Thinking of setting up a website/ecommerce site? There are plenty of website developers out there, the trick is finding the right one for your business. Your website developer and designer are important keys to your business success and if you have a limited budget, you’ll need to plan wisely.
You may embark on the project with a team of developers only to find months later that they’re slow to deliver or taken on more clients and become too busy for you. By then you may have already paid a deposit and are unable to turn back because of the targets you’ve set yourself. Some companies have a product developer or someone who acts as an interface between you and the web developer. If you are dealing with the web developer directly yourself, you need to know how to negotiate that.
You place a huge amount of trust in their organisation and unless you have someone to draft up a water tight contract on your behalf, you’re really at their mercy. The Brown Pages understands this and has provided a few tips to finding a good website developer. This list isn’t conclusive – you’ll still need to do your homework.
1) First things first, if it's an ecommerce site, do your business plan and project plan for the website including a proposed sitemap. Develop your cashflow forecasts and from that, work out a proposed timeline for the website, from start to finish.
2) Next you’ll need to choose a website developer/programmer and a website designer. The developer/programmer does all the technical stuff behind the website and builds the structure of the site. The designer makes it look pretty. Some organisations do both, but if you’re after a particular look and feel (be it ethnic, industry specific, locational etc), you’ll need to find a separate designer who understands what you want and knows how to design for the internet. With Maori, Pacific and indigenous designs, a non-ethnic person may not know how to treat your cultural ideas. Include the designer in your meetings with the developer so they know what they each need to provide to make your product work.
3) Look at the website developer’s client base. Do you fit in with their clients? Are they about to expand overseas? If you are a small client compared to their other clients, chances are you could be sidelined whenever bigger clients have requests.
4) Don’t just look at the websites they’ve produced but ring up a few of their clients and ask for feedback. Visit their premises and get a feel for their operation.
5) Check your website developer’s company has good, open lines of communications. Ask them who you’ll be dealing with and make sure they speak English properly. Also, will they return your phone calls and emails within 24 hours? Write this in your contract.
6) Check if the organisation is creative and thinks outside the box. Some developrs will only give you the minimum that you ask for without thinking about potential opportunities or risks. Remember, they may only operate from their own technical point of view not the end user’s point of view. And at the end of the day, they should be helping you create a business.
7) Check that they understand what your business is about and what you’re trying to achieve. Do they believe in your vision? Do they seem enthusiastic about it? Or is it just another job that they’re trying to get rid of so they can move onto other clients?
8) Give the designers everything they need in a timely manner and keep in touch with them everyday to make sure they are progressing. It may seem a bit of a nuisance – after all, you’re paying them because they know what they’re doing. That may be so, but you can’t assume that the designer will give you everything you ask for.
9) How busy are you? Do you have the time to manage and monitor this project? If not, make sure you or someone else makes the time to do this. Sometimes there can be an “out of sight out of mind” mentality. Meaning if you’re not on their case, they’ll set you further down their list of priorities until you ring up yelling for results.
10) If you are going to update the website yourself, make sure they give you a full manual on instructions and some training on how to use the website.
11) Ask them for a checklist of milestones for your project from start to finish. Write this into your contract, and make sure they deliver on those dates. This way you minimise the product delivery being drip fed to you.
12) Insist in the contract that full and final payment will not be given until the final product is delivered (tested and online for one month to pick up other bugs). If they press you for money BEFORE you’re satisfied with everything, don’t budge. You don’t want to be stuck with a lemon.
13) Check their invoices and ask them to itemise hour by hour what has been done and then check this.
14) Remember that you are the client. You should not have to work according to your website designer’s timeline or schedule. They should work in with YOUR timeline.
15) Remember that you are a business. The product should be delivered in a timely manner because it aligns to your business cashflow forecasts and targets. No website or a flawed website means no business sales and no money.
16) If you are developing a unique product or service via your website, check that website designer will not sell this concept off to others. You may have shown them a new way of applying technology and it is your intellectual property. Work this into your contract.
We hope these tips are helpful. Good luck with your project.