How to Choose a Web Development Company

Web 2.0 is complex and choosing the right web development firm can be difficult.  Before you jump into it, analyze what you will really need from a web development firm.  Staff, customers and clients can all help you determine what the requirements are, benefits expected, budget needed and net-benefits expected.  You may want to utilize tools such as questionnaires, surveys and meetings to gather this information.

After you’ve determined your needs and your budget, you may have questions on how to hire the right web development firm for your company.  All web development firms worth their salt have a slick online presence that is impressive but that doesn’t mean that they are the right firm for your business.  As you are working through this process, here are a few questions to ask potential web development firms:

  • How good is the company's own site?  They should be putting their best foot forward on their own website.  If a web development firm’s website doesn’t draw you in, move on.  
  • How’s their portfolio?  A web development company’s portfolio should be chock-full of original projects, each meeting the unique needs of the individual client.
  • Are they willing to share references?  Only work with companies that are willing to share current and prior references.  If it’s a new firm that doesn’t have a lot of references, use an escrow account or other method to guarantee that you are satisfied with the final results.  Don’t pay in full upfront.
  • Will the web development firm offer good Internet marketing advice?  Your website is not only an essential marketing tool, it very well may be the first and perhaps only contact with potential customers.  It is useless to have a website development company create a state-of-the-art website if customers can’t navigate it or you can’t market it.  The functionality needs to be tailored to the clients rather than only look sharp with a bunch of digital bells and whistles.  Moreover, will the web development company offer copywriting services incorporating search engine optimization (SEO) and the best keywords?  Are Google Adwords, social media and other techniques appropriate for your business and will they be incorporated?  Ask the tough questions.
  • Will you own the website's code?  Sometimes web development companies keep the code and website structure so that clients will only be able to make small changes themselves and need to go to the firm for any substantial changes.  If this is the case, will you be comfortable with that?  When the developers keep codes, they will generally be able to make any changes quickly, lessening your workload.  However if you own the code, you will be able to do whatever you want with the website − though it may increase your IT department's tasks.
  • Will you communicate with developers directly?  No one likes inefficiency.  If you need to talk to the specific person (or team) who will be writing the code, can you contact them without going through a manager or secretary?  Direct communication is preferable so nothing gets lost in the digital translation.
  • Will programmers and designers be involved?  Website programming and website design are different tasks.  Just because one person or company is good in the former, does not mean he or they will excel in the latter.  The best web development companies will have both programmers and designers working on every project.
  • What is the customer support plan?  Unless you have an extensive IT department, you will probably need to contact the web development company with any concerns.  Ask what you will get and at what price.  Support can range from 24-7 support to standard working hours and the support costs can have equally diverse ranges.
  • Is web hosting included?  Web development companies often host the websites that they create.  So, potential customers need to know their record.  How often does downtime occur?  What protections are there against hackers and viruses?  How often will the website be backed-up?  Do not believe any too good to be true stats such as 100 percent up-time − problems always occur (Murphy's Law had something to say about that).

Deciding which website-development firm to choose is complex.  We hope this list will give you a good guide to get started.

Squeezed Tip courtesy of the leading web development firm Wakefly −

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