Marketing, PR & Advertising and Technology

7 tips for choosing a website development partner

October 23, 2015
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Grand Rapids is a hotbed of small business startups and growth. As with every business, your website is a critical business investment.

Whether you’re starting a new business or ready to take your website to the next level, it’s likely you’re going to need help from a web design and development company. Websites are often a specialty or professional service that businesses and organizations aren’t able to do in house.

Think of it like your accounting, payroll, or even human resources functions. You need someone outside the company that can help. So how do you choose who will help you develop a website that fits your business?

There are many factors to consider before hiring a web developer. It is a big investment in budget dollars and your time. You don’t want to waste it. Here are some questions and considerations you can use to help gauge potential web developers.

1. Do they have your business in mind?

Your designer should focus on your business’ brand. If designed correctly, your website should convey your brand’s feel, culture and values. To ensure that this shows on your website, pay attention to whether developers are asking questions about your business, your culture and your mission. How well are they getting to know you and your brand?

2. What do you want your website to achieve?

How can they help you get there? Identify what the website can help achieve for your business. Is it generating leads, selling products, providing customer support or resources?

A good website development team will look at how the website can support your bottom line.

3. Do you like their previous designs?

Research, research, research. Go online and look at an agency’s portfolio to get a feel for the type of work they produce. Are the sites easy to navigate? Is the design pleasing to the eye? What design elements do they utilize; imagery, text and other styles are details that impact your user experience. Your web provider must have a style you like.

4. Are they experienced in SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is incredibly important for businesses to increase their online presence. It is part of your website’s foundation, so they should be talking about your on-page SEO elements and site structure, not just the pretty design. The Beginner's Guide to SEO from Moz is a great resource. Moz explains, “You can’t just build a perfect website and write great content; you also have to get that content shared and talked about.”

5. Will the quality of my site match the price?

Again, research, research, research — do we sound like a broken record? Good. Compare your potential developer’s work to others and take note of the quality of the content and design. Reach out to more than one developer and get a feel for the quality of their product compared to the price. You will want to gather this information to make sure you are getting the best return on your investment.

6. Do they have varied experiences?

The developer’s ability to work with a handful of different platforms offers flexibility for your business and an added breadth of knowledge. If they have a proprietary platform, be sure to ask about customer service and support. If it’s their system, only they can work on it. It’s kind of like getting a pre-nup, since you’re going to be married to them for the life of this website.

7. How much support will we need once the site has launched?

Who is going to update and take care of your website once the developer places it back in your hands? If the relationship between your developer and your business is not ongoing, make sure they communicate all necessary information to you in order to keep it running (passwords, hosting info, user manual). Determine which individual(s) within your company will be maintaining the website and set up an ongoing content calendar to ensure updates happen on a regular basis.

It seems that websites are treated more like a commodity than the true business tools they can be. Invest the time in talking with a few different firms to be sure you’re getting a reputable partner, someone who gets you and your business and most importantly, someone that will treat this like a business tool, not “just a website.” You could get that anywhere.

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