Where to begin

So you are looking for a web-development company to create your on-line presence are you?

How do you go about it so that you don’t end up in a spiralling cost scenario, or end up dealing with an organization that won’t be there for you in the long run.

Let’s face it, developing a web site isn’t a one off thing. You don’t put something out there and then simply forget about it. For it to be useful to you and your customers, it has to continue to add value.

Simply, that means that the content you initially put in place is just the first step of many and you need to consider that.

Well it isn’t rocket science….

The way you have to approach it is exactly the same way you should work with a contractor for your home and it consists of a number of steps:

1. Get an idea of what you want. This doesn’t have to be to the greatest level of detail, but go shopping around the internet for sites that you like, features that you like and make a list. Try to figure out the type of content that you want on your site and make some notes.

2. Contact some web development companies and ask them to quote on what you are looking for. Tell them also that you will want three references, and the ability to contact those references. You also want a list of the web sites that they have done.

3. Spend the time to look at their work. Do you like what you see? If not - go back to step 1

4. Look at their quote in detail. Does it give you the information that you need to adequately understand all of the costs involved, what the roles and responsibilities are and what the process will be for your site to be developed. If it doesn’t, start asking questions.

Here are some good questions:

  • Do I get the source for my web site?
  • Is there a holdback to ensure the site is finished completely?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities? Who creates content? Who approves content?
  • What warranty do you offer?
  • What are the steps in developing the site and how does that tie in to the payment structure?
  • Can I host my site anywhere?
  • Will I get the source for all of the images/interactive media on my site
  • What are your on-going maintenance rates?
  • Do you have maintenance contracts?
  • What are your service levels on those maintenance contracts?

You should get answers to all of those questions, and the answers should satisfy you. What you should expect to hear is a process that takes you through from beginning to end and on into the future. The process should be fair to both you and the development company both in the way it works and in the way the payments are tied to the deliverables.

From a developer perspective, the areas that can cause most trouble can be iterations through the development cycle with a client who cannot make their mind up, or rafts of tiny changes when looking at content, so we attempt to clear that up during the quotation phase. After all - if you are quoted 5 days for a work effort, then you will be very surprised if it comes out at 10 days, even though it was an additional 5 days of your own revisions.

Now contact the references and see what they say. See if the development company has lived up to the statements they made above.

It isn’t foolproof, but at least now you have done your due diligence. You will have weeded out the fly by night organizations, or the students trying to work their way through college.

If you have any comments about this article, e-mail me directly at lee@spinnakersystems.com. We have had to shut down posting to this blog, as it was being hit by spam postings, but I will promise to post any valid responses to this article.

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