On choosing a web designer or developer you need to be aware of a few things. Knowing these things will save you a lot of hassle in the future, and may mean the difference between a good and a bad web build experience
Are they interested in your business?
Does your web developer take the time to try and understand your business? It is not enough to take a brief back to the office, pull out all the old website templates and see which one fits. Your choice of developer needs to research your business before he even has his first meeting with you, and show genuine interest in your subject if he is to successfully help you sell it, physically or in concept, online.
What work have they done before?
Have a look at the web developers website, view their current/existing clients, read client reviews. You are about to spend a good portion of your marketing budget on this person or company.
Do they know your target?
Do they know your city? Have they got a feel for the people you are selling to, or are they at least willing to learn? Do they mention your target audience in their communications?
How do they work?
Do they specialize in certain fields of website design and web development? If they do, do they use competent people to complete the parts they themselves don’t do, and will they coordinate that for you?
Do they have a structured plan?
They should appear to have an organized and structured plan in their approach. Great web development is all about structure and following strict guides and practices. Sloppy designers and developers produce sloppy results.
Do they do what you need?
If you are wanting a lead-generating website, choose a company that understands search engine optimization. In our opinion an non-optimized website is a wasted opportunity.
What do they charge?
Our advice is, from the outset, find out how they bill their jobs. Will they charge an hourly rate or a fixed quote. There are pros and cons for both, but each specific job, taking into account the content and the features of the site, will determine the billing structure.
How do they ensure that they will stick to your budget?
Ask how they bill on their jobs. Make sure you have control of the budget, don’t leave them to work on a per hour basis without letting you know where your money is going. If you can get a fixed quote, that’s fine but if they go over that amount they will likely stop producing at their highest level. We choose to give a ceiling quote. Although inflated, it at least gives our clients a figure that we will not go over.
What about maintenance?
Are they going to maintain your site? What billing arrangement will that be under? You should know this before you hire them, you don’t want to buy a R30 razor only to find it comes with R100 blades.
Be sure of ownership
Make sure you own the domain and all of the content of the website. You cannot get copyright on the software, however you need to make sure you own the website. It’s the same as buying a car – you can’t own the design of the car after purchase, but you do own the car. Make sure there is no hidden ownership clause that holds you to that developer.
Be sure you can move
If you don’t know much about the developer never trust him to have your future best interests at heart. He may design and build a bespoke website that only he can maintain. Rather choose something that you can move with should the developer turn into a lazy beast after contract signing. This is why we develop in Drupal. Any of our clients can take their sites away from us at any time without too much trouble replacing us. Hopefully they will battle to replace our work ethic, but any Drupal coder can work on our sites.
Establish a deadline
Don’t let the developer start without giving you a deadline. Penalties are hard to enforce as website development projects are notoriously dynamic in their nature, so deadlines move, but make sure that those deadlines move because of your will, not their failure. Keep this in mind when a developer gives you a long deadline – don’t assume that if his competitor claims he can do it in half the time that he is being truthful. Deadlines are easier claimed than stuck to.