Added by on 2012-09-19

Hiring a Web developer to build your site is possibly your most expensive option, at least in the short term, depending on your site and the time it will take to build. However, it does have the advantage of freeing your time and your staff plus, by using a “professional”, the site may be created quicker and is less likely to have technical problems.

Before you can start looking for a web designer/developer, you need to decide what it is you want them to do for you – are they designing the look of the site or do you need intensive programming for database management etc.? What you decide you need will influence the price.

For instance, perhaps you would like the contractor to:

  • Create a company image
  • Design logos and graphics
  • Create templates for you or your staff to “fill in”
  • Create a simple site with little programming
  • Create a site with “special effects”
  • Create content (text) for the site.

Once you know what the contractor needs to do, you can then start the search.

How to find a developer

Of course, the quickest way to find a contractor is through personal recommendations. Ask your business associates who they used and if they were happy with the work. Make sure you get more than one recommendation though so you can compare pricing and services. Also check to see if your associates have any “horror stories” so you know who NOT to contact!

If you don’t have any recommendations from business associates, you could try the Yellow Pages but the disadvantage is you have no idea what their work looks like prior to contacting them.

Therefore, the next best way to find web designers/developers is to go online and surf. Look at the sites you like and see if the name of the designer is on the page or a link to the designers page.

If there is no reference to the designer, e-mail the Webmaster of the site and ask who designed the site and how you can get in contact with him/her.

Once you have found three or four contractors whose work you like, the first thing you need to find out is “how much will it cost?”

What will it cost?

Each contractor can charge out at different rates and the most expensive is not necessarily the best. Web contractors can charge anywhere between $30 an hour to $250 an hour. Others will charge you a flat fee, depending on the work involved. You will need to decide which is the most cost-effective option for you.

You need to ask the contractor whether the rate is hourly or is there an overall flat fee such as $1000 per 5 Web pages.

You should also be clear on your budget for the site so the contractor is clear on how much you are willing to spend before work has even started. There are many horror stories of contractors saying it will only take 100 hours and 300 hours later, you are faced with a massive bill and a blown budget.

Currently, the average cost for site development is approximately $1,500 for 5 pages. Obviously, some individuals will charge less and others will charge more, depending on your site requirements and your programming needs.

Then ask the contractor if he/she is willing to meet with you for a 30-minute free consultation or a demonstration of their work. This will indicate their willingness to please and a confidence in their services.

Questions you need to ask

If you are dealing with a Web design company rather than an individual, ask to meet the person who will actually be working on your site and how much experience this person has.

In fact, you should ask every contractor what sort of Web design experience he/she has, just like you would if you were interviewing them for a full-time position. There are many “wanna-be” designers out there who have less than one year’s experience in Web design but feel like they are fully equipped to build your site. You don’t want contractors “practising” on your site. Let them get their experience from someone else.

At the same time, ask for a client list with the Web site addresses. It is very important that you see examples of the contractors’ work. If you don’t like their examples, chances are you won’t like what they will do for you either.

When you are looking at these sites, consider the following:

Do the sites differ in appearance? A good designer should be able to design completely different sites. If they look the same, chances are your site will look the same and that defeats the purpose of hiring a designer for a unique site!

How quickly do the Web sites load on your Internet connection? If the sites take too long to load, customers are being lost. If your fingers are twitching on your mouse, so are other surfers. You don’t want to lose your customers by having a site that loads slowly.

Have the sites been designed with the business in mind? Each site needs to be appropriate for the business the company is in. You don’t want to see a funeral parlour Web site designed in bright, primary colours, for instance nor cute, funny graphics for a professional organisation.

Are the sites easy to navigate and can information be found without difficulty? See how easy it is to find information on the site or whether it is “buried.”

Would you like to have a site like the examples? You want a site you can be proud of as it is projecting your company image, so you don’t want a designer whose work projects a unprofessional image.

Can you tell what is the designer’s “design style”? Merely by viewing the example sites you should be able to discern what the designer’s style is. For instance, does he/she tend to throw everything but the kitchen sink on a page or is he/she a “minimalist” preferring text and simple graphics? If you want a “minimalist” Web site design, you don’t want to hire a designer whose philosophy is throw everything on a page. You should also view the designer’s own Web site as that will give you a better indication of his/her personal style.

Do your research

You should then check whether the contractors have designed Web sites for people in your industry and if so, if there is a possible conflict of interest, say, they designed one of your competitors’ sites.

If you decide that you like the contractor and his/her work, ask for at least two references. These should be clients they have build sites for in the last 12 months.

Questions you should ask the referees include:

Was the designer easy to work with?

Did he/she meet the client’s needs?

Was the designer open to change requests?

Was the designer a good communicator – did the client understand information about content, features and design?

Did the designer work well with the client and other staff members?

Did the designer finish on time?

Was the cost in line with the original estimate?

Would the client recommend this designer to others?

The answers to these questions would give you a good idea of how professional the designer is and his ability to work in a team environment.

Once you have decided on a designer and have a written estimate of the cost, another aspect you need to consider is if the contractor is not working on-site, how will communication take place? Do you need to set up weekly meetings, phone calls or e-mails for progress updates and to handle any queries?

If you are supplying the text and graphics, how will you get the information to the contractors and in what format? You will need to set up your delivery options, such as FTP or e-mail, and discuss with your contractor which format they need to be in, such as text only, Word etc.

Finally, when you have worked out all these details and hired a designer/developer, put everything in writing, including the original estimate. This document should cover what the contractor will do for you, the timeline and approximately how much it will cost. Make sure both you and the contractor sign the document and then each keeps a copy.

Keeping your site in your hands

When using anyone, other than yourself, to design your Web site, you need to be aware of current copyright law, otherwise you could lose control of your Web site. Basically you need to:

Have the contractor sign over copyright of your site to yourself, preferably this contract should be in place prior to work beginning on your site;

Be aware the contractor or staff person still has a “moral right” to any original work completed by them.

If you don’t have a copyright agreement in place with the contractor, theoretically the contractor can shut your Web site down.

If you don’t own the copyright and you and the contractor have a disagreement (particularly over money), the contractor can then force you to take your site offline, claiming you have breached his/her copyright.

You are then faced with costly legal bills to retain your site or having to pay the contractor whatever he/she wants to sign over copyright. It may not ever happen but do you want to take that chance?!

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