A website creation or redesign is always an important undertaking, which requires a lot of time and resources, both human and financial. At first you may feel lost looking at the range of companies out there. From day one the success of your investment will depend on the agency you choose and communication you build with them. If you fail to find the right web developer, you will end up being stressed or, in a much worse case, you can end up with an underperforming website.
If you look at your new website from marketing perspective, it is a huge shift in establishing your brand that will define your company for the years to come. And creating a good website will involve an enormous effort while planning, creating content (including copywriting, imagery and videos), design and development, SEO and more depending on the type of business the website is created for. All this is invested not merely to showcase your creativity, but mainly to serve as a marketing and business development tool.
The success of this enterprise depends heavily on the choice of development agency that you hire. Here we present you with top 5 things to consider when you choose your developer.
1. Solid portfolio of custom web experience & references
First of all, look at the portfolios of the potential web development companies. Check some of the websites that each of the developers has created and evaluate their quality based on the parameters of attractive visuals, functionality, overall user experience and navigation. These days you will also want to see mobile optimization, so check if the websites have mobile or responsive design. Look at the degree, to which the website is customized to make sure that the developer is able to deliver tailored solutions with unique functionality.
It would also be useful to get a first-hand impression about the developer from their clients. You can try to reach some of them directly and ask for their feedbacks. Is the developer cooperative and easy to communicate with? Has the work been performed with due diligence? Would they recommend working with the agency? Does the developer tend to underperform in any aspects so you can look out for potential problems? No development company is perfect, but if they were able to handle occurring issues professionally, that is, too, a good indication of their reliability.
2. Transparent process and strategic approach
It is a good indication if the development company you are considering has a tried and tested strategic process from research to release stages of the project.
Website development is not a simple matter. As with any complex project, in web development there needs to be a well-defined plan embracing all phases and tasks within it. Besides, when so many people are involved in the project (designer, developer, SEO, copywriter etc.) you need an established process and clear strategy to synchronize and prioritize all aspects of their work, and make this multilateral collaboration efficient.
A long-standing company should have a process refined and augmented over the years of practice. If you get a sense of confidence in the company’s approach, understand their process is structured and how you as client would be involved at different stages, it is a sign that this web development agency is able to deliver the project.
3. In-house development team
Back ten years ago it was common to hire a marketing agency that would develop the visual content, and then outsource the coding to a developer. But now as websites become increasingly complex, certain aspects of web development require closer cooperation between members of the process. Say, you want to have responsive design for your website to look great on all screen sizes, and content of such website would have to be adjusted for different screens as well. Therefore copywriters, designers, developers all need to work in a tightly-knit team for the best result.
4. Marketing expertise
The numerous web development agencies that only build regular websites may be good technical specialists. But when you want to build a website for your specific industry, you need your web developer to be familiar with your market to create a website that is a truly powerful marketing and business development tool for your company. How the sales cycle works, what the procurement procedure is like, make sure they are knowledgeable in the relevant processes specific for your industry. In some industries you will also need critical aspects e.g. content strategy and site architecture to be proven by experts. At the same time, a web agency that has experience working in different markets, will bring their extensive expertise into your project and use another industry’s findings to help your website prosper.
5. Intuitive and customized CMS
An important component of website design is content management system (CMS). Whether it is WordPress, Drupal or Expression Engine, they all have certain basic functionality. But should you need any more individual features for your website, they would need to be customized. Custom websites should be built on highly-customized intuitive content management systems, but different developers build websites on such systems differently. It is therefore necessary to ensure that your web developer has a proven record of creating such back-ends.
It would be great for your evaluation process to see the back-end of an existing website (ideally, a few) that a potential developer has built. Look how the back-end is organized and how content is managed, how customized it is for their client’s business needs. Should all the aspect be satisfying, you can consider such web developer equal to the task of creating a similar back-end for you.
And last, but not least…
With your new development team you will spend hours discussing the project, coordinating the efforts between them, your own team and possibly your marketing agency. Now only does the development team have to be professionals, it is important that you are able to enjoy this partnership and have smooth communication with them throughout the project duration. So if during interview process you feel any signs of future misunderstandings or personality conflicts, work ethics etc., consider them with attention. After all, you will have to work with these people for months to come and being able to sustain good relationship – sometimes under stress – is extremely important.
We hope these tips will help you find your perfect web development company and explain better the evaluation criteria you should consider.