Just like making any purchasing decision, choosing the right web developer can be a scary process if you don’t know what to look for when you are shopping. If you have never worked with a web developer before, it can be scary because you don’t know what you don’t know – you don’t know what to look for, you don’t know what questions to ask, you don’t know where to start. If you have already worked with a web developer, it can be scary because you may have had a bad experience, or feel like you may have wasted money, or didn’t feel like you got the services you expected, and you don’t want to make another bad decision. Below are 8 things to keep in mind which will help you along in your process for finding a good web development company to service your website.
1. Shop prices
Though pricing isn’t everything, it is still important. Do a little homework by looking at different web developers and compare their pricing for a basic 5 page informational website. Ideally, the company will have some standard pricing advertised online. If not, just call and ask. Most web developers can give at least a ballpark figure as to how much it will cost for a 5 page site – if they don’t, then that means they want to give you a sales presentation. If you aren’t open to being pitched a sales presentation, then just say something along the lines of, “if you can’t give me at least a ballpark figure before meeting with you, then I’ll just go somewhere else”.
When shopping for pricing, the goal is to know how much is standard – not to find out who is the cheapest. Just like buying anything else, you get what you pay for. When prices seem too good to be true, then either they are (there may be “hidden fees” that they’re not disclosing), or the web developer is desperate (which doesn’t usually render the best service).
2. See a portfolio
Every web developer knows how to sound like they can give you the website of your dreams – not every web developer, however, can follow through. See some work that they’ve done for other companies. It doesn’t have to be a website in your same industry, because everything is customizable; just look for their capabilities of providing a professional looking, purpose driven site. Also look for diversity in their designs. You don’t want to work with a company that’s going to make your site look just like every other website out there.
3. Make sure they can do custom html
Unfortunately, many “web developers” advertise themselves as a “custom website developer” when they’re not. There are tons of pre-built website templates that you can get for free online, and sadly, many companies get these free website templates and just upload your text and images (something that every computer novice is more than capable of doing); then they charge you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to do something that only took them about an hour. Make sure to ask if the web developer is capable of doing custom HTML coding, and not just templates. Unlike free template websites, a custom HTML website assures you of a unique, professional design with Search Engine Friendly capabilities.
4. Avoid monthly fees
Don’t get suckered in to paying a monthly fee to a web design company that isn’t offering a monthly service. The only thing that you have to renew monthly or annually is your domain name and hosting – which should be no more than $80-$100 per year maximum (the average is about $60 per year). If you are hiring a company to build and design your website, then there should be no residual costs associated with that service. They may charge you a smaller fee on the setup process, but you’re going to pay way more in the long run. Remember the rule: only pay a recurring fee for recurring service. Recurring services include: social media updates, website maintenance (meaning someone is actively making edits and updates to your website as you direct them), etc.
5. Own your own website
When getting your website started, make sure that you secure your domain name and hosting directly with a domain registrar. I’ve heard too many stories about companies who pay their web developers a high monthly fee to host their site, and when they go to stop the service and host their website elsewhere, they find out that they can’t take any of the content with them. Though there are ways of getting out of these deals without paying outrageous amounts of money, it’s best to avoid this from the get-go. Ask your web developer questions like, “Who would own my domain name? Who would own my hosting? What happens if I want to go to another company later on down the road?”
6. Don’t buy into the SEO myth
When doing your research for website development, you’ll find that everyone is now an SEO pro. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s a service that web developers offer wherein they make your website easily found by search engines whenever someone is doing a search for your type of website. When you start inquiring about these services, you’ll find out that it’s not as cheap as you’d prefer.
The SEO Myth is this:
“It takes a lot of hard, confusing work that you can’t possibly understand unless you are an SEO guru to get your website seen by search engines, and therefore thousands of dollars in SEO service fees is justified.” That’s not true by any means! SEO does take some work, but not thousands of dollars’ worth (typically). Though there are some forms of performance-based SEO that can be expensive (such as pay-per-click), there are also several things you can do for free if you have the time and know-how. If you don’t have the time and/or know-how, then pay someone to do it for you, but make sure they’re charging what’s fair.
Most SEO companies are trained to use verbiage and explanations that intentionally confuse the average lay-person (that’s right – they are trained to confuse you!).
They do this for two reasons:
- To make it seem like no one can do it except for them
- To justify their outrageous cost
Ask questions to see exactly what the company is going to do for you to get your website seen by search engines; and also be aware that NO ONE can guaranty that you’ll get the first spot.
7. Test availability before commitment
One of the main complaints I get from clients who have had a bad experience with a web developer is that the developer was not available when the clients needed them. Usually this happens when working with freelance web developers, or when your web-guy is your sister’s friend’s cousin’s neighbor (or something like that).
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How hard is it to contact my web developer representative on the phone?
- Does he/she return messages in a timely manner? How quick is he/she in getting back to me on my emails?
If you get frustrated before even hiring them to do work for you, don’t expect it to get any better when they start the work. Sometimes what you think should have been a 3 week project can turn into a 6 month long nightmare.
8. Don’t move forward if you are confused Remember the SEO myth
Some people are trained to purposely confuse you. Listen for patterns of beating around the bush. If you find yourself scratching your head after every conversation, then it may be a warning sign. What you don’t want to happen is to find yourself scratching your head after your project is finished wondering “what in the world did I pay for?”
Make sure you work with someone who can explain things to you in terms you can understand. This doesn’t mean that they need to educate you on all things HTML; it simply means that you are left with a general understanding of what you are paying for. Don’t pay for anything with hesitance – be confident in your decision to work with a web developer.