Choosing a Web Designer or Developer
Back to the home building analogy. Based on your needs and budget you will first determine who you should be talking to:
- A neighborhood builder – pick the appropriate model and then customize
- A custom homebuilder – choose from one of many existing styles and floor plans
- An architect – have a home designed just for you
Choosing a Web Developer
Just like choosing an architect/builder, the web process begins with the following choices:
- A local software proficient person who can customize already existing web page templates
- A small, but full service web development firm that can build, market and service the site
- A larger, full service firm that can throw more resources at the project, including custom programming and, perhaps, both traditional marketing and web marketing expertise
While there there is no hard and fast rule about what project falls into what vendor category, here is some food for thought. NOTE: budget size should not be the determining factor.
- If your objectives do not include sales or lead generation and your budget is low, then someone who knows how to use a WYSISYG program (i.e. Dreamweaver) could suffice. The upside here is low cost, the risk is back-end servicing.
- If your objectives do include an Internet marketing component, then choose a firm or person who understands search engines, overall marketing and the importance of building and maintaining a website that will be found by prospective customers. Your budget will then determine whether you seek out a big or small firm.
BEWARE of basing your choice solely on a firm's design portfolio. Web Designers or graphic artists who have gravitated toward web design, no matter how attractive their designs might be, are only effective web developers if they understand what it takes to make a website both human and search engine friendly. Remember, the web is a content-driven medium, not design-driven. You go back to a site that had the content you wanted. You don't go back just because it had a different look. Read more about good web design.
So what criteria should you use in choosing the correct developer?
- Experience – does the developer have experience with your industry? How broad is his experience in the web development business?
- Understanding – does the developer get who you are and what you do? Can he or she articulate the web development business in a way relevant to your needs and experience?
- Commitment – is the developer looking at you as a long term client? Is the talk centered more on designing the website or reaching your goals?
- Competence – can the developer demonstrate competence in design, development and functionality issues? Can he provide references to that effect?
- Cost – what is the developer going to charge you for building the website? What are his spending recommendations for the first year after launch?
How you evaluate each of these issues is up to you. Remember, you are looking for far more than someone to design you a brochure (a mistake too many website owners make). If you're looking for someone to help make your website into a key component of your marketing efforts, then you need someone who you can talk to, who can offer sound, unbiased advice and someone who can treat your money as if it were his own. In short, a good web developer is much more like your partner than your vendor.
The Website Development Process