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Choosing the Right Website Developer

These days your website is often the most important asset for your business.  Even if you are an “old time” business, often the first touch people will have with your business is your website.  So it better look good.

There are millions of web developers, designers, etc. out there and how do you know you are picking a good one?  One option is to do it yourself, using one of the several easy-to-use website creation tools on the market today. Or should you hire a developer?

To get a professional, feature-rich website, it may be worth investing in a web developer. There are hundreds of thousands of web developers out there, both firms and individuals.  Here are some key tips when interviewing web development shops:

1. Make sure that they are using a Content Management System (CMS) and that it is an open source CMS.  A CMS allows you to update the content on your website with no intervention by anyone technical.  This is critical to managing updates to the site often and without any cost to you.  If the firm is not building your site on a CMS, don’t use them.  And if the CMS is not one of the big ones (such as WordPress, Tumblr, Drupal, or Joomla), beware.

Using a developer’s homegrown CMS will provide you with more lock-in with that vendor since it will be harder for others to build on the original developers CMS.  Don’t fall for the line that their CMS is better than the ones being used by literally millions of users.  Whether it’s WordPress or others, CMS systems can be a big help in making more frequent updates to your site.  Content can be changed as simply as a copy/paste feature into a text frame, and voila, your site feels fresh again.

2. Don’t let them give you a quote that does not include “SEO,” which means search engine optimization and is the key to your site getting found on the internet.  If a web development shop is not including that in its quote then they also may be overcharging you.  No site is complete without SEO.  A website is all about being found on the web and SEO is an inherent part of the building of any website.  Also, beware of exorbitant SEO charges.  Development firms often price gauge customers for SEO since they rely on your not understanding what it means.

3. If your site has a registration feature, make sure all of the currently popular methods of social login are included. This includes, being able to register via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

Did you hire a website developer for your business?  Or did you go it alone?  Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Rachel BlanksteinFounder and CEO, Comparz, Inc.
She launched and grew the Data Services business at U.S. Cellular to a $100 Million business, and is an experienced consultant in the areas of online customer acquisition and strategic business growth. | Facebook | @evolvebiz | More from Rachel

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Discussion (22) Comment

  1. Sassie PorcheVisitor

    I recommend to you for building websites. They can slice your PSD and convert it to HTML, WordPress, and also Email Template. With a cheaper price.

    Sassie Porche

  2. GreggVisitor

    Ok, so you’re saying not to go with an educated web developer who actually writes code? Go with some s****** who works with building blocks, or should I say tinker toys? Then what is the purpose of gaining a degree in web development? I suppose from this that you don’t have a degree in your field? And if you do, people should listen to someone with a lesser education? Give me a break! That’s fine for someone who only needs a tinker toy end result. Would you go to the local butcher to have your appendix removed?

  3. Rob ThayerVisitor

    I’d have to disagree with you on your first two points.

    Using a CMS is far from mandatory, depending on the situation.

    WordPress started as a blogging platform. Because of its ease of use and the existence of so many pre-made themes, people are using it for everything — even as shopping carts. It’s a case of “when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

    While we do use WordPress and other CMS as a development platform in some cases, it’s just as common for us to create standalone sites that don’t need all of the overhead required by WordPress. Again, it depends on the situation, the client, and their objectives.

    As for not hiring a Website developer that doesn’t include SEO in his quote, you are waaaaay off on that one. Some people specialize in design and others specialize in SEO. Some companies do both (including ours), but it’s ridiculous to not utilize a good designer because they don’t also do SEO. You might as well say something like, “Don’t hire a landscaper who can’t paint your house as well.”

  4. Keith JamesVisitor

    Great article. I do think two important points were missed though.

    Who will maintain your CMS?

    Although I rarely create static sites, they are maintenance free. All CMS require updates both for security and functionality. If you aren’t going to make regular updates to your site or don’t have a budget to maintain your site, a static site may be a better choice.

    How is the website being backed up?

    This goes hand in hand with maintaing your CMS. I cannot tell you haw many hacked sites I have repaired do to the CMS not being updated. Often there are no site backups. Your website is an investment and back ups are it’s insurance.

  5. SEO ServicesVisitor

    Selection of a right company can reduce half of your burden its very true but its not as much easy as it is sounding but your article seems helpful in it.

  6. Rob FornangoVisitor

    In my startup I developed my own site using Joomla. I had previously done a small website using frontpage and static html. But with a $30 book and a weekend of playing around, the site has worked out well. Very interactive, and the SEO seems pretty good. I also invested in Artisteer to create a custom template…well worth the price given what others charge to purchase templates. Overall, I would do it myself again…in fact, I’ve even offered to provide basic design and template services to clients who are looking to develop a website.

  7. John HeinrichVisitor

    these are excellent comments on an excellent blogpost. one thing that we note is try to design for a global market. we’ve got customers from all over the globe, with the exception of mainland china, which might be a completely different thing. i’m going to reblog a lot of this on our blog, with attribution.

  8. ShrutiVisitor

    Great read.

    Like many situations the answer is “it depends” whether to use CMS or not.
    Six Revisions has some good articles on this topic: should we always deploy CMS ( and
    You Should Build Websites That Empower Site Owners

    As a web design/development agency we explain, in simple terms, and ask them whether they want to use CMS or not. Client’s budget and other factors may play into it but if the businss owner trusts the developer’s input and judgment then it becomes easy to build the “right” solution.

    New England New Media (

  9. Michael SobusVisitor

    First look at the web designer’s own website. To what extent did it grab you, engage you, educate you and provide you an offer?

    Next, your potential web designer should ask you what you want, and why you want a website. Run away from anyone who doesn’t do that.

    Third, get upfront what the additional charges will be and how they calculate them. You don’t want to be paying for the extra hours that the designer needs to spend to learn what they should know.

  10. KimVisitor

    I agree with your assessment Rachel, especially about integrating SEO into the website up front, and I would add a few suggestions:
    1. If you don’t understand how to research and implement your own SEO strategies, make sure your developer has extensive SEO experience and has demonstrable results to show you.
    2. Only hire a developer who is transparent and will teach you anything you want to learn about your site and your SEO (either for an additional fee or included in your contract).
    3. Always buy your own domain name and hosting from a large, reputable provider and maintain your own login information. Manage your website as you would a physical shop, and you’ll be glad you did. Don’t give the keys to a stranger.

  11. Great points and I would add receive clarification round the following:

    1. Key word research and saturation specific to SEO
    2. Content responsibility and time frame to convert to website
    3. Access to website for updates by you or your team
    4. Use of a WordPress platform or similar one that works well with SEO
    5. Ask about FLASH, not SEO friendly and a hint the web developed is somewhat clueless
    6. Sign up feature through Constant Contact or AWeber
    7. How many changes allowed within the initial construction of the site
    8. Easy of readability specific to colors, font and layout
    9. Make sure it is mobile friendly and mobile ready
    10. Most important ask for 3 referrals from the web site developer so that you can talk to his or her clients to ensure you are finding the right person

    These are some of my lessons learned after dealing with website developers and those of my clients for the last 6 years,

    Leanne Hoagland-Smith

  12. Todd PillarsVisitor

    Great concise article! I totally agree on using an Open Source CMS – WordPress being my tool of choice. It is all about choice, especially for the client.

    Vendor lock-in as been a mark on the industry since the first .htm file was created. While I agree that static HTML _can_ do the job in most instances the client usually cannot make heads or tails of the gobbledygook inside the files.

    As for SEO I think some white hat folks can genuinely provide a great value. Conversely, it’s tough to find a web developer that knows their SEO/SEM. Either way it’s tough for the client to know their getting the most bang for their buck.

    Thanks for the tips!

  13. I disagree that using a Content Management System (CMS) is required by the majority of small businesses. In most cases, a basic static HTML website will do the job.

    Content can also be changed as simply as a copy/paste feature into a text frame, with static HTML sites.

    • GreggVisitor

      If a static web site will do what you need for your company you can just pick up “HTML, XHTML & CSS for Dummies (no disrespect intended). It is a good book that is simple to read and laid out for the ease of comprehension. You can cross reference that with which is the consortium controlling and setting web development standards. They host tutorials in the various web development languages. I hope this will help.

  14. Gary ShouldisVisitor

    Spot on with the CMS platform……It pains me when I hear stories of web developers holding their customer’s websites hostage, charging upwards of $100 an hour to make the simplest changes to their website.

    The other tip I would add is to be SURE that the domain of your business is registered in YOUR name, not the web developers. A client of mine is in a legal battle right now because of her web developer’s “friendly” gesture of obtaining the domain for her a few years ago, led to her not owning the domain for her business and created a sticky situation when she tried to part ways with them.

    • DonnaVisitor

      Gary, Good advice. I also have clients being held hostage by web developers.

    • GreggVisitor

      So Gary, once your WordPress or Joomla web site is complete all your updates/upgrades are free. Or at that point you can handle things all by your lonesome?

      You sound like the type of business person who expects others to do for your business for free, but to whom do you give breaks such as you seek.

      Do professionals spend their money to gain a high end education expecting to give away their time, I sure don’t expect to give away my time after I gain my bachelors degree in Web Development.

      Yes I am sure that there are Web Developers out there who are less than moral when conducting business, but I think you will find than in any industry there are immoral people that you need to watch out for. It is all a part of doing business, you need to be careful of anyone your doing business with by doing reference checks and credit checks. You have to do your due diligence.

    • GreggVisitor

      On another note Google and Intuit are helping small business get on line free for a year. If you don’t do your due diligence you will find yourself in the same situation as your friend. You see they hold the domain name, it is theirs, they allow you to use it free. After the first year they charge double what you could be hosting your site elsewhere for.

      You need to do your research up front, get all the facts, know what you are getting into and what future costs if any will be. It is the lazy business person who finds themselves being taken advantage of.

  15. Ben PaniaguaVisitor

    Spelling Correction: From my research I’ve found *Two tools that **look promising.

  16. Ben PaniaguaVisitor

    From my research I’ve found to tools that looking promising.

    For finding a Web Designer (or just about any other service you need done) Use

    For Web Design to HTML or any other web format

    I’m still looking to find out which Content Management System I should use, based on the services I provide. Can anyone give recommendations? I can give more details if someone can help.

    • @Ben Paniagua – I’d recommend either WordPress or Drupal. They also have tons of free templates for you to choose from to get you started and are easily customizable.

    • ChristineVisitor

      I always build on WordPress and the Genesis theme Framework. My client s love how easily that can learn it and the SEO is great right out of the box.


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