What should I be looking for when I choose a web developer?
Before you write a line of code or start deciding what colours to use, I want to give you a little view on how you should approach your website construction if you are just beginning.
I noticed with your question that you wanted “great design, eCommerce, a blog and wanted to sink quite a bit of your budget into your site’s construction”.
This concerns me and flies against how I roll. I have built quite a few online sites for myself that make money online and I strongly suggest you focus on my number one rule of online business before anything else: Make $1 of profit from your website before you invest further.
So, after you have paid your developers, paid your hosting, domain and marketing costs, paid the tax, paid the accountants and any other contractors, you have profited by $1 and you can put that in your wallet.
I prefer to start small with an investment in a website or online business and then build it up. Upgrade it and reinvest in it when it grows.
To start with, given you are building an eCommerce site I suggest you get a basic shopping card site up with your top 10 products and try and make a sale.
Make $1. Your goal here is to build a quick and dirty site that makes you money, making money is all that really matters, the rest we can just leave to the web designers who like awards and the technologists that like coding stuff just to see if it will work.
When we built our home loan site we just slapped up a few articles and just tried to see if we could get a developer to apply through our site.
To build a basic site, the answer of what developer to choose is quite easy. You just need a technical guy that could piece together some off-the-shelf software like Drupal’s free eCommerce software.
You don’t want them to charge too much, so it’s probably best if they work from home and give you a fixed price quote.
If they have examples of other small shopping cart sites that they have done the past that would be superb.
Most of your money should be spent on the marketing, not the website construction. Building a site that can get up quickly is important, but it’s more important to focus on how you are actually going to get the visitors to your site.
Doing the opposite would be like organising the most amazing party in the world and not sending out any invitations. A great party, but no one sees it.
Turn your focus more on how you are going to market your site at the beginning to get that first $1 and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t. Key things to do:
- Install Google Analytics.
- Find the most popular products/pages and keywords that users are coming in with and build more of those pages and sell more of that product.
- Plan to rollout a core kernel site and make a truck load of tweaks. Don’t sink all your budget on one big construction. Just get something up and running and then upgrade and improve it. You will be amazed at how much clarity you will achieve after you have made your first sale and seen the way the customer is making their journey through your site.
- Gather feedback – All feedback is good feedback, even if its critical. This will form the basis of the changes you are going to make to your site.
So, how to choose the developer when you are already making money from your site?
Once you have a site up and running, it’s a lot easier to decide on what you want for your next upgrade.
Choosing a web developer to partner with for a more substantial development can be quite a difficult decision so I thought I could build up some guide posts to make things easier:
- Consider your existing developer – Perhaps you can just stay with the first developer you started working with but this time, give him a decent budget and most importantly, give him a decent timeline to build it.
- Time is usually the hardest part for web developers because they need to bring in and complete jobs quickly. The short quick ones are the best ones because they have a fixed time period and they know they can bill the client quickly. So, break your projects up into smaller ones and brief them out as phases.
- Phases keep your developer motivated – The easiest way for your project to crash and burn is when it becomes boring to the developer you are working with. This normally comes about when your project is a big one and its timeline is monstrous and almost never ending. Here is a diagram of how most projects go:
The Web Developers Motivation for Your Project
The longer your project takes to finish the less motivation a developer has for it.
- Split your projects payments up – You don’t want your developer to be living on Ramen noodles and vitamin tablets, that’s not going to make him happy nor produce a great scalable website. So pay him on time and pay him in intervals.
- Think of your second site as the same kernel but sharpened and expanded for your new products or packaging. You basically want your site to convert more and make more money, otherwise you may as well just keep the old one.
If you and Snoop Dog are hanging out drinking Petrone in Las Vegas, then you can go ahead and appoint a web design shop/agency.
Before then, the scale and size just doesn’t benefit you. The larger shop is going to cost more but hopefully produce a much larger project site. If you want to expand your site into some new product categories and design it, use an agency.
My suggestions here would be to consider using an outsourced agency for design, conversion and usability but consider bringing your development in-house afterwards.
Agencies have badass designers and expert skills that you need to expand to the next level. Leverage that talent and maintain and grow the site in-house after that.