Your website is your digital face to the world. Done well, it will not only influence your audience—accelerating their time to decision—it will make taking action a breeze. So, whether you’re launching your first website or searching for a new team to bring in fresh perspectives, you need to know how to find a web developer that can deliver.
Discover what you should be thinking about in your search process—and the questions you should be sure to ask any web development company before you turn over your critical asset.
What to look for in a web developer
Whether you think your project will be best handled by a boutique agency or a big shop, there are a few key factors that should weigh heavily into your decision.
An established history of success
We get it. When you’ve got a lot of demands for your finite budget, a cheap website bid can seem irresistible. We urge you: Resist.
It can be very seductive to go with a cheap provider. They may even be faster at the outset, as many just cut-and-paste disparate code to cobble together a site. But the initial speed and lower up-front cost come with a more significant long-term expense.
While you might pay a higher hourly rate by going with an experienced web team, that experience means the agency creates a site that is more stable and higher performing. And, that translates to greater value at the end of the day.
What’s more, their years of experience mean they’ll be more likely to spot any digital quicksand and help you deftly navigate around it, keeping your project on-time and on-budget.
Remember what mom always said: You get what you pay for. Cheap now is almost always more expensive in the long run.
A commitment to transparency
A great digital agency understands that project transparency is a win-win.
That means responding to your requests for greater detail into the scope and estimate they delivered. It means a willingness to not only select solutions for your web project, but to clearly explain the reasoning behind those choices—and the benefits to you. It also means keeping you abreast of your project’s status—whether that’s through a shared project management tool, like Basecamp, or regular project status meetings.
At the end of the day, this kind of transparency protects both parties and helps ensure a smooth process.
Clear, responsive communication
You shouldn’t have to brush away the cobwebs from your project questions and requests.
Look for a digital agency that gives clear, direct answers to your questions in a timely manner. This kind of communication not only fosters a great relationship, but it also helps deliver a web project as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Questions to ask a web development company as you assess your shortlist
Okay, so it’s time to make some calls and find your best-fit agency. What should you ask? And, what should you expect to hear from your prospective web developer?
We’ll get you started.
How many websites of similar scope have you built?
It’s important to remember that not all web development experience is equal.
If your website requires unique functionality, make sure you ask the prospective agency if they have any previous experience in that kind of development. This will help ensure the developer isn’t learning on the job on your dime and potentially blowing up budgets and timelines when they encounter something a more experienced developer would have spotted early.
What’s your process for taking a project from initial intake to site launch?
Every agency will employ a different process and there is no “right” answer to this question. That said, you should expect to hear a clear, confident answer and an explanation of the benefits to their particular approach.
You should also expect that there will be a kickoff meeting in which your project goals and requirements are defined, ultimately resulting in a website definition document that ensures everyone is on the same page before the work really begins.
Keep in mind that not every agency will dedicate time to a strategy phase. This, however, is where your opportunity to find efficiencies, prevent scope creep, and really move the needle resides. If you’re running on a tight budget, consider ways you might be able to cut back elsewhere to accommodate this critical work. Perhaps you could contribute to copy development—or develop a minimal viable product and expand the site in phases later.
Who will lead my website development project?
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to developing a website. Meet your team leads and project manager. Find out how they intend to help drive efficiency, ensure clear expectations, and protect your budget.
These conversations offer the quick gut-check that will allow you to see if you feel comfortable in their hands.
Who will develop my website and what are their qualifications?
Make sure you know exactly who will be writing, designing, and coding your website, not just the team leads. You’ll want to understand the capabilities and experience of everyone who will be touching your site.
Then, be sure to ask the agency to follow-up with team bios.
Will you design and develop the website in-house or farm out the work?
Some smaller agencies may work with subcontractors to cost-effectively deliver a broad range of client services. And, that can be okay, as long as all the other pieces are in place. Just be sure you know who those contractors are and request their credentials, as well.
What tools do you have in place to manage my web project effectively?
There are lots of great tools and methodologies out there so the answers here may vary quite a bit.
The key is that the web agency has something in place to:
- Manage both agency and client deadlines and deliverables
- Ensure greater transparency
- Hold everyone accountable
This will, ultimately, help everyone involved deliver the website on time and on budget.
What recommendations do you have for ensuring effective client/agency communication?
Be sure to ask this question before your project begins.
Knowing the best way to work with your agency will help you avoid burning lots of hours on project management. Your agency may suggest batching your questions as opposed to sending them one at a time, for example. They might also recommend using a shared project management tool so communications don’t get lost in Inbox Hell.
How will you track the performance of my website?
As part of your web development project, you should expect that your web agency will implement Google Tag Manager and work with you to define your KPIs. This will enable you to track site performance right from the get-go and iterate your site to drive increases in traffic, conversions, and, ultimately, sales.
Additionally, there are also tools that can help you monitor your performance in other areas, like uptime and SEO. Ask for estimates to both set these tools up and to send regular reports, as well, if you don’t have a digital marketing savvy person on staff.
What’s included in the project price of my website project?
Be sure you’re crystal clear on exactly what you’re getting so there are no unpleasant surprises later.
Many find themselves on the hook for labor-intensive work, like content population, while others would rather take on some of those tasks to reduce their budget.
For example, find out:
- How many rounds of revisions will be included for copy, wireframes, and design?
- Who will be responsible for sourcing stock images and custom photography?
- Who will populate content to my site?
- Who will conduct QA and web testing before launch?
- Will my contract include web hosting and web maintenance?
The clearer you are on the full project scope, the happier you’ll be in the end.
Can you provide me with client references and case studies for similar projects?
This is a pretty simple one to answer.
Any reputable agency should be more than happy to share their case studies and put you in touch with past and current clients. If you don’t get a confident answer to this question, do yourself a big favor and walk away.
We’d also recommend that you inquire about the agencies on your shortlist within your professional network, as well as take a look at Clutch. This B2B ratings and reviews service gives you a one-stop-shop way of identifying top digital agencies in your area. Supported by case studies and Clutch-sourced client reviews, this is a great avenue for narrowing your options.
Now, get going
Building a website can be a great investment in the sustainable growth of your business. Of course, not all developers will really be able to deliver against your needs. Worse, some will look out for their own interests, unnecessarily driving up project costs without delivering you real value.
So, take your time, do your due diligence, and find a web developer that will really knock it out of the park for you. (Whether you have questions about how to conduct your assessment or you’re ready to identify a developer for your project, we’d be happy to help.)