If you’ve gone the DIY route, it’s probably time to reconsider.
If you can afford to have your brand new building 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? Why would you invest your hard-earned dollars to hire anyone less than a pro?
As a business owner, you know that your building needs to have the right look and feel to be successful. 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. They’ve spent months (in some cases years) on their products and services, and then paid little attention to where or how those products and services are presented and sold. That's just like buying beautiful new furniture and putting it in a dilapidated house with a leaky roof.
If this sounds familiar, it’s time to hire a professional website developer, and here are some tips to help you find the right one:
1. Look for experience, reputation and track record. These are the three attributes to consider when engaging any professional. Ask for references. Don't just look at the testimonials they’ve posted. Take a good look at their website. If it looks as if 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. Don’t overemphasize 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.
But 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 tells you. If you're not willing to trust their judgment or advice, then save your money and build the site yourself.
4. Have a plan. 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 then wait until you are. 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 other cute little package names). They offer hourly rates and "additional page" costs. Stay away! There's no way a designer can give you exactly what you need based on his/her "package rate." 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. Don't 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?" 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" — go elsewhere. 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.
Joe Thomas is the founder and owner of Left Brain Digital (www.leftbraindigital.com), 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.