The only thing constant in this world of mobile phones, internet and new website technology is change.
Every time you look up, it seems like there’s a new social network, a new app filing an IPO, or a new online threat to watch out for. It’s terrifying and amazing at the same time.
One thing that hasn’t changed since the internet became more necessary than shelter is this: successful brands almost ALWAYS have a kick-ass website.
Think about it: list out your favorite brands, the places you shop the most online, your favorite stores. They all have effective websites! They may not be the most attractive websites, but they are effective at doing their job. Just because your brand may not be the same as Dick’s (or any other major brand), it doesn’t mean that you should skimp on your web presence. In fact, it means you should invest more. This is where web developers come in.
Unless you’re an internet guru yourself, chances are you’re going to need one of us nerds one day. If you need a new site built, or just need to edit the functionality of an existing one, we’re your ghostbusters (the ones you call…. get it?).
In the event that you need to call our parents’ home looking for us, we want to make sure you know what to look for in a developer. If you don’t we could totally con you. Lexco won’t but you never know with all the looneys out there.
So, we put together this list of 8 things to know when evaluating web developers that will build the site that takes your brand to the next level. Do these things, and you’ll have yourself an awesome developer who can manage you web projects for years to come. Enjoy!
Know What You Want- BEFORE Evaluating Developers.
SO you know you need a new website, correct? Or maybe your current site just needs a makeover. Either way, before you jump on Wi-Fi and start searching for developers, you want to make sure you have a map of where you’re headed. You’ll hear this time and time again on this blog: your website is your brand’s identity. You don’t just create something without having a plan first, right?
Before you reach out to developers, you need to determine what the website is for. Will you be selling something directly through the site? Is the site going to be used primarily for blog posts and content? Do you anticipate having a huge audience, or is it more of a niched one? Do you anticipate selling a ton of ad space? Aligning your brand’s goals with your website is the first (and we believe, most important) step in developing an effective web presence.
My friends will tell you that when I go to a bar, there’s a good chance that when prompted for my drink order, I’ll tell the bartender to “surprise me”. Why? Mostly because I don’t prefer one thing over the other. But also because I like the spontaneity. The drink will be gone in five minutes (give or take) after all, right?
Your website is the opposite. It is an asset. It is something you can build on that will represent your brand on the web for years to come. Don’t just tell your developer to surprise you. Have an idea of where you’re at, and envision where you’d like your brand new website to help take you.
Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.
Similar to point #1 above, you want to make sure that you have a comprehensive plan for your website before you start looking for a developer.
We just talked about how important it is to know what you want. Now we’re taking it a step further. Once you’ve determined the primary objective for your site, it’s time to envision long-term usage. If you build a site with Squarespace or Wix because you don’t anticipate a ton of traffic or engagement, what happens when your visitor numbers skyrocket because of that large client you landed? Sure, you can always adapt the site at a later time, but not without paying more money and acquiring more headaches and things to manage.
A developer’s job is to do what you ask them to do. At Lexco, we struggle with this all the time. Many brands don’t understand websites (through no fault of their own), so they often neglect or misjudge the capabilities that they have. This practice can cost them precious growth down the line. We actually consult with our clients, and we have no problems telling them that their idea is ill-advised or ineffective compared to what they are looking for. But most web developers aren’t like us.
The plan you create is the plan your developer will execute. Our job as developers is to make your vision come to life. At Lexco, we take it a step further. We’ll only give you advice to help your business succeed. If you ask us to help you sell sweatsuits in Florida, many of us will just nod our head and do it. We won’t. Your success is our priority, whether you choose to do business with us or not.
Developers and Designers: Two Different Things.
I won’t spend too much time here because chances are you already know this. BUT in case you don’t, it’s true: if you need a site built, or features added, then you’re correct in looking for a developer. If you just need to have the display stylized, then you’re looking for a designer- many designers don’t know how to build sites and add features, so keep that in mind.
One thing to note is that some of the larger website agencies have both developers and designers on staff. Likewise, you’ll find many smaller agencies and freelancers that specialize in one area, but have dabbled in the other discipline as well. When evaluating professionals, be sure to ask exactly what services they provide, and be sure those services align with your brand’s needs and goals.
Developers and designers typically work side-by-side to give clients a wide scope of expertise; just know what exactly you need before hiring so that you can maximize your budget and get the desired results.
Evaluate, Then Allocate, Your Budget.
While it seems to work in the favor of the web professionals, web development, design, and optimization are expensive services. It’s completely justified; not only are these time-consuming arts, but they require much detail and continuous editing and tweaking to get right. Still, many brands look at the price tag and almost cough up a lung.
While I won’t beat the “your website is an asset” horse to death here, I will say that whenever you’re dealing with technology, you get what you pay for. I mentioned in an earlier article about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that if what you’re paying seems too good to be true, then it most definitely is. Same goes for your website.
When looking at your budget, determine these few things:
- What do we need? (Large or small site, many or few features, development and/or design, etc.)
- What is our timeframe?
- Do we just need a website (typically a one-time project) or ongoing support and optimization (typically a monthly subscription)?
- Are we comfortable with a larger agency, or will an experienced freelancer be able to handle our project?
Websites can run anywhere from $500 to $25,000 depending on the number of pages, copywriting requirements, and features. The most important thing when looking for a developer is to be sure to look at this as a long-term investment- it may seem expensive up-front, but your website is an asset capable of making you an outlandish return on your investment. Create your budget with these pointers in mind, and stick to it.
Don’t Quiz- Analyze Instead.
So you’ve done all the preliminary planning and are prepared to hire a developer- time to do some interviews! You can hire freelancers through Upwork, or use Google (or Bing or Yahoo) to find developers.
The most important thing to remember when interviewing potential developers is that what matters is their ability to do your specific project. I have many self-taught developers on my team that are just as skilled (maybe moreso) as developers who studied it in school for 12 years. I’m a firm believer that in this industry, it’s less about knowledge and more about passion. This is important when asking questions because you want to skip the ‘quiz’ questions in favor of the ‘experience’ questions. I’d much rather have someone who’s built a functioning site for someone in my industry than someone who’s read a thousand books on developing for my industry.
Experience and passion always bring out the best in developers, so be sure you focus more on those things and less on their development book-smarts.
No brainer, won’t even talk through this point: ask to see 3-5 of the sites they’ve developed. Evaluate the feel of the website, how smooth and user-friendly it is. Skip the aesthetic judgments (unless you’re interviewing a designer) and focus on the usability of the sites. Oftentimes this step alone will tell you what you need to know.
Test Their Abilities.
On the fence about this agency? Stuck choosing between three good candidates? Like our motto here at Lexco, there’s one way to find out who’s right and who’s wrong: TEST ‘EM! Give them a small project to do and evaluate from there:
- Did they ask questions?
- Did they do it in the requested timeframe?
- Did they do it correctly?
- How was their attention-to-detail?
All of these things are important to consider when testing a potential vendor. I like to have them build landing pages because they’re simple, but they also say a lot about a developer’s understanding of the importance of conversions. No matter the project, test them out and evaluate the results- your least favorite candidate could ‘wow’ you just like your leading candidate could drop the ball. Protect yourself from making the wrong decision by administering a test of their abilities.
Evaluate Their Fit With Your Brand’s Culture.
At the end of the day, your developer is more than just a vendor- they took your vision and made it a reality, with a website that will be the cornerstone of your brand for a long-term future. It’s perfectly natural to pay a developer, have your site built, shake hands upon completion, and never speak again. But who likes an amazing date with no follow-up texts or plans to meet up again?
We recommend hiring a developer that meshes well with your brand: do they have the same values? Do they work at the same pace? Are they responsive? Hiring someone that fits your brand’s vision and culture is a major key: not only will it offer you greater input (thanks to your heightened level of comfort), but it will also ensure you a long-term partner who can help you with issues or questions that may arise with the seemingly weekly changes to technology and the Web.
So there you have it: 8 things to know before hiring someone to build (or tweak) your website. If you liked this article, follow lexco’s blog for more information on web development, branding, and digital marketing!