Reviewing bids from multiple developers? Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. I recently started a discussion about the differences between fixed-price bids and estimates; but there are other factors to consider when selecting a partner for your web project, and I wanted to touch on some of those as well.
If you want a website for your business, you’ll be faced with a lot of choices like building it yourself, asking a friend or family member, hiring an independent contractor (either offshore or on), or hiring a development firm. As a smart consumer, you want to make the right choice, but how do you sift through all the options to determine what’s best for you and your company?
Ask the Tough Questions
Think of your web developer as a partner – one with the technical skills necessary to help take your business to the next level. Websites last a long time and, as such, the developer you choose should be as committed to your success as he or she is to winning your project. A good developer will take the time to ask the right questions, such as:
- What are your short-term and long-term goals for the site?
- What marketing and business problems does the site solve?
- Will the site change how you do business and are you ready?
- How much do you have to invest?
Only when he or she fully understands your needs will a developer be able to create a plan to meet them.
Seek Out Flexibility and Experience
There is always more than one way to solve a problem. Experienced developers with a broad technology base can provide you with a range of solutions, so you can pick the approach that’s best suited to your goals and budget.
Whether you choose a team or an individual, ask questions that uncover how your candidates think. Good developers earn higher fees not just by building what they’re asked to build faster and better, but also by using their insight and expertise to hit your goals, pushing the limits of what’s possible.
Match Team Size to Problem Size
Easy problems and smaller projects tend to fit solo developers and small teams best. A small business website, for example, needs design, programming, marketing, copywriting and SEO. Hiring a designer, front and back-end developers, a copywriter, an SEO expert and a marketing specialist would be cost-prohibitive. It is possible, however, to find a freelancer or small team with some experience in all those areas that can deliver good results for a reasonable price.
As the size and complexity of the project increases, so does the need for specialized talent and a larger team. Larger development teams offer broader technical capabilities, deeper understanding, more flexibility and more ideas than an individual developer or small team. Complicated technical builds like order-management and inventory systems require teams that understand the technical sides of ecommerce and order fulfillment. Design and animation-heavy sites require a variety of artistic talent and programmers who can creatively implement the vision. Large projects also call for more manpower in well-organized groups to get the work done timely and cost-effectively.
Putting a big team on a small project, or an undersized team on a big project, is a recipe for missed deadlines and blown budgets.
Plan for the Future
Businesses grow and needs change. As you interview developers, be mindful of their abilities to meet your needs both now and in the future.
Let’s say you currently need a simple site to direct customers to your brick-and-mortar store. Your long-term goals, however, are to open additional locations, start marketing with social media, and expand into ecommerce. It might make more sense to pay more for the small site in order to establish a relationship with a bigger firm than to find an inexpensive freelancer who can only build the simple site.
As Technical Sales Consultant, Terry Parrott explains:
We’ve been approached many times by clients who have been left with a limited or low-quality website after working with an inexperienced developer. They want to make it better, but it hasn’t been built to support additional functionality. Unfortunately, any project becomes much harder and more expensive when it has to be done twice.
Just as your business will grow over time, so should your website. The developer you choose should have the foresight and toolkit to set you up for success and scalability from the start.
Find the Best Total Value
Of course, you can’t overlook cost when making your choice. But rather than just comparing hourly rates, focus instead on total value – what you’re really getting for your money. While it may be tempting to hire a friend, family member or inexpensive offshore developer to build your site, the long-term costs of maintaining that site may outweigh any short-term savings.
At the end of the day, what matters most is putting your best foot forward – getting the very best website you can for your investment.
It’s the same in every industry: you get what you pay for. If you opt for a lower-priced developer, there may be limits to what he or she can do for you. Whereas, if you hire a professional team, you’ll get to see a strong portfolio and references, be given multiple solutions to choose from, and have confidence that you’re getting a high-quality product. And as your business grows, you’ll get the support you need to ensure that your website keeps up.