Web Services Needed: What SMEs Need to Know When Hiring a Web Developer or Designer

Your business is… well, whatever your business may be: human resources, plumbing, running your restaurant. Many SME owners are privileged to do what they love and work very hard to make their businesses successful. Whatever you do, you want your website to work for you, but you want to spend your time running your business, not working on the nuts and bolts of website design, so when you need web services, how do you ensure that you are doing the right thing for your business?

This straightforward checklist will allow you to manage your web service needs from start to finish and to make sure you get the best quality and value web development for your company.

Which web services do you need?

If you don’t yet have a website, the first step is to write down exactly why you want a website and what you want it to do for your business. Is it an online business card for reference? Do you want to sell products or services via your site? Is it to improve communication within or outside the organisation? All of these factors influence the design and development of your website, who might be best suited to do the work and the potential cost.

If you already have a website, try to pinpoint exactly what you do and don’t like about the existing website and how things might be changed. Try and be specific: rather than noting that it looks outdated, identify what makes it so: is it the colour scheme or the fonts? Is the navigation clumsy or out-of-date? You don’t have to be a web design expert to do this, but it will give you a head start in looking for a web developer to solve these problems.

Next, prioritise your “wishlist”, which may be a combination of specific points, e.g. improving the layout and more general needs e.g. “I want to drive more business to my website”. Once you have this, you have a brief which a web developer can use to work out the web services needed and how to achieve the desired results. Since the list is prioritised, when it comes to obtaining quotes for the work, you can decide how much is achievable within your timeframe and budget.

Choosing the right person

Do you need a web designer, web developer or programmer? The terms may all sound similar, but there are distinct differences in the work they do and therefore what you can expect from their web services for your site.

A web designer focuses primarily on the appearance or look and feel of the website, including the layout. A good web designer should be an expert in making websites visually powerful and impactful and in drawing visitors to the right areas of your website. Some web designers combine their services with graphic design, so if you have a new look and feel branding on your website, they can incorporate it for you on company letterheads and business cards too.

A web programmer focuses more on functionality. He or she might program solely for the web or may do software programming too. The programmer’s concern is getting features of your website to work. Examples may include building an online intranet or database application, where information can be stored on your database and manipulated via your website. In larger companies, these roles are often split so that programmers work on the “back end” – the features that make a website work and then apply the “front end” created by a web designer to make the site more attractive.

A web developer muddies the water considerably, sorry. Web developers can incorporate elements of design and programming. Web development is a broader term for getting a website online and making it work. You can expect a good web developer to have an eye to both the appearance and functionality of the website.

If you need to narrow it down and you’re not quite sure about the technicalities, have a look around your site. Most likely your URLs in the address bar will have some kind of extension e.g.(.html,.asp,.php,.cfm). Try Googling for terms like “asp developer” to find someone with the specific skills to enhance your website.

Grill the portfolio When you visit a web developer’s website, check their portfolio thoroughly and don’t stop there – look for their clients’ website online. If you are looking for website redesign to allow you to update content more easily, how well are the developer’s portfolio sites maintained? If you are primarily concerned with Search engine optimisation (SEO), how do client sites fare on search engines for the relevant terms?

The personal touch Above all, pay attention to client recommendations. The website can show you the end result, but the recommendation can tell you about the web design process with this particular individual or company. Every SME is different, but with all those I have worked with, one thing has remained the same: the importance of the personal touch. Whether you are employing a freelancer or a big web development company, you need to ensure that you can establish a good relationship with your web developer. How quickly and thoroughly do they respond to emails or phone calls? Are they forthcoming with advice and what sort of advice do they offer? Again, you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to judge whether you think it rings true and fits for you and your business

Go big or go local? Web design and development is big business and variety is the name of the game. Google, Bing and Yahoo! can play a big part in your decision, but rankings aren’t always the whole story.

It is well worth considering a local web design company or developer, because they may have local contacts to help you promote your website or greater access to resources like online business directory listings which can boost your search engine rankings.

I worked with a Cambridge charity who wanted to employ a Cambridge web developer because they knew the web services needed would be ongoing and that discussion and meeting face to face in Cambridge would be important to them, rather than discussing their needs over the phone or email.

How much should web design cost? As with any investment you make for your SME, it goes without saying that you should shop around and get a few quotes. Even if you know which developer you want to go with, it is worth checking that you are being charged the going rate for the web services needed. If the web design prices are above average, you need to decide whether your relationship with the company or freelance web developer are worth paying the extra cost. If the prices are considerably below average, this should set alarm bells ringing. Canny SMEs know that you always get what you pay for.

Working as a freelancer, I know that my clients prefer me to be upfront about costs and that it builds trust. Beware companies who hedge their bets with quotes as it might be a telltale sign of inexperience. However, it is worth bearing in mind that quoted prices are only a starting point. As an SME, it is down to you to hash out exactly what is included and what is not. For example, many sites offer SEO friendly websites. This means that the web design will incorporate the features needed to give your site a boost on Google. However, SEO does not stop here. In my experience, building websites for Cambridge companies in search engines is an ongoing process which takes place over a period of time.

Web design prices: break it down If in doubt, ask the web designer or developer to break the cost down per task. That way, if there is a time-consuming feature which is not at the top of your web design wishlist, you can decide whether or not it is worth the web developer’s time and – more importantly – your money.

Your SME, your website Love or loathe the internet: your website is a big part of your company’s identity. It pays to get it right; it costs to get it wrong, so take your time to find the web services you need.

Web Developers & Designers

Web developers and designers are the people involved in developing Word Wide Web applications or distributed network applications. Web designers are the team of workers that work in close cooperation in order to accomplish client demands. The basic aim of the web application development team is to satisfy client needs in meeting all their requirements. Web developers play an important role in fulfilling client requirements.

They are the software developer or the software engineers exclusively engaged in developing the web application designed by their team. Web developers works on the decision of web designers, in turn the web designers pattern the application according to client’s demand.

Basically, web designers will have good communication with the clients and provide a document on the client’s requirement to development team. The developers work upon the requirement to develop exact result of the final project. Web developers had to work on a particular project in one or more tires based on the size of the development team. Some developers participate in two or more fields in order to complete the project in time. The developers are dissevered, for example a group is assigned to work on the technologies sent to the client and other group can be ascribed to server-side frameworks.

Web designing is a complex process and it requires ongoing activity. The web development team works on the basic aspects of design to bring out expected result. They usually focus on the content of the website, usability, appearance and visibility. These aspects are nothing but the expected ones of the clients. They need their website should contain reliable information. They mainly expect their website should be attractive and user-friendly on which the designers earnestly work on.

Web designing team has certain model which contains steps to be followed to produce tangible product that fully meets requirement of the client. Nowadays, development team uses fourth generation language to develop the web applications which are rich in facilities. At the first phase, the developers work out in producing prototypes. The prototype is built to quickly demonstrate to the customer what the product would look like. Only minimal functionality of the actual product is provided at this phase. The prototype thus developed by the web developers are reviewed by the designer team and forwarded to customer for demonstration. Customer and the developer team virtually sit together side-by-side and gets feedback on the prototype that the developer shows the client.

Once the feedback is obtained they are documented. These requirements become the basic requirement of the actual system. Reviews on prototype are estimated by the web designer team, during each feedback issued by the client. The web exploitation team likes to spend most of its time in development of the web application, as these are closest to recent technologies. The technologies of today are more advanced and rich in its feature. Work of web developers and designers are made easy and the product is delivered to the client in time.

Beware of Freelance Web Developers and Designers – They Are Cheap, But Could Be More Expensive

Plenty of startup companies are seeking their web presence through a simple website or an interactive web portal. To accomplish the web development task they try to find the resources on internet. They search for resources using keywords like freelance web developer, freelance web development or freelance web designers. Either they end up seeing some blog of freelancer or they reach to the freelance heaven websites like rentacoder, getacoder, getafreelancer, elance or odesk. Such sites have millions of cheap freelancers registered with them. You may put a project and you can get as many as 50-100 bids for your project in a day. This sounds fascinating initially but it’s just a beginning of process. The trouble starts now. Here are few difficulties you will face at initial stage.

1. You have overwhelming bids that makes the choice difficult for you.

2. Every one of them tells you that they are the best, but hardly few of them are actually telling the truth.

3. You may not find just one freelance web developer meets all your needs, Mr. A meets 50% matching requirements and Mr. B and Mr. C meets 25% each, that increases your troubles.

SO finally you selected someone with all your agreements on price and estimate, now you may see the second largest pool of difficulties

1. The communication is a major issue, the freelancer does not reply emails on time and neither do they remain online all the day because they have their full time jobs elsewhere (that jobs pay the full time income)

2. The freelancer is a lone person but the project of web development needs different skills like project requirement analysis, design the website mockup, HTML conversion, programming in PHP or.Net, quality test and delivery. Normally not one person does all. This invites problem #3

3. The freelancer either asks you to manage other resources for him or he goes and finds other freelancers to help him; that comes on higher price. So you waste lot of time while your selected freelance web designer is busy finding help for him.

4. As I said in point #1, most of the freelancers have their full time jobs, such jobs demand lot of time and energy, so freelance web designers or developers work on odd hours or they just do not work on some days when they are busy with their full time jobs. Such behavior causes further delay to your project delivery.

5. You may come across various excuses for not delivering of your projects, some common excuses are “I am not well since few days”, some emotional excuses like “My mother/father/daughter/wife is not well so I am in hospital”. Such excuses are emotional blackmailing techniques that can make you believe that the freelancer is in trouble while he is actually trying to buy some more time.

6. Most of the Freelance web developers are over loaded with work because of their cheap hourly rates. Such overloading can make you suffer the delay in your web development project. That increase more frustration.

7. The major problem you could come across is that the freelancer disappears after you paid him advance money for your project. Certain freelancers have many accounts created on odesk, elance, getacoder, rentacoder, getafreelancer kind of websites, so they would stop responding you and neither do they will return your initial money.

So your plan of saving money could end up losing money and time, losing time is more expensive than losing money.

How do you prevent this, here are simple reasons to select a small web development company compared to a freelance web developer.

1. The company has long term plan, so web development companies are professional.

2. Company has many resources for web design, web development, quality testing and deployment so your project never suffers a delay.

3. Company has a legal name, legal offices so web development companies can sign a contract with you, a freelancer never signs a contract or signing contract with freelancer has no meaning.

4. A web development company has many back resources so even if some developer or designer does not show up, the company can replace them with other developers, your work never suffer.

5. A web development company takes money on milestones, so your money and project both are secure.

6. Most important point is communication. You can get a good communicating people in web development companies because the manager is always a well experienced person; he takes all responsibilities of problems and payments.

Above all its peace of mind when you work with web development companies, it comes at little extra cost but with lot of amenities as described above.

Choice is yours, select a freelance web designer and ruin your web development project or select a web development company and run a successful web based business.