Ask any experienced business owner how the development of their website went and you’ll likely to get an angry look or a reply something like, “which version?”
Venturing into your first website project can be a frustrating proposition without giving proper due diligence to the selection of a web development company. And it’s one that can have long-lasting ramifications.
Throughout my career in web development, I’ve seen (or heard about) the good, the bad, and the ugly. What I can tell you for certain is that the value of an experienced consultant cannot be understated. Googling “web design” can carry one only so far.
What follows are five of the most important determining factors to consider when choosing a web development company.
Determine what type of website you need.
This may sound like a given, but not all websites are the same.
Google is a website. But it’s powered by a multibillion-dollar infrastructure with several data centers around the globe. Facebook and Amazon? Ditto.
While those may be extreme examples, it’s important to distinguish differences in what makes up a website and its functionality, which is to say what you need the website to do for your visitors and your business.
Are you going to sell widgets? Well, you’re going to need an e-commerce website and it’s unlikely your buddy’s cousin is going to be well-suited for this project.
E-commerce brings several logistical and technological challenges. The company you hire should have experience working in this space and have an e-commerce solution that will scale with the growth of your business — and provide support for the inevitable glitches that occur along the way.
For many small businesses offering professional services, the main objectives of a website are to build trust, educate, inform, and convert visitors into leads. While there are hundreds of web development companies that can handily accomplish this task, there are several variables to consider like the type of content management system and where the site will be hosted. These factors can have a significant impact on the website’s everyday management and down the road when, not if, the site is redesigned.
Determine your compatibility.
When you hire a web development company, you are hiring a technology partner. This partner will likely be part of your business for many years, given you are happy with their service.
And that’s the rub.
Spending a little extra time on the front side can save your business a lot of money and more importantly, a lot of time. Moving a website from one provider to another can be costly and time-consuming.
Get to know who you are hiring for this long-term relationship. While the quality and efficacy of their work is surely a consideration, find out what they value, how they work, and how they treat their staff.
And while credibility and trust are also important traits, it’s also kind of nice if you like them.
Determine the level of support do you need.
Support comes in several forms, like help with setting up email or helping someone reset a password. With website support, you’ll likely need changes to your site on a regular basis. It’s not uncommon to realize a feature or element was left unconsidered prior to launch. And more importantly, a website is not, nor should be static.
A good development company is going to provide you with the tools to add update content, add new pages, and articles, and make minor updates. For new features, it’s likely you’ll need to rely on your technology partner. Most web development companies provide some level of on-going support, but it’s always a good idea to find out what level, turnaround time, and which members of the staff will be doing this type of work.
Attention to details.
Recently, someone in my network announced the launch of their new website. I could tell from their post they were excited and proud of their new online presence. Of course, there was a link to the new site in the post. But it displayed nothing but the logo and the title from the home page, “Home.”
Here’s an opportunity to shine on social media. But because their web developer either didn’t take the time or perhaps didn’t understand how social media channels work, the opportunity was lost. More importantly, the lack of the proper title and description will likely harm their search engine rankings.
It’s small details like this that, over time, can help make or break a brand’s digital properties. A good web development company has the experience and understands the importance of how social media and search engines display information from websites. They work with your company to make sure these bases are covered so that you’ll always be putting your best face forward.
And it shows attention to detail. That’s the kind of company who ensures that everything is checked, then double-checked.
Factor in all the costs.
Website design and development pricing run the gamut from free, to fixed, to hourly. Heck, some companies even have tiered pricing based on the type of person do the work.
Beyond the initial design and development costs, there are ongoing charges and fees that should be understood prior to signing the contract.
Nearly every web development company charges something for hosting a website, but even this can vary widely. While it might be tempting, this is the area in which you don’t want to get chintzy. In most cases, you get what you pay for and that means site uptime — you want your site to be available all the time, not just some of the time. Don’t skimp on costs here.
Again, this is an area where pricing is all over the board. Some companies include a certain level of support in their hosting plans, while other charge time and materials for any change. It’s important to understand that you will make changes to your website and there is likely to be a cost. It’s better to understand and plan for those costs on the front side.
There’s no silver bullet or definitive guide for web development and every company operates with differing business models. But with a little homework and a trusted guide, you can mitigate some of the cost of building (and rebuilding) your website.