I own an advertising agency, which specializes in web design and development. One of the most time consuming aspects of my job is educating my customers on “good” web development practices. Not everyone will agree with my definition of good, however, I feel that my customer’s bottom lines suggest I am on the right track. The biggest problem with web development is that it is too easy. Anyone with computer knowledge can hack together a basic HTML website. The key to a creating a truly successful website is in evaluating the business, their customers, and the market.
Early stage entrepreneurs tend to be the biggest bad development offenders. Because of shoestring budgets, a lack of market knowledge, and extreme personal time demands often the website takes a backset to other business needs. Websites can be great assets to any business and they do not have to be used only for marketing. They can offer a variety of services such as inventory tracking, customer relationship management, or even employee time tracking. A good development team should be able to look at your business model and help you plan a website that will stimulate your business, regardless of what industry you’re in.
A website is an investment in your business. Letting your brothers-in-law’s, cousin’s, son handle that investment is the equivalent to investing your hard earned money in an unknown penny stock. Your initial cost may not be much but your chances of making any real profits are minimal at best. My advice is to find an established web developer who can provide you with real samples of their work. I strongly suggest interviewing the team that will be working on your project. Ask them about your marketing, branding, and in general how they can help your business. You will see there is an enormous range in the skill level of web developers. Evaluate a perspective developer’s portfolio from a customer’s standpoint. Is the site compelling? Does it match with the company’s established branding? Is the site intuitive to use?
You may also want to consider talking with an advertising agency. Many of these firms will offer web development that does a good job of addressing your company’s marketing and branding. You will want to ask if they do their own in house web fulfillment or if they outsource these services. My company now handles web fulfillment for 7 different advertising agencies beside our own company so you will want to make sure if they utilize a sub contractor for web projects they are also qualified.
My final piece of advice is to avoid the scammers. There are thousands of “web designers” who have never actually created a site. Sure they may have their “company” website online but unless they can produce a portfolio of actual quality work I would be very skeptical about working with them. I highly suggest looking for an established company that will create a custom web solution for your business, not web templates, not boxed CMS solutions for $200. Sure the investment is low but what you’re really looking for is ROI and that will only come through a good, useful, compelling website that addresses the needs of your business and it’s customers.