Neil Dwyer is a Director of Corporate Momentum, a Marketing Company and Management Consultancy that works with Small to Medium Enterprises across Eastern Australia.
Neil has been a long time valued partner of Fireworks Websites, working with us regularly on client projects. Please enjoy his guest post below.
I’ve project-managed, from the client side, nearly half a million dollars’ worth of websites in the last 7 years. Here’s what I’ve learned about picking the right website design and development team.
Attitude First, Skill Second
Web programming is a mature industry now and there are plenty of players who possess the right skills. Far fewer possess the right attitude. You need to work with a company that can accept constructive feedback and adapt to requirements that are “outside-the-square”. You can tell if they have the right attitude by how well they react to requests for modifications to their initial specification before the project commences. I’ve learned that pained expressions mean an underlying poor attitude.
Their Creative Insight Should Exceed Yours
The right company should listen to your story, what you do and what you want to achieve and then be able to tell you about features of your website that you might not have thought of that will bring your vision to reality. You don’t have to accept them, but that’s the kind of company you want to deal with – someone who takes your ideas further than you imagined.
Direct Access to the Designers and Programmers
If they don’t bring the designer or developer to your second meeting then why is that? Are they located in another office, another country? Will you get to speak to them directly at any stage? How will your website requirements translate into reality if you can’t communicate them straight to the people who are going to design and develop your website?
A Demonstration of Project Management Structure
They should proactively show you the project management process that they will follow and tell you who in their organisation will take your website from concept to reality, at each stage of development. This is a really important, make-or-break piece of information. If they don’t have a good process, you won’t get a good website; not on-time anyway.
An Ongoing Care Program
Gone are the days of set-and-forget websites. If you think that you’re only going to spend money on website development every 3 years or so, you’re approaching it all wrong. You should have a budget for ongoing feature addition and maintenance on the website and your web design and development partner should be managing your expectations to ensure the same thing. At minimum, you should budget to spend at least $1,000 per year keeping your website up-to-date with advances in browser technology and hacking automation.
Design specialists separate from Development Specialists
It’s a rare employee (and I would argue, an inefficient use of resources) to find someone with both top design and development skills to match. And rarity in human resources is not a good quality in a company you want to continue to deal with over the next decade or more. Instead, the team members of your website partner should be able to pass work between them efficiently.
Common Development Platforms
Don’t pick someone who is using a development platform that only a handful of website companies use. If you do, you’re locking yourself into dealing with them. Also, be wary of developers using ubiquitous software in a hub-and-spoke model where your website exists only as a node on their centralised development platform. You will find that your website cannot be uncoupled and work as a standalone piece of code that can be deployed elsewhere. Ask them directly if this is the case and if it is, give them a wide berth, no matter how good the price seems.
‘QA’ as a Separate Item in the Quote
Expect to pay for, and be delighted when you receive a quote for, a development process that includes quality assurance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that good quality should be the automatic output of the development process. It takes some checking and checking takes time – time that should be quoted for and managed separately to the initial coding.
The number one reason that projects break down is lack of communication. Reach out to some companies that have used the same development partner (you can find them by searching Google for the website company’s tagline) and ask how they communicated progress during development and especially, how they dealt with bad news. Website development is rarely a completely smooth process. You want to deal with a company that can tell you when something has gone wrong that will affect your project and provide a plan for managing the interruption.
What’s not important?
Creative and empathetic thinking is what you need. The fact that Company A has worked in your industry and Company B hasn’t shouldn’t be a strong factor in your decision-making. Behind the scenes, the code looks pretty similar between one website and another.
There’s no magic to web design and development anymore. There are companies that combine great attitude and creative thinking along with good project management and communication practices that seek to develop long-term relationships. And then there are companies that just do web design and development.
I hope these tips help you to find the former.
Written by Neil Dwyer
Director at Corporate Momentum