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5 Things to Consider – Hiring a Development Firm

     -     Mar 3rd, 2014   -     Accounting Marketing, Web Design   -     0 Comments

Engaging a website development firm can be an enormous undertaking. There are several pain points in the process, and asking key questions, understanding answers, and deciphering tech-talk can all be a bit overwhelming.  A typical conversation between a partner and a marketing director might go something like this;

Partner: “We have some room in the budget for a new website, can you get some bids and find out what next steps are?”

Marketing Director: “Sure! I’ll start now.”

This leaves you tasked with a huge project, and the thought process usually starts with,  “But, where do I begin?” What should you be looking for? Why isn’t anything ever easy?

Consider these five key questions when looking for a website development team.

1.     Do they answer all of your questions?

A good development company should take the time to ask you about your project, find out what your needs are, understand the difference between what you need in a new website and what you want in a site.  Differentiating needs and wants can mean the difference between a $5,000 or a $20,000 website – so a development company that really takes the time to listen and answer questions should be able to tell you what you can reasonably expect based on your budget.

It’s okay for a development company to not have all the answers, but they should be able to get those answers for you within a short period of time.  It’s a good sign when you end a conversation feeling like they understand what you want, and they can return a proposal to you that clearly outlines your needs and highlights answers to key questions.  Don’t get lost in the tech-speak, if there is something you don’t understand – you should ask, and you should be given an answer that is simple and easy for you to understand.  These early communications are great indicators of what a working relationship will be like – so be sure to pay attention and feel at ease with the company you are speaking with.

2.     Do they have sparkling references?

When you prompt the company you are speaking with to provide you with references, are they able to give you a list of at least three companies’ that they have worked with in the recent past? Can they provide you with both the telephone number and email address for the client?

When you are able to speak with the reference, do they divulge information about their experience willingly? Or do you have to ask probing questions? A good indicator of a past client’s level of satisfaction is what they are willing to say without being prompted.  In addition, try to ask for references who have worked with the specific project manager that you would be working with.  Ask how recently the work was performed, and question if they would work with the firm again.  A really good website development company will not have anything to hide and will be more than willing to provide several references – so don’t be afraid to ask for them!

3.    Are they being up front and honest about the process? 

Does the price you were quoted seem just to good to be true? Don’t forget to ask where additional fees might come into play, and if these terms aren’t outlined in your proposal – this is a red flag!

Ask about hosting fees, design fees, revisions fees, delay fees, additional design or development costs.  Custom programming costs etc… and be sure you are very clear about what is included in a basic contract.  Some companies will include basic search engine optimization, while for others there is an additional cost.  Some companies charge a recurring monthly maintenance fee while others do not.  Ask these kinds of questions up front, get the answers in writing if you are serious about working with a specific company – and trust your instinct if something doesn’t seem quite right.

Ask where most delays occur.  No company is perfect (and neither is any client), so it’s important to ask them to be transparent about where they might expect a delay.  Often we see delays in the content acquisition part of the website, not always – but this is one of the more challenging aspects when it comes to website development.  So be sure to ask the company you are speaking with if they experience delays in any specific area and why – this is also an opportunity to learn where you might be able to come to the table more prepared even before starting a project – thus making it run more smoothly.

 4.     Do they have experience with businesses like yours?

It helps to have some background knowledge about an industry for a number of reasons.  It sets expectations about timelines and potential delays – for instance, tax deadlines are busy times for CPAs. Working with a company that understands the timelines can be very advantageous when planning a website launch.

Working with a company who doesn’t need to research your business in order to understand it will alleviate a lot of the communication pressures for both of you.  It allows the web development business to focus on your business in a meaningful way that can have a deeper impact on the kind of website experience they create, and it allows you to trust that the company is working with your business’s interests in mind.

 5.     Are they selling you something realistic?

It’s easy for a company to get really excited about your website project, but make sure that the picture they paint for you is realistic.  Setting the bar too high will mean disappointment for both the developer and your company.  Look for a company that can break a large project into multiple phases so that you can experience small successes throughout the timeline of the project. Also look for a company that sets realistic deadlines and timelines.  Promising a new website to be launched in less than 3 months is a big promise – it’s not that it can’t be done, but there are many variables to consider. Finally, find a company that is excited to work with you, but also sets realistic expectations for the work at hand.

Have you recently worked with a website development company? What would you add to this list?

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