If you can afford to have your brand new warehouse built from the ground up, who are you going to hire to build it?
The intelligent answer is simple: a reputable building contractor with happy clients and lots of experience, right? I mean, why on earth would you invest your hard-earned dollars to hire anyone less than a pro?
What about your office building or store? As a business owner, you know that it needs to have the right look and feel to be successful. Go ahead, go shopping or to the insurance guy or the doctor. Are the stores and offices run down with bad paint jobs and worn-out carpeting? Does the store you're buying from have empty crates and clothes blocking the aisles? Of course not. They’re all clean and neat and professional – and most are decorated to impress the customer.
So why, then, would anyone take the opposite approach with their online business?
Believe it or not, at least half the people reading this right now have done exactly that. You’ve spent months, in some cases years, developing your product, becoming an expert in your field or writing your book, and then paid absolutely no attention to where or how it's presented and sold. That's just like buying beautiful new furniture and not having a house to put it in.
Do yourself a favor, when you've made the decision to open your business or sell your product online, make sure you have ALL the tools to make it successful. And for Pete's sake, make sure you hire the right developer. Here are a few tips to help you find that person;
1. Look for experience, reputation and track record. These are the three attributes to consider when engaging any professional. Find out about who you're entrusting your brand to. Ask for references – don't just look at the testimonials they’ve posted. Take a good look at their website. If it looks like a fifth-grader put it together, imagine how yours will look. Look at their portfolio or ask for a list of sites they have developed. If they can't show you immediately, or if they don’t have at least four or five sites to review, what are they afraid of?
2. It's not always about the price. Do NOT cut corners. Don't go with the cheapest deal you can find just because it's cheap. Think about what you’re buying: It's the vehicle that’s going to generate your revenue. Your website is the last thing you want to cut corners on.
WARNING: Not going cheap does not mean you should go with the most expensive deal either; expensive doesn't always equal better.
3. Listen. You’re buying talent and experience. You listen to your doctor, your lawyer and your accountant – they're the professionals, after all. Now think about that when you decide that you know better or more than your web developer. If you made the right choice in hiring the developer, then listen to what he or she tells you. If you're not willing to trust their judgment or advice, then save your money and build the site yourself. But don't complain about THAT decision later.
4. Have a plan. You need to know what your goals are and how to convey them to your developer BEFORE you hire anyone. If you aren't sure of your goals – WAIT. Do not hire anyone unless you are completely sure that they have a solid understanding of your needs and objectives.
5. Avoid any company or freelancer that has a “package.” You've seen it before. You're searching for a web designer and you find 25 sites that have the Gold/Silver/Bronze package (or some cute little package names). They offer hourly rates and "additional page" costs. Here's a tip: stay away. There's no way a designer can give you exactly what you need based on his/her "package rate." Ask me 10 times and I will tell you 10 times – I can't give you a price if I don't know what your project is all about. Any pro developer will tell you the same thing. We need to know what we're developing before we know how much it's going to cost.
6. Know how to request a quote. Please don't ever email a developer and say, "Can you look at my site and tell me how much you would charge to redesign it or make it better?" Now, that's just asking for trouble, and here's why:
a) You are already telling the developer you have no idea what you need.
b) If the developer sends back an email that says, "I looked at your site and it would cost $xx.xx to redesign it or fix it" – RUN. Never hire a developer who doesn't want to talk to you first. A developer worth hiring is the one who wants to know about your project.
Author Joe Thomas is the founder and owner of Left Brain Digital, a web development company. He’s an award-winning web designer/developer with more than 18 years of experience in print and web design and development. Thomas' work became a major influence in graphic and web design in the "Y2K" era of the Internet's dot-com explosion.