How NOT to select a web developer

By Scott Matthew @ Cornerstone Web, 8 July 2016


Catchy article title, right? But it's actually a very serious topic. A business' website is increasingly becoming the first (and sometimes the only) port-of-call for attracting, servicing and retaining customers for that business. Get it wrong and you may spend significant amounts of time trying to dig your business out of the mess.

Over the past year, we have helped a number of businesses recover from website development nightmares, and many of these difficulties could have been avoided if the business owners took some very simple precautionary steps at the start of the process.

Here are a couple of questions that might help. Some of these might seem obvious to ask as you read them, but sometimes good people get caught out.

Is the price too good to be true? 

Without exception, every business we helped recover from their poor website experience indicated that the primary reason that they chose the "developer" that they did was due to the relatively cheap cost of what was offered. Sadly, the old saying is true - you will get what you pay for.

TIP: Shop around, and compare apples with apples. If a price seems too good to be true, ask yourself why the price is as cheap as it is.

Is web development their core business? 

It sounds crazy to have to even ask this question, but you wouldn't go to a car yard to get legal advice, nor would you ask your dentist to fix a problem with your mobile phone... would you?

TIP: To get a professional web development, seek out web development professionals. Make sure that they have experience at the same type of development you are looking to have done. Find out how long they've been working in this area of the IT Industry and look at the previous work they have done. Search out their past and present customers to hear about other people's experiences with the developers - Google their business name or web address to see what sites they may have developed in the past, and ask around your local community or local Chamber of Commerce to see if other businesses can give you helpful feedback on the company you're considering.

Who will actually be doing the work? 

Many graphic design agencies and even some dedicated web development companies outsource their projects off-shore. India, Pakistan, Russia, Korea, China, and the Philippines are all popular destinations for outsourcing due to the relatively low cost of getting work completed in these countries. While there are good and bad programmers in every country around the world, high work volumes and low rates of pay don't always bode well for having a quality product delivered at the end of the process.

TIP: Ask to talk with the developers who are actually going to undertake your project. If the development house is outsourcing, ask what quality assurance and testing procedures are in place to ensure that you receive a quality product.

Where is the rest of the documentation? 

If the project documentation is sparse, or worse still, non-existent, then it's pretty safe to say that you can't guarantee exactly what you're getting for your hard-earned money, and you won't necessarily have a great deal of recourse if something subsequently goes wrong.

TIP: Ensure that you receive a development proposal that outlines exactly what you will be given by the end of the project and for what price. Read the company's Terms and Conditions, and ask about anything that you're not clear about in the paperwork. Ensure that the development is done in measurable stages, and only make payment for each once you are satisfied that the deliverables for that stage have been met. Make sure that the final payment for the website is well after you have a chance to test all functionality yourself.

Will this be a long-term relationship? 

I was once given the advice, "Don't go out with a girl unless you think you could marry her!". While the average life of a website is significantly less than that of lifelong marital bliss, it's still essential to know that the team doing your project will still be around to maintain it.

Tip: Consider how long the developer/company has been in business. Make sure that you know what support is being offered (and for what cost) for any additions or changes that you might want to make in the future.

Permission to reproduce this article was kindly granted by Scott Matthew, Director at Cornerstone Web, Sydney, NSW


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