technologically fluent, look for a developer who can explain things to you in language you’ll understand and who has clear justifications for why this step is mandatory or that step is recommended. The content and frequency of the communication matter, too: Is your developer interrupting your day too often with calls and emails about things you’d prefer they handle? Once your website is up and running to your liking, do they pull a disappearing act? There’s a happy medium between being talked down to by a pro who knows their stuff and being given too much responsibility to make decisions you don’t feel qualified to make. Find that sweet spot with a developer who listens to you at least as much as they talk, and it’ll be a win-win all around.
Get a free website development consultation from RWS Consulting today at 202-409-8113 or firstname.lastname@example.org