How to Choose a Web Developer

Unless you know what to look for, choosing a web developer can be a very difficult task. Because there are no licensing requirements for web developers, and the barriers to entry are almost nonexistent, the web development market has become flooded with individuals and companies of all skill levels and capabilities. This whitepaper provides tips for what to consider when choosing a web developer.

Tip #1: Look for Specialization

Many web developers claim that they can do it all. The truth is that most web developers are primarily either graphic designers or programmers. The fields of graphic design and programming are fairly specialized and it is uncommon to find people who are able to do both well. When looking for a web developer, we suggest asking the professionals to designate who will be designing your web site and who will be doing any custom programming. If it is the same person doing both pieces, we advise paying even closer attention to their portfolio.

Tip #2: Look for a Strong Portfolio

The sites that a web developer has worked on are typically strong indications of the type of work that you can expect from them for your own web site. When reviewing a developer’s portfolio, keep an eye out for aspects that you want incorporated into your own site. If you are looking for a bleeding edge design, then look for those types of designs in their portfolio. If on the other hand you are looking for complex programming, make sure you tell the developer that you would like examples of those types of sites.

Tip #3: Expect a Focus on Marketing

In the early days of the Internet, simply having a web site was enough because not every company had one. Today however, a web site is an important aspect of marketing for small businesses. Make sure that your web developer will perform search engine optimization on your web site and that they will help you increase your rankings in search engines.

Tip #4: Understand Who Will Host Your Web Site

How a web development company hosts the web sites that they create is an important but often overlooked aspect of choosing a web developer. Many web development firms simply act as a reseller for a company that performs the hosting. The danger with this is that if you experience problems with your web site or email it sometimes isn’t clear who is responsible for fixing the issue. This can result in finger pointing between the web developer and the company involved in hosting the site when a problem occurs. This can be especially problematic with complex web sites that perform e-commerce or other custom functionality. Make sure that you understand who is responsible for assisting you with any hosting or email issues that you have before signing on with a web developer.

Tip #5: Think Long Term

There are several long term considerations that should be considered in your decision of which web developer to use. Make sure that you understand how ongoing maintenance will be charged and at what point your initial project ends and the maintenance phase of your relationship begins. It is also important to make sure that if your web developer will register a domain on your behalf that they put it in your name or the name of your business. This ensures that you can gain complete control over your domain in the event that you need to make a change to your hosting without the assistance of your web developer. Additionally, make sure that you have a copy of your web site. We’re always surprised at the number of people who spend many thousands of dollars on a web site but don’t have a copy of it in their own hands.

Tip #6: Request References and Actually Call Them

Once you reach the point where you have a web developer that you want to use, we recommend that you request references and actually call them. This will be one of your best indications of how the developer maintains and manages client relationships and it provides one last measure of safety before you begin your project.