A guest post for you today by Robert Dall, Developer at 32 Spokes Design.
F inding someone to build your website is a lot like finding a mechanic for your car. There are a lot of people who do it, or say they can. Some fix cars out of their backyard, others in their garage, some out of a gas station and others from exclusive car dealerships. The cost and expertise run the gamut, and price doesn’t exactly equal quality. But like all professional relationships, there is a fair amount of trust that goes on.
But if you can avoid some of these pitfalls you will be better off.
Owning your own domain
Do you have a web developer who will “take care of everything?” Well, the convenience comes at a cost. You need access to your own domain. To put this into context, you would be giving keys to your apartment / house to someone else and every time you wanted to enter you’d have the ask for the keys!
Don’t know how to set anything up? That is fine… all you need to do is pay for the domain and be named as the main contact. But if you’re not listed as the owner of the domain you’re just asking for trouble and heartache.
Access to your server admin
You many personally never need to access your server yourself. But if you don’t have access / passwords and they are all part of a package deal, you won’t have any control or authority over anything. I am not suggesting you start editing files and deleting files… But if we go back to the car analogy you’ll need be able to open up the hood even if you don’t want (and shouldn’t) touch anything inside of it. What happens if your web developer leaves for a six month African safari? Do you have the ability to get another developer to take over the project?
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this:
“We had a developer, but they went out of business and we don’t know how to access our website?”
You might as well start over again… Try to copy and paste as much content as you can from the site. Your hosting company may try and help you regain access… But if you aren’t listed anywhere as a contact you are in for a world of hurt.
Own your own domain and rent your own server space and name yourself as the admin contact (your developer should be named technical contact). If your developer says that isn’t part of the service he/she offers, I suggest you walk… You won’t own anything on that site. Nor could you get your content off his site if you try and leave the service.
(With notable exceptions to: Squarespace, WordPress.com, Tumblr I have checked out these three and if you like their approach that’s awesome. Although Tumblr is more of a blogging space)
That way, if the company goes bust or the developer wants to go on that six month African safari with your contact information you won’t have to start over.
“We can get you to the top of any search engine with in 7 days…”
Should be avoided at all costs… They will do more damage then good and the search engines these days are working harder and harder to find more meaningful and relevant content.
Done all that? Great… Lets move forward to actually finding you a developer.
Next step is to find someone that works well with your field of business. Even though I have done a variety of websites for different types of business, they all have similar things in common.
For example, I don’t have any realtors in my portfolio because their websites and the integration with the multiple listing service (MLS) in my mind is a specialization, and I feel I won’t be able to do as good as a job as a web developer who works with a lot of realtors.
Also look at their current portfolio… Do the websites work? How old do the websites look? Does the company have any feedback? Where is the company located?
I do work with some clients I have never met… But it is harder to do. Not saying it shouldn’t or can’t be done… But I have found a longer and better-understood relationship if the parties can meet face to face and get a feel for each other.
Avoid hiring friends and family
I have gotten close to some clients after years of working with them. But at the end of the day I am still the web developer and they are still the client. It is quite rare for me to do work for friends and family as the dynamic between client and developer changes.
Layout the cost at the start
I came across a company that would sell you a website for $300 and then there would be an extra fee for everything… Customers ended up paying double for a website because the cost of the website wasn’t up front.
Nor was there a contact in place to explain what was considered an overage or extra fee. Everything was an extra fee.
I write into my estimates and contracts a clear explanation of what is the responsibility of the developer and what is the responsibility of the clients.
Research the firm or the developer you have hired. Google them see who they have also done work for.
If you wanted to go one further you could check out the local meetup groups to see who is involved in the development community of that area of work. For example here is the local meetup group for WordPress developers. http://www.meetup.com/Vancouver-WordPress-Meetup-Group/
Last but not least: Referrals
I do a fair amount of business via referrals. But ask your business associates and your friend who did their websites. Then call up the developer and see what services are offered.
Robert has been a professional web designer for 5 years now and has stopped counting the list of WordPress websites he has created on his fingers and toes. He loves drinking amazing coffee, still schleps his camera around and conducts his daily business and personal errands on his trusty bike. He splits his time between the small community of Sechelt, BC and the West Coast metropolis of Vancouver, Canada.
The majority of Robert’s training and experience has come from an exhaustive list of Meetups, WordCamps, but also has a Diploma in Journalism Arts and Certificate in New Media Design & Web Development.