Having consulted for numerous businesses, I’ve also worked with a number of web development companies that helped them put together a website. Some were good, some were bad, and some were downright terrible… and I’m not even talking about the website. Many of the clients I’ve worked with transitioned from bad web developers. Transitioning isn’t easy, and losing money is never fun for a web development company, therefore they could make your life a living hell if you wanted transition, at the expense of your business. But if you get things right the first time, you could avoid a lot of these problems. While this post addresses both designers and developers, you should also checkout our post on How to Hire a Web Designer.
Fortunately, I’ve put together a list to help you avoid hiring a bad web developer:
1. Know What You’re Looking For – If you’re a local business providing goods or services in your area, for example, let’s just say you’re a plumber. If you’re a plumber, you want one thing from your website – more calls. Well guess what? A new website isn’t the key monetization driver. I’ve worked with a lot of businesses owners, most of them are experts at what they do – like plumbing. But when it comes to technology, they’re sometimes a little irrational on their needs because they don’t know the space as much as I do. They think, “If I can rearrange the Facebook button… or make this a little bit nicer… or just move the phone number over here” that somehow magically you’re going to start getting 10 more calls a day. And that simply isn’t true, as a matter of fact you could potentially be decreasing your conversion rate.
I specialize in local businesses. I reject at least half the people who approach me with web development needs, because I don’t design websites for the sake of designing websites. I bring value. You see, most web development companies, or even SEO consultants have it wrong. Hiring web designers or developers is a cost – they usually provide little when it comes to the business end (unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg). And most SEO’s focus on rankings, not revenue.
When you hire me, I focus on improving what you really want – if you’re a plumber, that’s getting you more calls. So unless you need a scalable web application (think eBay, Facebook, Amazon, etc.) you don’t need several thousand dollars for a website and you don’t need to hire a dedicated web developer who makes 6 figures a year. You need to…
2. Get Quotes from 3 Web Development Firms – Make sure you’re not talking to a salesperson either, with the larger consulting companies in Vegas you’ll pay $200+ hour and your account will be assigned to a junior associate who makes $25/hr. Even though we all “hate being sold,” they’ll tell you whatever you want to get your deposit (I’ve seen businesses screwed out of $10,000+ after they found out the developers couldn’t live up to what the salespeople said). If they charge by project, ask them how much they charge to add a favicon. If they don’t know what one is, run. If they beat around the bush, run. It’s a 5 minute task that I’ve seen companies charge $75 for… or the equivalent of $900/hr. And again, most of the time your primary need isn’t a new website… ask them how they can add value to your business? How can you help me get a return on investment?
3. Buy Your Own Domain – This is CRUCIAL. Be extremely weary of any developer who offers to buy your domain (which you can get for a buck on GoDaddy). You should also have access to your admin panel (usually cPanel). With access to cPanel, getting your website backed up and moved to another company is trivial and can be done with asking your current web developer. If however, you’re transferring from a company who has bought your domain, then you must request for a transfer… which would have cost more money than just buying the domain in the first place! And unfortunately, I’ve been in situations where the old company was either slow to send back the domain, or even refused to do it. And if the consulting agreement doesn’t call for a transfer for your domain upon termination – you’re screwed. Your domain is your business. On the internet, your domain is your brand – it’s your storefront. If your website did well with SEO, you can kiss all that goodbye. Because if you just started another website, all the SEO work that has been done would essentially be negated… even worse, Google would see your website as a duplicate and duplicate content does not rank! Yes, successful businesses have switched domains before, but they owned their domain. When you still own your old domain, you can setup a 301 redirect which redirects all traffic (and SEO juice) to your new website.
4. Get the contract right! – First, the disclaimer. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. When you hire a contractor, unless explicitly stated, all of the intellectual property, and work he produces, he still owns the copyright for. Fortunately, consulting agreements are frequently used, therefore there are great templates on the web that are very balanced for both contractor and client.
5. Payment Terms – Payment is a touchy issue for freelancers, we require at least partial payment upfront because if you don’t pay – we have little legal recourse. As the same time, you have to find a competent developer before you can send the deposit. As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen someone screwed out of five figures because the developers couldn’t live up to the salespersons quote. Sure you could sue, that’s the easy part. Collecting is the hard part.
6. The Portfolio – See the websites designed in his portfolio – what do you think? Also, anyone could list a bunch of nice websites in their portfolio, even if they had little to no part in it, I’ve seen it done. But if you’re thinking about hiring that person, reach out to one of the people listed. Ask them how has company x helped your business? What was your experience? , etc.
7. Look for specialists – If you’re a small business building a brand new website, look for a developer (like myself) that can help you launch a beautiful website within a week at an affordable rate. If your website is already built and you’re using OSCommerce – look for an PHP developer who specializes in OSCommerce. It will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
I hope this helped, if you have any general questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. If you’re hiring, contact me and we can discuss your needs. I’m local to Las Vegas, and specialize in small businesses who need more than a website. We offer much more than web design, I’m a marketing and SEO Consultant that has ranked many businesses in Las Vegas and beyond. Not just rankings on phrases with little traffic, we rank for tough terms that helps your business get noticed and actually drive revenue.