A Guide to Choosing Your Web Developer

- Maureen Dillon 12.18.2014


We know companies are coming up on the year-end and taking a look at their budgets and goals for the upcoming year. Many are probably thinking it’s about time their website got a facelift—or maybe even an overhaul. You know, “new year, new you.” As a web development agency, we thought we’d give you a little inside information. Consider it an early Christmas present. Here are a few tips about some basics you can and should expect from your web developer from the start of your website redesign project through its close.

There are some things that we here at Green Egg Media (GEM) think clients ought to look for in a developer from the start. These things will set the tone of your project—and it’s always preferable to start off on the right note.

Your web developer should give you face time.

Not FaceTime—Steve Jobs already did that—but real, invested time in face-to-face (if possible) consultation on your needs and goals. Your web developer is going to have a huge impact on your web presence and on your experience of running your website. They need to ask you lots of questions and be very attentive listeners. Since they often will be handling both front-end and back-end, or at least be deeply involved in both, they need to have a very thorough understanding of your goals for both. In other words: “what do you want your experience to be in back-end management?” and “what do you want your users’ experience to be in the front-end interface?” Be prepared to talk all about your current site; how it’s maintained; what you love about it; what drives you crazy about it. Are you rebranding? They need to know what level of ongoing support you need; how technically trained and capable your internal web maintenance staff are; what system you’re using now; and whether that’s meeting your needs. After establishing what services you need, your web developer should also be clear about what services they can provide. Can they host your site? Do they offer ongoing support contracts? It’s a great idea to do a preliminary internal review of your goals for your new site, identifying the top changes you want to make, or top frontend/backend priorities you have. Of course a good developer can (and should) help you hammer these out more clearly, but having some specific goals in mind will generally ensure that your needs are better served.  

At GEM, we begin every project with a complete Client Needs Assessment. This assessment is conducted in order to ensure that we completely understand our clients’ needs before we design or build anything. Our Client Needs Assessment takes the form of a conversation between us and the key decision makers / influencers for the client. The conversation is detailed, usually taking about two hours to complete, but at the end, we emerge with a much more complete understanding of exactly what our clients need – not just what they want. We work with clients all over the country, so we can’t always sit down at the same table with our clients, but that doesn’t stop up from digging deep with them, covering questions related to their goals, objectives, value propositions, and metrics of success.

Your web developer should be an expert.

This seems obvious. But honestly? It’s not. And here’s why: there are a LOT of novice, hack-job web developers out there. These individuals may be able to help you set up your blog or a very basic site, but they aren’t qualified to give you a technologically up to date, state of the art, customized, responsive site. Now, this may overlap with the previous point, in that you may not be looking for that caliber of website. But if you are, you need to work with someone who builds websites, not someone who will simply help you choose your WordPress templates. We mean no disrespect here at all, but there is a difference and it’s a vital one. Take a look at the developer’s portfolio and note elements or features you like. Do the same with your competitors’ websites and ask the developer if they could implement something similar for you and how they would do it. An expert developer can give you essentially anything you want (within the constricts of time and budget).

You should receive a proposal: a personal one.

When you read the proposal, it should be that "He went to Jared" moment. The proposal you receive should be tailored to the needs and goals that you established during your initial meeting and should clearly present the services you discussed needing, the associated costs, and an expected timeline for the project. Scan the proposal closely for understanding of your needs. The proposal should be a good reflection of your initial conversation and can give you a good sense of how successfully you and your team communicate with the developer/ how well the developer grasps the scope and details of your project. 

You should be in the loop.

Your web developer should have a process for keeping you involved and informed throughout the development process. For example, here at GEM, we provide wireframes and mock-ups for our clients to make sure we are meeting expectations throughout. Again, a good web developer knows the value and impact of your website on your business and wants to ensure that you receive what you need and what you want. In your initial meeting or consultation, make sure you understand the “client review and approval” process the web developer has in place and at what stages you’ll have the opportunity to give further feedback and input on progress. 

Bonus tip—A note about timeline. 

Execution of a quality website, especially a responsive one, takes time. In our multi-screen world, a website is at its best advantage if it is built to adapt to various size screens (a.k.a. viewports). This means that design and mark-up have to anticipate the effects of different sized viewports and be created accordingly. Usability and functionality testing is also a must for guaranteeing client and user satisfaction. We’re not saying that your deadlines will be impossible to meet, but keep in mind that rushed products are rarely the greatest quality. You should expect your web developer to take the time to deliver a truly delightful product, but of course to stay within the timeline as much as possible. A good web developer will give you a realistic timeline projection, in light of your goals. A slightly longer timeline will likely be a worthwhile trade off for a stellar finished product.

We hope these tips give you some insights about choosing a web developer that will meet your needs. We’ve used our own web development experience, processes, client feedback, and research about what clients want, need, and appreciate to establish this list of standards that we try to uphold ourselves here at GEM. We’re confident that using them as guidelines will result in a overall greater experience with your website redesign project and overall greater satisfaction with the results!

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