Anyone who owns a business should have a website. It seems like a no-brainer at this point but you would be surprised how many small to medium-sized businesses don’t have websites (Yelp listings doesn’t count) in this day and age. So what’s the holdup you ask? Many traditional companies find the whole process of building and maintaining a website intimidating.
Because the internet is a relatively new thing (compared to older industries) and there are so many would-be experts it’s easy to see why someone who’s never dipped their toes in the digital water are a bit timid. There’s so many variables that go into developing a new website.
What Technologies to Use
There are so many to choose from: PHP,Ruby on Rails, .NET (stay away from that), Java, and many more. Many of these technologies power popular content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Magento (all built using PHP). One thing you definitely want to ask for is CMS integration. This gives you the ability (with little to no coding knowledge) to make basic website changes including the aesthetics and most importantly what’s on the page itself. Editing static web pages requires a working knowledge of HTML and CSS (which make up the foundation of most all websites).
A content management system is basically software that’s installed on your web server. They use databases to store and organize dynamic content, meaning that the content of your web pages will always be securely backed up on a database with whoever your hosting provider is. It’s simply a must for business owners who don’t want to spend a fortune on web site maintenance. Ask your developer if they have similar experience building websites that enable past clients to go in and edit content themselves.
Where to Find a Quality Developer
This is certainly the most challenging aspect of building your new website. There isn’t exactly a universal directory of web developers to choose from (there may be a few job board websites but nothing mainstream yet) so using a Google search is most likely your best bet.
Be careful though, just because someone ranks high in search results doesn’t automatically qualify them to develop and design your website. SEO is profitable for good reason, it gives instant credibility to developers who may not exactly have the right experience and/or technical background to tackle your website project.
Go Beyond the Search, Start Asking Questions
Once you have found someone remember to adhere to the age-old principle of checking references. Some things you may want to ask a prospective web developer:
- Portfolio of work. Well duh. Ask to see what sites they’ve built in the past.
- Customer support experience. When talking to clients they’ve worked with in the past the most important thing to inquire about is the developer’s reliability. We’ve all heard horror stories of how web developers have left their clients hanging by either not answering emails or returning phone calls. If you want to get serious about marketing and maintaining your website you need someone who can make changes within a reasonable time frame.
- Availability. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the support thing but it’s important to establish set support hours where you can call or chat with the developer about changes that may need to be made. Even if it’s a couple of hour per week.
- Are they developing full time? A lot of developers will build websites as side projects. The paradox lies within how much money you’re willing to spend. If you don’t have the capital to hire a full-out web development firm then you’re probably going to have to hire a developer/independent consultant that does it on the side.
How Much Should You Spend on Your Website?
This is tough to answer. It’s probably the most asked (rightfully so) question when hiring someone to develop a new website. A lot of companies (especially in India) claim to charge as little as $300 for a full website. The quality though, is often noticeably lacking. What you usually get is a stock WordPress template with a couple colors added in.
The same thing stands true in web development as it does with most products you buy, “you get what you pay for.” If you’re serious about your business then prepare on setting aside at least a few thousand dollars to build a quality, built to scale website. We live in a digital age where people are looking you up on their phones and mobile devices more than newspaper ads and phone books so having a digital presence is a must for any modern business. Choosing the right web developer is now one of the most important business decisions anyone can make.