Finding the right website developer.

The world if full of website developers/designers. How do you choose the right one for your project?

Website developers come in every shape and size from freelancers just starting out to huge design agencies, to people who do it as a “side job”. How do you pick the right one for your business or project? 

It’s very important to choose wisely. It may be one of the most important decisions you make as a small business. Your website is the heart of your digital presence and in some cases can be the key to your business success. 

To get started, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

1. Why do you want a website (or new website) in the first place?

If you don’t have one already, it’s easy, a website is a “must have” for virtually any business these days.

If you want a new website then you need to answer the question why? 

What is it about your current site that isn’t working for you? Give it some serious thought and make a list. Maybe you love how your current site looks, but it is underperforming when it comes to getting you prospects, leads or sales. Or, maybe it is performing well but it looks bad on mobile devices. Be specific because this list will help you when it comes time to choose a developer.

2. What is your objective?

This is probably the most important question to ask yourself. If you don't have a concrete objective or a goal, how will you measure the success of the project? How will you know if you are getting a return on your investment?

Write down a few broad and specific goals. Some examples are “Generate 5 leads a week”, “Sell 50 widgets a month”, or “Provide better customer service”.

If you don’t have some measurable goals, wait. Give it some thought before you dive in.

3. What is your budget?

Websites (at least good ones) aren’t cheap. They are an investment in your business. If you don’t have a reasonable budget for a professional site then you are better off waiting until you can afford to have one done right than to waste time and money on a site that just won’t perform. No one likes paying for something twice.

What’s a reasonable budget?  That is a very tough question to answer because it really depends on your wants and needs. If you need database integration, e-commerce, a membership system then that kind of thing is going to cost you much more than just a simple two or 3-page website with a home page and contact form.

 Do you want a Content Management System or are you okay compensating the site developer to make changes and update your site so you don't have to? What about the content? Are you able to supply all of the text, images, graphics etc. or are you going to need help with those things?  SEO, social integrations, sales funnels, conversion strategies... You get the idea there’s no “one size fits all” way to price it. Be very careful if someone quotes you this way or if they charge by the page and every little thing they do. You want it done right not fast. Developers need to charge enough to have time to do things correctly. If someone seems much cheaper than others, chances are you are buying a template site or something farmed out to a kid in India or somewhere and you will not get a professional site. You will just be throwing your money away. Research your web developer, know who you are working with. 

A website is not a cost, it’s an investment. You should think of it the same way you think about investing in your building or a new piece of machinery or company vehicle. If you look at a website like this it will help you choose the right developer. After all, it’s an investment and you want a return on that investment just as if were a piece of machinery, a store remodel, or a delivery van.

4. What’s your time frame? 

If you need a website in a week, you are probably going to be disappointed. Good web development takes time and most developers that are any good are busy developing websites. Can you wait to get into their schedule? (Hint- You should).

5. Do you have the time and resources?

Just because you are hiring a professional doesn’t mean you won’t need to invest some time in the project. You or someone on your team will have to have the time to work with the developer. You will need to work with the developer to define the scope of the project before it’s started. Someone will have to review the work as it happens and also test it when it's complete. You may also be asked to supply content like text, photos, videos etc.

If you don’t have a minute to spare in your week, wait until you can devote some time to this important investment. Any good developer is going to want the project scope to be defined up front that’s how they figure out what it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take to complete. Many if not all will also set milestones where payments need to be made. For example 50% up front to book the job in their production calendar, 25% when milestone one is reached,  20% for milestone two, etc. Why would you have to pay in advance? Because you are asking a professional developer to commit time to working on your project. When they commit that time, they can’t sell it to someone else. So, If you don’t have time to give them the content or feedback, the project will stall.

6. What about upkeep and maintenance?

Websites are almost like a living breathing thing, they have to be cared for and fed. Make sure your developer has a program in place to do this for you. You don’t want to pay for a website and then just be “on your own”. What if something happens, you get hacked, or something breaks? What about ongoing content? Can you handle that yourself, in-house with your team? Will the website allow that? Is it easy to use or is it a techno-nightmare? There will be ongoing costs, hosting, licenses, maintenance, etc. You don’t want to have to start this whole thing over in 6 months or a year. 

Okay, you have checked off 1-6 above now you can look for the right developer.

You may ask around, ask other businesses you know. You can check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Or you can hop on the internet and do some searching. 

Here’s the secret: If the developer starts throwing technobabble at you or quotes you some "canned price", move on. If they are talking about features and not asking about your objectives, move on. If they don’t talk to you about a conversion strategy, but instead, try to sell you on the look or fluff, move on.

The right developer will first and foremost have your goals and objectives in mind. They will ask you questions to try to get an idea of the project scope. They will not try to sell you on this or that platform (WordPress, drupal etc.) or the latest whizz-bang feature plug-in. The right developer will spend some time up front and may actually send you through an onboarding process where you fill out a questionnaire.  

Now if you find this developer the last thing you need to look for is about fit, Are they organized and approachable? Do they show interest in your project? Will they available when you need them?

If all of these things fall in line, Congratulations! You found the right developer.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss your website project, contact the professionals at Cotts, Inc.

Until next time,

Scott Williams
Director of Digital Marketing
Cotts, Inc.

 Cotts, Inc. is a digital marketing agency specializing in helping small businesses. We are located in the small city of Pottsville in Schuylkill County, PA 17901.

We build results-driven websites, expert social media content & strategies, custom interactive kiosk systems, digital signage systems and print campaigns so your business can compete in this digital world.

If your small business needs help with marketing in the digital world, reach out to us, our contact information is:
Phone: 570.399.5662