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How to identify a great website developer

Launching a website for a new campaign, nonprofit, or product is a difficult process, as there are more people pretending to be web developers than there are actual developers. This problem is compounded by the lack of knowledge in web-design by those in need of such services; similar to how many car owners have no idea of the value or quality of work being done for them, many site-owners don’t understand the technology they’re paying for. Here’s some ways you can help guarantee you’re hiring a talented team, and not just a talented salesman.

1) Make sure they have a full-stack development team

One quick way to tell if you’re hiring a salesman instead of a web team is to see if their portfolio consists mostly of business cards, logos, and letterheads. Even if they have some web-work in their portfolio, these are probably just WordPress templates they made small modifications to for a quick buck. What you need is a team that can code to your specific needs, rather than simply manipulate a template.

Even if you do need something basic, you don’t want to sacrifice proper functionality, and there’s a good chance a low-end website-mill will do just that.

2) Make sure they have an actual understanding of search engine optimization

You’ve put all this time, money, and effort into a new platform; now don’t you want it to show up in Google results organically? Search Engine Optimization is something that starts with the core structure of your website. If each page doesn’t have metadata and the site isn’t properly organized, you’re starting off on the wrong foot; it doesn’t matter how nice your site is if nobody is able to find it.

And just because a developer claims to offer SEO services, it doesn’t mean they actually do. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more than a few developers ignore basic SEO work entirely, even after being explicitly asked if they will optimize the site for search.

An exceptional team can even help you identify keywords and brainstorm content areas for the future.

3) Ask about debugging

Unfortunately, the more that needs the be customized on your platform, the more there is that can go wrong. If you’re creating an entirely new product, expect EXTENSIVE time spent fixing bugs, no matter how talented your developer.

If you may require extensive bug testing and continued support, make sure that you have a clear and mutual understanding of the costs involved in ongoing support.

We suggest requiring the dev team to include a two-week debugging period at no extra cost as a standard part of your contract, but expect to pay for additional work after that.

4) Don’t ask the company for references

While asking for references is great, you’re lucky in that all web design companies should have a portfolio showcasing past work, so there’s no reason to let a company audit who you reach out to. You can do the detective work yourself and reach out to these companies to ask whether they are actually satisfied with the process and end-product they received.

5) Do not let their corporate website off the hook — for anything!

If a company doesn’t care about their own web-platform, you can bet they won’t care about yours, either. If there’s anything “wonky” about their site — anything at all — just move on. It’s not worth your time and money to hire a company that doesn’t pay attention to detail.

6) Make sure the agency works to understand all acquisition channels to best implement them

The main purpose of most websites is for conversions — whether you are converting minds to your cause, dollars to your donation link, or attendees to your events, you want to make sure the company you work with understands all acquisition channels.

Additional Resources

What to Look for When You Hire a Web Designer – Nuts and Bolts Media

Why you should not hire a website designer – Website Builder Expert

5 Tips for hiring a Great Web Developer – Entrepreneur

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