So, you have your killer business idea nailed down. Initial startup funding is in place to allow for initial costs. Now you need to make decisions about how to begin your roll out plan. This step usually includes selecting a company website developer.
As much fun as it sounds, and as exciting as it can be, getting your business website up and running properly is not always the cake walk new entrepreneurs think it will be. In fact, this is one area where small missteps can have huge ramifications on all aspects of your business including burning through your budget, missed launch dates, wrecked marketing plans, and stalled funding.
As a serial entrepreneur, and owner of a website development firm, I have compiled a few things every entrepreneur should consider when deciding who to trust with this “all important” business step:
Will the website be upgradable and scalable?
Sometimes a website developer is limited either by their skill set, or by technology, as to what can be implemented. If this is just a matter of hiring on another person to fill out the work load at that point, no big deal. If the platform or design that is being used is not conducive to the expansion you foresee, that could be a big deal.
For instance, if you will need an interactive database later on and your current developer can’t handle that — there is potential trouble ahead. Expect extra costs ranging from reasonable to a complete rebuild later on. A good developer should ask a lot of questions, understand where you are headed, offer advice about what issue might arise in the development process, and suggest phases (or even an expansion plan) if needed. Many sites are in fact a team effort bringing together various web experts.
What SEO steps you are taking?
“Huh?” Or “mumble, mumble, grunt” are both bad answers. Your website developer, or at least someone on the development team, should have a strong SEO background and involve SEO strategies from the very beginning. The time to talk SEO is upfront, not after your business site has launched. If they are unsure, not clear in their answers or leave you confused — get a second opinion.
Do you have website specs?
Where’s your website spec sheet? Before shopping around for website developers make sure you have thought through (and written down) as much as possible about how your new business website should operate, features needed, goals you want it to accomplish, and the look and feel you are after. All that will be decided sooner or later in the website development process and the earlier you can make those determinations the lower the costs and the more likely you will get an end product you want.
Is there trust – patience, understanding, and communication?
Both you and your website developer need to be comfortably on the same path; working toward the same goal. You need someone who understands what you are trying to accomplish, will work with you to keep the project moving forward, has constructive input and builds a sense of trust. Too busy to talk details? Not interested in that little thing that is so important to you? Speaks in “tech talk” and leaves you wondering what they said? Move on.
Who creates the website content?
You can’t build a site without content. Where does it come from? A good developer will discuss this with you in some detail. All images should be identified as to location, source, size, and who is responsible. Same thing for copy and text type content. This is not something to be figured out after you are several weeks into the project and the finger pointing starts.
Is there a comprehensive web design contract?
I would rather see a ten page web development contract than none at all. A contract is simply a way of deciding ahead of time how a relationship between the two of you will work, who needs to do what, and the procedure when a problem or question arises. No contract? You are running blind and at the total mercy of the web developer. Good luck!
Have you checked references?
Does the developer have references posted on their website? Will they give you names of people to call? Do some sleuth work here and look for older websites they have built, call those people and see how the ongoing support actually is — if they provide it at all. Find the clients they haven’t given you names and numbers for and talk to them. Have a few specific, relevant questions ready so you can later evaluate apples to apples.
Does your website developer have a business license?
Do they have a license to conduct business? While there are some good techies who just work from their garage you might find it is better to select someone who treats what they do like a real business and has at least obtained a business license.
How much revision to the website is allowed?
This can be a sore point that develops into bad feelings if not addressed upfront. A developer is not going to be happy with a client who changes things a dozen times. And they shouldn’t be expected to be happy. It is a waste of time and effort. You, the client, should have a fairly clear idea of what you want built before you ask someone to build it. That doesn’t mean revisions aren’t needed or expected, they are. However, they should be addressed up front and defined so that everyone knows what is included in the price and what is extra.
What constitutes website completion?
There needs to be a clear definition of what constitutes completion of a website development project. That said, no website is ever really done. What we are talking about here are the project parameters being defined as in the agreement and contract. This is a very important part. If you think the developer should continue to tweak things for months until it is perfect and they don’t get paid until then — you will soon be looking for a new developer.
Truthfully, this is something common but often overlooked by new developers eager to get some business. It is a potentially big problem area and it should be addressed up front. If it isn’t, that is a warning sign that you need to look for someone a bit more seasoned.
Chris Bachman is a business consultant and Project Director at ProClass Web Design as well as a self-confessed serial entrepreneur. He is a regular writer on topics pertaining to marketing, SEO and business websites as well as an instructor and independent consultant. Connect with Chris on Google+.