Your website is often your first — and sometimes only — opportunity to make a good impression on a potential customer. A talented web developer is a crucial partner in helping you sway prospects and keep customers on your website.
When vetting a website developer, asking the right questions is critical. The candidate’s answers will help you determine whether they genuinely understand your vision. You can evaluate their experience and determine if they have the right skills to help you create a fast, functional website that delivers an outstanding user experience.
Ask potential website developers the following 16 questions to determine if they’re the right partner for you and your business.
Describe in detail what you want from your website, and ask them to repeat it back to you. Ensure they genuinely understand what you’re looking for — and can deliver it.
Remember that e-commerce websites require different developer skills than standard brochure websites do. If a potential developer has little experience setting up an online store, that’s a problem. Their lack of practical knowledge could lead to long delays as they try to learn and master new skills.
Your developer should dig deeper into your business to ensure the website can support its needs.
Ask the following questions about their research process:
If your developer doesn’t grasp what your business is about, visitors will arrive at a site inconsistent with your image, mission and goals.
Remember that small business website design is just another form of marketing. You wouldn’t entrust your business to a marketing agency that didn’t understand your customers.
If a developer doesn’t understand why meeting deadlines is critical, work with someone who does. Developers take different lengths of time to complete their tasks, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, you must ensure your developer understands that your business will face consequences if agreed-upon deadlines aren’t met.
If your developer can’t offer you a firm completion date, have them commit to a maximum price they won’t exceed if they miss crucial deadlines.
Use one of the best freelance developer websites to hire a freelance web developer. Freelancers often charge less than independent developers and agencies, but they may take longer to complete projects.
Many developers package web design with related services. It’s essential to be clear on what they’ll actually provide. Consider the following possible offerings:
List the services you need and determine the developer’s ability to deliver.
Search engine optimization is a way of coding, writing and designing your website so it ranks as highly as possible on Google.
Ask your developer about their experience in SEO and what strategy they’ll use for your site. How will they increase your site’s visibility to search engines? If they don’t do keyword research and employ other proven technical SEO strategies, go with someone else.
A website should attract potential clients, grab their interest, and successfully convert leads. If no one can find your website, it will fail at all three goals.
Successful small business SEO strategies target high-volume, low-competition keywords to build up traffic quickly. For example, if you run a furniture store, you might compete for niche terms like “four-seat gray corner sofa” instead of “sofa.”
Websites should not be historical documents that capture an isolated moment in time. They must be dynamic, reflecting changes in the business, market and industry.
Paying your developer for every new page or edit is impractical. If they enable easy access, you can add new information and update existing pages independently.
Ask them what software or platform they’ll use to build your site. Have them demonstrate how to access and edit your site without their help. Ensure your developer’s chosen solution gives you the necessary access level.
Ask potential developers if they provide content marketing as part of their package.
Content marketing is a successful search engine optimization technique that improves Google rankings and customer engagement levels. However, you may not need this service if you already have a content marketing strategy for your business or a social media manager who handles content marketing.
If you want an honest, unbiased opinion about what it’s like to work with your potential developer, talk to their references and previous clients. Additionally, check for positive customer reviews on Google or Yelp to gauge how clients view the developer.
How much do you want to be involved in the web design process? Do you want veto power over every decision, or do you want to leave everything to the professional?
Your developer also must know how involved you’ll be. If you’re not working in harmony from the start, you won’t get the results you want at the finish line.
Developers charge various rates based on the job’s scope and their skills and experience. Determine your website budget and cap the maximum you’re willing to pay.
Don’t always opt for the cheapest developer you can find. It’s better to spend more on a job well done than pay more later to bring the quality up to your standards.
When negotiating with freelancers or developers, let them suggest a rate first. If you’re happy with the rate, everyone wins: You stay within your budget, and the developer knows you value their skills fairly.
Web developers often offer multiple services beyond design and e-commerce, including content and social media marketing packages. However, some developers outsource services to third parties because they lack the experience or staff to do the job correctly.
There’s nothing wrong with a developer outsourcing tasks — you can still get excellent results. But be aware that outsourcing may lead to project delays and extra costs if your developer and their subcontractors don’t communicate well.
When working with a web developer that outsources projects, research their partners to determine their qualifications as well.
At the very least, you’ll need to provide your company branding assets and guidelines, including logo files, fonts and colors. Determine with your developer who will deliver additional content, photos, brand images and graphics for the website.
Some web developers and agencies will create or provide these website elements, but you’ll see this work reflected in your bill.
Project timelines often change amid work alterations or mid-project course changes. Remember, the longer it takes to develop a website, the more it will cost. Additionally, repeated delays will push back the launch date. And without a live website, you won’t be attracting and converting new customers online.
Before you sign with a developer, agree on the significant milestones they must achieve. Next, agree on milestone timelines and the actual launch date. Additionally, before the project gets underway, set up communication tools or create a communication framework with the developer so you can communicate easily and freely during the process.
Your web developer may offer the choice between a custom website and a template website.
Whichever option you choose, ensure your web developer is comfortable creating both template and custom websites.
A developer’s job is to interpret your input and turn it into a design. Often, their first version won’t quite match yours. It’s no one’s fault — conveying these ideas is hard.
Many web developers and design agencies allow a set number of revisions during the approval process. Before signing an agreement, ensure you agree on how many changes you’re entitled to and the cost of subsequent revisions.
Without a firm fee agreement, a reasonable initial quote could turn into an eye-wateringly massive invoice if the project is managed poorly.
Web developers create stunning websites that add genuine value to your business. However, there are risks whenever you outsource work to another person or company. Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of working with a web developer.
Thomas Griffin contributed to this article.