For many companies, their first website will not work for them.
This is to be expected as it’s unlikely you have very much online experience in terms of managing a website.
It won’t take too long before you realise that the website you created isn’t performing how you expected it too.
There are a number of reasons for this to occur:
- Your initial budget was too low
- You didn’t realise the work required
- You built the website yourself
- You didn’t find professional advice with your website
- You’ve muddled your way up to this point
If any of this sounds familiar to you, then don’t panic, you’re not alone.
It’s at this stage that you will start to look at either extending your website or building a new one that’s custom to your company and it’s branding.
This is where you need to seek out a developer or a development company.
This article has been created to help you identify a company or developer who can take your website to the next level.
Identifying whether a developer, or web development agency is good enough for you
There are a lot of developers out there, both freelance and agencies. But that doesn’t mean there are a lot of ‘good developers’ out there.
Anyone can build a website.
Seriously, to build a simple website, it’s just a matter of following some tutorials.
But if you want a good website that’s going to work for you, then you’re going to have to turn to a professional.
#1 – Evaluate their website
The first thing to look at when picking a developer is their website itself:
- Do they present their company well?
- Does their website function as you would expect – if not better?
- Can you spot anything that’s broken on the website?
- Go to their contact form and click submit with nothing entered, does it break the site?
These are all very simple things, but it will tell you whether the company cares about how they are perceived, and whether they will take care with their work.
If you – a non-developer – can spot an issue with a developer’s website, then that speaks volumes.
#2 – Dig around their portfolio
A portfolio will tell you whether the company is right for you.
Yes, they may specialise in a number of industries, but look through their portfolio (at the working sites, not just the picture on the website).
By clicking around on the sites that have been built, you will understand if the company fits your requirements.
Are their designs complex? Intricate? Simple? Unique?
Is the website easy to use and navigate?
Can you spot any errors?
With a portfolio, you do have to keep in mind that the pictures within the content could be ugly and this would not be the fault of the developer, but equally this could show the developer isn’t active on suggesting changes and updates.
#3 – Get in contact with the company
If you’re starting to get the impression the company is the right fit for you, you need to get them on the phone.
The only information you need at this stage is that you’re looking to re-vamp your website, and its current URL.
All you’re looking for at this stage is “are they friendly and want to know more about your company”.
They should be asking questions about what you’re looking for, what’s not working at the moment, what is working at the moment etc. And finish with arranging a meeting.
If they give you a price for the project at this stage, then turn away right now.
You cannot give a quote for a project without knowing what details are involved – which will come out in the initial meeting.
They might be able to give you an estimate and their daily rate, but they should be clear that it’s impossible to know the price before they know the project.
#4 – Meet them in person
Ideally you will go to their offices. See where they work and meet a developer. This might not be the developer who is working on your project, but you will get an idea of how the company works.
Obviously you want to find out a little about the company before you had over your wallet, but you should expect to be doing a lot of talking here – it is your website afterall.
The company needs to have a clear understanding of what you want, so if they aren’t asking lots of questions and discussing solutions, then how are they going to know what you really want?
Here are a few questions to ask while you are at the initial meeting:
- Who takes care of the design?
Ideally the company will have an in-house designer, that way you know the design will be the same standard as those in the portfolio.
If it turns out the developer is also the designer, then I’d be a little cautious, typically developers aren’t the best at design, and designers aren’t the best at code. One of each is perfect.
- How many developers would be working on this project?
This will normally be 1 person, however multiple developers working on one project could be a benefit as multiple people will know the code should a bug arise or additional feature be required.
- What type of systems will they be looking at using?
Many developers will have their own content management system. Speaking as a developer, these systems are terrible 9/10 times, on top of that, they are very rarely needed.
A custom content management system will leave you stuck with that developer, with bigger overheads when it comes to new, or unique features.
If you can, stick to a popular system like WordPress or Drupal.
- How long are the typical development steps – e.g. specification, design and development.
Knowing timescales will enable you to realise how much time you have to get content and marketing set up for the website launch. Every project will have a different time scale, but the developer should be able to give a rough estimate.
- Will there be any on-going support and what will it consist of
There is always new tools and technology being released. The developer will also be undertaking other similar projects to yours. Does ideas and tools that will make your life easier, and your website better get filtered back or not?
You should come away from the meeting feeling confident that the developers understood your needs and be expecting to receive a quote in the next couple of days.
By understanding the type of work a company undertakes and how they work, you should be able to tell whether they are the right