Today, most businesses want a website. Some already
have one. Others want one. They don't want to hire IT
staff and probably can't afford any. And in most cases,
an in-house IT staff, especially for your typical small
business, just isn't necessary. But, that doesn't mean
that you have to go without or will be forced to use
some cookie cutter website or a personal Frontpage experiment
gone awry. You can hire a web developer/designer to
create a professional website for you, set it up, then
hand it over to you for you to do what you want with
it. But, how should you go about finding someone to
do this? What should you look for? There are literally
thousands of companies/individuals out there offering
to do your website. How do you pick from this large
What Do You Want?
The first step is to decide exactly what you want on
your website. This is very important as it will determine
what the requirements are and, in turn, what skill set
your web developer needs to fulfill your needs. Here
are some questions to ask of yourself:
* What kinds of information do you want to have on
your site? Approximately how large do you envision the
site (# of pages)?
* Will your site require regular updates? Do you want
to do these updates yourself?
* Will you be engaging in e-commerce on this website?
* Will you need a database?
* How fast do you need the job done?
* What is your budget?
Start Your Search
Doing a web search for someone that has the skills
you will need for your website will still give you a
humongous list of possible choices. Referrals are often
the best method of weeding people out. IF someone recommends
a developer, it is because they are happy with the service
they were provided. So, if someone recommends a developer
to you, you should check that developer out and see
if they have the skills you will need from them.
Often, the developers you are pondering are not located
in your town. In today's day and age, this is not usually
a problem. Yes, there are instances where a face-to-face
meeting is really beneficial, and if you are the kind
of really considers this meeting important, you should
limit your search to developers within driving distance
of your location. Otherwise, the internet and phone
system provide all the communication you will need,
regardless of distance.
The first thing to do when considering a developer
is to check out their website.
* IS the site well-designed and attractive?
* Is it easy to navigate?
* Are there any broken links?
* Is the information complete (introduction to staff,
company location, contact methods, etc.)?
* Does the site load quickly?
* IS there a portfolio? (Very important. A developer
without a portfolio to display is a total question mark.
You simply don't know if the people are good or are
snacking on doritos trying to figure things out as they
* What skills does the developer have? Do they do design
only, or can they do dynamic web development and database
design? Also, ensure that they do not advertise themselves
as a web designer but focus mainly on print media. Internet
design and print design are different ballparks with
different requirements. Also, keep in mind that good
use of Dreamweaver or Frontpage does not in itself make
a web designer. Check their portfolio and ensure the
developer really knows his stuff. A person well-versed
in internet development should know not only about creating
the site, but also maintaining it, marketing it, and
promoting it. Ideally, a web developer has successfully
done all of the above on his own sites.
* Does the site offer customer testimonials? Read them.
And, you might even contact those clients independently
to ask them questions of the service you were provided.
Small Freelancers vs. Big Firms
You need to decide if you want to work with a large
design firm or a small freelance company (or even single
developer). There is more security for the client when
working with a larger firm. The skills they offer vary
widely because their staff is so large, and they often
have a very large portfolio. The caveat, though, is
that large companies often charge more money. The overhead
costs for such companies is larger, so they will charge
more. Additionally, larger companies often come with
more beauracracy. With so many developers, often communication
is just not what it should be, leading to inconsistencies
in the project due to miscommunication. Also, sometimes
you will find that these companies pay a little too
much attention to process rather than simply getting
the job done.
Freelance developers offer better value for the money,
and because they are a single person, the communication
flow between them and the client is usually much better
(one-on-one). If there is a staff, usually the size
is small, meaning communication will still be more tight-knit.
This will lead to more consistent coding and coordination.
Also, you know who is responsible for your project and
there is more accountability. In larger firms, nobody
is responsible in some cases. (or so they say). The
downside of freelancing is that their skill set is their
skill set, and if you need something that they don't
know how to do, they must research it. Also, freelancers
are limited by their size. If they already have a high
workload, then their throughout is limited and it may
force you to wait. So, depending on the size of your
project, a large firm might guarantee the job gets done
Rates and Guidelines
Check out the rates of the developer. Often, you will
not find the rates directly posted on their website.
This is usually because they like to do things by estimate,
so simply contact them, give them a few specs, and go
back and forth until you get a ballpark figure. When
getting an estimate, make sure it is detailed and exact.
Ask any questions that you have. If you think the price
is too high, ask them about it. Don't be afraid to counter-offer.
They can always refuse.
Check out the developer's contract. Make sure the client
is protected. PAy attention to guarantees of response
time. You want to make sure your developer is available
for you. Also, look for their policy on project changes.
Obviously, you cannot alter the specs of your project
once an estimate is agreed upon without expecting additional
fees. Ask them about this. Also, inspect the contract
for warranty of work. Who will they handle bugs in the
work they have done?
Talk With Them
Any developer you consider should have a method of
being reached by phone. Call them and gauge their personality.
Make sure they are good people who you can talk with
and bounce ideas off of. See if they treat you right
or act like they barely have time for you. Good communication
is very important to a successful project, and if you
can't properly communicate to your developer, you should
not hire him/her.
Evaluate your potential developers using the advice
above and you will be more likely to have successfully
completed project with minimal frustration.
About the author:
David Risley is a web developer and founder of PC Media,
Specializes in PHP/MySQL development, consulting and
internet business management. He is also the founder
of PC Mechanic (http://www.pcmech.com), a large website
delivering do-it-yourself computer information to thousands
of users every day.