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How to choose a website developer: 10 tips for small businesses

Your website is often the first impression potential customers have of your business. A well-designed, functional, and user-friendly site can significantly enhance your brand’s credibility and help convert visitors into loyal customers.

Check out these recent website statistics from LeadPages.com:

  • 94% of people don’t trust outdated websites
  • 52% of users said a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company
  • Businesses lose 35% of sales due to bad user experience (UX)
  • More than 70% of small business websites do not use call to action (CTA) buttons

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already come to the conclusion that you need a website. However, finding the right website developer to bring your vision to life can be challenging.

How do you choose a quality website developer?

With numerous options available, from freelancers to large agencies, making the right choice involves careful investigation. We’ve put together ten tips to help you choose a website developer that’s a good fit for your small business.

You may also be interested in: 3 questions to ask before you build a small business website

1. Review their portfolio and their website

Examining a developer’s portfolio is a crucial first step in your selection process. A portfolio provides tangible examples of their previous work, showcasing their style, creativity, and technical skills.

When reviewing their portfolio, look for projects similar to what you have in mind. Seeing that they’ve built sites that you relate to will give you confidence that the developer has experience in creating websites that get results and meet your specific needs.

That said, a lack of experience in your particular niche or industry isn’t necessarily a negative thing. We prefer to work across industries because it keeps things fun for us and helps us bring more creativity to our clients. What you’re really reviewing when you look at a website developer’s portfolio is the quality of their designs, the functionality of the websites, and their user-friendliness. Are the sites well-organized and easy to navigate? A diverse portfolio indicates versatility and the ability to adapt to a variety client requirements.

Don’t forget to look at the developer’s own site. If you’re not impressed, you’re unlikely to be happy with their client work.

2. Check references and reviews

References and reviews offer valuable insights into a developer’s reliability and the quality of their work. You may choose to request references from past clients and take the time to contact them. Ask about their experiences, the developer’s communication skills, adherence to deadlines, and how well they met the project requirements.

Additionally, read online reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or industry-specific sites. Consistently positive feedback is a good sign, while recurring negative comments may indicate potential issues.

3. Assess communication skills

I believe communication is one of the most easily overlooked factors in deciding how to choose a website developer, and that’s a real shame. Effective communication is vital for the success of any complex project. When you’re investing in a new website, you’re making a significant investment in your business. Ensure that you’ll have a dedicated point of contact on the team and a clear understanding of how the entire process will unfold. During your initial interactions, observe how promptly and clearly the developer communicates.

Are they responsive to your queries? Do they explain technical concepts in a way that’s easy to understand? Good communication ensures that your needs and feedback are understood and addressed promptly, reducing the risk of misunderstandings and delays.

4. Understand the website development process

A well-defined website development process indicates professionalism and experience. Ask the developer to walk you through their process, from initial consultation to launch day.

Key elements to inquire about include timelines, project milestones, and how they handle revisions and feedback. Understanding their process will give you a clearer picture of what to expect and how organized and systematic the developer is in managing projects.

5. Ensure you have the right skillsets

It takes more than a single website developer to build a great website. We recommend working with a team that includes the following skills:

  • Graphic design: Creates the look and feel of the site, ensuring your brand is well-represented
  • Copywriting: Writes all copy for the site, capturing your unique voice and communicating your expertise in a way that your audience can relate to
  • SEO: Ensures the site is optimized for key search terms and will show up in desired search results
  • Developer: Takes all of the above components and brings them to life at your URL
  • Quality assurance: Tests all functionality and proofreads all content
  • Project management: Ensures everything runs smoothly, keeping the entire project on time and on budget

If you choose to work with a solo developer, you’ll want to find other individuals to fill the above roles. If you choose to work with an established team, you’ll gain significant efficiencies because the various individuals are experienced at working together.

You may also be interested in: Is SEO worth it for small businesses?

6. Discuss maintenance and support

Your relationship with the developer shouldn’t end once the website goes live. Ask about post-launch support and maintenance services.

A good developer will offer ongoing support to address any issues that arise after your website goes live. This includes updating plugins, ensuring security measures are in place, and making necessary adjustments to keep your site running smoothly. Like anything else, websites do break from time to time! One of the most common issues we run across is broken contact forms (which is why we test them for our clients on a monthly basis). Regular maintenance is essential to prevent your site from becoming obsolete and to address any technical issues promptly.

Our hosting and maintenance package includes all of the above, plus up to an hour of content updates each month.

7. Evaluate cost and value

While cost is an important factor, it should not be the sole consideration. Evaluate the value you’re getting for your investment. Sometimes paying a bit more for a higher-quality service can be more cost-effective in the long run.

Compare quotes from different developers and assess what is included in their services. Solo developers will typically be less expensive than full teams—but do you really want a website developer writing your copy? Also consider the longevity of the site. Many businesses make the mistake of building a cheap site, only to find that they outgrow it in a year or two.

A good website developer will help you project your needs over time, and be able to design a site that scales with your business.

8. Cultural fit

Consider whether the developer’s working style aligns with your company’s culture and values. A good cultural fit can lead to a more collaborative and productive working relationship. For instance, if your business values innovation and flexibility, look for a developer who embraces new technologies and demonstrates creative problem-solving skills. Aligning on values and working style helps ensure smoother communication and better project outcomes.

9. Integration with marketing efforts

If you’re considering a marketing agency that offers website development, assess how well they can integrate the website with your overall marketing strategy.

A cohesive approach ensures that your website is not only visually appealing but also effectively supports your marketing goals. You’ll want the site to be optimized for conversions, integrate with your social media channels, and supportive of your content marketing strategy.

A marketing agency that builds websites can provide a holistic approach, enhancing both your online presence and marketing efforts.

10. SEO capabilities

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of driving organic traffic to your website. Ensure that the developer or agency has strong SEO capabilities—including knowledge of on-page SEO techniques such as keyword optimization, meta tags, and responsive design.

A website optimized for search engines will rank higher in search results, attracting more visitors and providing better long-term value. Inquire about their experience with SEO and any additional services they offer to enhance your site’s visibility.

Two more considerations—website accessibility and terms of use

Website accessibility and legal terms are two more commonly overlooked—yet important—components of small business website design. Read more about each of them at the links below. As you interview website developers, ask how they handle these two issues.

How to choose a website developer—next steps

At Brighter Messaging, we specialize in helping small businesses build and maintain powerful, effective websites that integrate seamlessly with their marketing strategies. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to revamp your existing site, our team is here to provide the expertise and support you need. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you succeed online.

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