Things to Do Before Hiring a Web Developer

Before approaching web developers for estimates on building your new business’s site, there are a few things you should think through first so you are fully prepared for the questions you will be asked. Here’s a list of ten things to be clear on before making that important next step:

  1. Be clear on your business plan. This may sound obvious, but it has happened where I’ve been asked to build a website when the potential client only had an idea of what they wanted and no business foundation planned out at all. Are you sure you have a viable business idea that will provide you with a reasonable ROI or is this more of a hobby that you just want to dabble in? It is important to be clear on your intensions of what you want to accomplish first.
  2. Be clear on your business name.  Make sure you have a registered business name before creating any of your marketing materials. It could be a costly mistake to have to go back and change everything if you find out your business name has been rejected.
  3. Be clear on the product you sell or service you provide. Ensure you are clear on the product or service you offer so your developer knows what site features and design will work best to enhance them. Ask yourself if they are digital products or systems or a service for hire? How many products and how are they sold?
  4. Be clear on your brand. This does not mean you have to have your logo already designed (some web development companies can also design your logo and other stationery/marketing materials for you as well), but it does mean you need to be clear on the message you want to give others about you and your business. This is actually not an easy or quick process but makes a significant difference if you are clear on this before moving on to anything else. Often the designer/marketer that you hire to create the visual brand for you can help with this process or I recommend checking out BrandU where they help you through your brand definition process step-by-step. Once done, you will be very clear on not only the essence of our brand, but also the “look” of your brand so you can simply hand over your results to your designer to create it for you.
  5. Be clear on what you want your website to accomplish.  A site that does not have a clear call to action is not going to be effective in fulfilling its purpose. When visitors come to your site, what do you want them to do once there? What is your primary call to action?
  6. Be clear on how you are going to get site visitors into your database. The odds are slim that someone is going to purchase from you on their first visit to your site, so you need to plan out a way to capture their name and email address so you can keep in touch with them on a regular basis and develop a relationship with them.
  7. Be clear on what features you want on your site. Will it be a static “brochureware” site with standard 4-5 pages or do you want something more dynamic with features such as a blog, calendar, search function, photo gallery, shopping cart system, newsletter system, membership signup etc.?
  8. Be clear on your budget. Your developer needs to know a price range that you’re looking at so they can recommend a site build that will fit within your means. Keep in mind that your website is your primary marketing piece due to it being accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You don’t want to skimp with such an important and prominent showcase of your business! Don’t be fooled by the cheaper template options or “do it yourself” applications out there where, unless you have studied the intricate nuances of how the Internet works, search engine optimization and effective layout design, you run the  risk of scaring off your perfect customers instead of attracting them!
  9. Be clear on website maintenance.  Once your site is built, who is going to maintain it? The reason why this is important to determine before your site is built is due to the different ways it can be built. If you want to be able to update the site yourself, then you need your site built in a CMS (Content Management System) platform. This will put your site design into a template where you log in to make updates. Now before you get excited about the thought of saving all that money on doing this yourself, consider these points:
    1. Do you know enough about content layout and copywriting to make an effective marketing piece that looks professional to your perfect client?
    2. Do you know how to optimize images so they don’t slow down your site’s performance?
    3. Do you have enough time to do updates to your site?
    4. Are you aware you can’t write off your time that you spend on doing things yourself where you can if you have a professional take care of the updates for you? As you can tell, I am biased on this point… the reason is from working with over a  hundred clients over the years, these points always come up and they soon find out that even though it seemed they could “easily” update their site themselves, it rarely turned out that way. I heard from many that were extremely frustrated because they were working in an environment and medium totally foreign to them. Meanwhile they were wasting valuable time trying to learn to be a web developer instead of spending it on getting clients! Mind you, some people are more computer literate and can pick up on the more technical aspects required and they manage fine; however, it is still important to learn good copywriting skills and understand what makes an effective website before going the DIY route.
  10. Be sure you do your research on who to approach. You want to find someone with experience and skill who will partner with you to help you build your business. You want to avoid programmers who only do exactly what you tell them as opposed to others who can offer ideas, suggestions and be a part of your  team to be there as a valuable resource when needed. Always ask to talk to their clients to see what their experience was working with the developer. Be aware of those that claim to be developers when in reality, all they learned was how to use a “do it yourself” software like Microsoft Front Page. The quality of your site – both in design and in how it is coded – is very important on many levels so ensure the person you hire understands how to design and build a quality product for you.