3-3- Selecting a designer or developer

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Selecting a designer or developer

– If you’re not doing the work yourself or if you don’t have the luxury of an in-house web team,you’ll wanna bring in a professional to help build your site. You might need a designer, a developer, or even both. The truth is, there’s an endless amount of options out there and it can be challenging to find the right fit. The number one complaint I hear from small businesses is their inability to find designers and developers to get the work done. I’d like to provide you with some ideas on how you can refine the list of potential resources to something manageable. Let’s start talking about graphic designers.

Not all graphic designers are web designers and not all web designers have the skills necessaryto build something that meets your requirements. As you look for a designer, start by reviewing their website. How does it look? It is appealing to you? Look at it through the eyes of your target audience. So, if you find a designer that feels too edgy for your customer, they’re likely not going to produce the right result. You want a website that achieves its goal. If they’re got an eye for good marketing, that’s also a step in the right direction. Next, look at their portfolio.

If they don’t have a portfolio, that’s a red flag. Make note of the sites that they’ve worked on.Read through their comments and then visit each of those sites and explore them. I like to double check the footer of each website to see if there’s an attribution link. More often than not, you might find a link contributing a different design firm and that would raise a red flag as well. Also, check out the recency of their portfolio. If you visit a website and their portfolio and now it’s been completely redesigned, that could raise some questions. Now, some designers aren’t in a hurry to keep their portfolios up to date, so they could’ve conducted the redesign themselves.

It’s also good to see relevant designs because the more up to date the portfolio, the more likely that designer is to be staying current with the latest trends and techniques. Once you have a short list, I’d review any online reviews you can find and then reach out to the designer and ask if you can talk to a few of their current or former clients. Talk with your designer and ask them if they’re familiar with responsive design, what software they use to design their sites, and ask if you can see the process behind some of their current designs.

It’s really helpful to see a designer’s thought process. If they’re creating wire frames and mock-ups, you’ll have some assurance that you’ll be part of an iterative process. If they seem hesitant, they could be buying prefabricated templates and not putting much thought into it. Now, that’s not to say templates are bad. They can be very useful for low-cost projects or as a way to build that initial foundation. Finally, as them to review your project and provide you with a quote and a timeline. A short turnaround and a low-cost bid might seem alluring, but I’d be weary.

Get a couple of proposals and compare them. Good designers aren’t inexpensive. The truth of the matter is, good talent usually knows what they’re worth, but your website is incredibly important, so it’s worth a meaningful investment. You could take a look at Behance.net and Dribble.com for designers and share their portfolios with your friends and colleagues to get a second opinion. Now, looking for a developer can be an even bigger challenge. The way your site is built will impact everything from your usability to your SEO.

Skimp on development and you’re going to find yourself with costly problems in the long run.It’s usually easy to get a sense of what you like in a designer, but if you’re not familiar with programming, it can feel impossible to really vet out a developer. So, start the same way as you did with the designer. Take a look at the projects they’ve worked on. Interact with the websites, check the sites on mobile and in various browsers. You’re looking to see if the experience is fluid and smooth. Review the websites to see if they comply with web standards, and you can conduct a search for this at validator.w3.org.

You’re looking for a low number of errors. A few is fine, but a large number might indicate some problems. Some developers might have a handful of errors because their clients are using old frameworks or they’re not interested in paying for those fixes. In that case, check the website of the developer. It should be a solid representation of their talent. Next, run the sites through Google PageSpeed Insights. You’re looking for scores at least in the high 70s. If you see something low, make note and use that as a conversation point with the developer.

Ask them if they know why one of the sites in their portfolio is poorly optimized and get a sense of how they might approach the problem. It’s also a great idea to ask the developer if they’re contributing in any public repositories. You can ask to see their Bitbucket or GitHub account and review their activity. Someone who is leveraging the latest technology and using these repositories might be a step ahead of others. Also, ask them how they manage their projects. Do they use software such a Jira, Assembla, or Basecamp to keep tasks on track? And just as you did with your designer, check reviews.

You can look at sites like oDesk for programmers, but know that a good review doesn’t necessarily equate to good code. Oftentimes, it’s better to have somebody local to your area.That way, you can meet in person to discuss details as the project continues on. There are many agencies overseas that can crank out great customer service and a functional product, but leave you with a tangled mess of code that just becomes difficult to deal with later. Again, ask your developer for a quote and a timeline, and shop around.

A mid-range web developer will likely cost you between 40 to $80 an hour with high-end development agencies charging in the range of 100 to $150 an hour. It’s important to have good development talent working on your project. Allocate plenty of time for your website. The best results are going to come with the ability to review things, conduct research, and work alongside the team building your digital real estate.

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