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Working With Web Developers

5 Oct, 2009 Phil Starting Up, Web Design

As a web designer myself, I know the importance of making a site look professional enough to make prospects want to call you or buy from you. You need to make sure your site can be found easily by search engines.  How do can you find and work with a web developer who will get your site built quickly, professionally and at a reasonable cost?.  With ‘Project x’ (my own personal web development project currently undergoing), I have called in the use of an off-shore development team of expert programmers who are busy as we speak coding my site up.  I have researched from various sources how to work with such a team and how to set boundaries and milestones to check their progress and ensure they stay up to date with deadlines.

Here are several suggestions I have found useful and hope you will too:

1 – ‘Network’ with other web-business owners whose websites you like the look and feel of, and get the contact information for the companies that created those sites – normally a development or webmaster team.  Ask the site owners if they were satisfied with all aspects of the work and service, ask if they wold recommend them, and what they paid to have their site built.  Make comparisons between the size and functionality of their site compared to your idea and then work out how much yours could likely cost in a comparison.

2 – Look around the web and make a list of websites that you find attractive.  Make notes of layouts, colours and flash-based applications.  Be sure to copy the complete url for each site you like so you can easily refer back to it and send to the development team to show them what you mean.  Along with that list, make note of exactly what it is about the sites you like.  from what I found, developers can do anything you want, but it’s better to show something than to describe it yourself: after all, a picture tells a thousand words.  You might find one that has a color scheme you like, another that is easy to navigate.  

3 – Normally, the bottom of the page in question will have a link to the design/development team who created it.  If so, contact the companies whose work you like and ask them for a quote – mentioning you love the look of one of their sites.

4 – List all the keywords and phrases for your business.  This will be used for the meta information when the developer and designers work on your website and it’s a good idea to also have different titles for each page as well (this is used for the search engines and means better seo for your site).  If you buy search engine advertising, use the tools provided by the search engines to help you discover important keywords.

5 – Decide whether you’ll sell directly on the website, or just use the website to get leads.  This needs to be decided early no as changing half-way through a project will delay things considerably and more than likely add cost.

6 – Decide on and prepare all the editorial information and marketing copy your website will contain.   Basically, write all the content and text your site will have so when the design team are ready, you can simply forward it on instead of starting to do it at that moment.  At minimum, you’ll want a homepage (the main page for your site), a page or pages describing your products and services, an “about us” page and a “contact us” page. 

7 – Write or have a professional writer create the editorial content as soon as you decide what you want on the site.  The purpose of your website is to represent and market your business, and bear in mind web developers usually just design and program sites – they are not salespeople and (especially) if you’re using an off-shore development team like me, english may not be their first language.   Remember, the web developer can’t finish the job until you give them the copy that goes on the website, so save yourself time and do it in advance.

8 - Don’t cut corners by simply forwarding a brochure or flyer for your business to add text onto your site.  A websites aim is very different from a flyer.  A website’s job is to get attention AND get the prospect to take action. In other words, to sell.  The flyer will just be generating interest.

9 – Decide which photos, graphics and drawings you want on your site, and make it clear whether you’ll provide the graphics or whether the web developer will need to do it.  Nowadays, there are some great sites to buy royalty-free photo’s, images and videos at a small cost – but means you won’t infringe copyright.  Main player in this field is iStockphoto, which I have used countless times and is dead easy to use.  Graphics you may need to provide yourself would include photos of products, people and other graphics for use on your site.  Most stock photo sites have buttons users can click on, and all are almost always customisable as well.

10 – If your website is ’selling’ or at least taking payments for your products or services, be aware that you will need to get a ‘merchant account’ that can be used on the web to handle taking payments from users.  PayPal is probably the best one to use and handles any card that the customer may have.   You will be charged for using such a service, but I found Paypal has some of the lowest charges with the highest flexibility.   Paypal also have a great way of integrating their payment system directly into your site, so users won’t have to leave your site to make their purchase. 

11 - Ensure you sign a contract with the developer that highlights all the features and details you have discussed with the developer.  Leave nothing out.  This should include a breakdown of the price and milestones.  Milestones are key parts of the project that you can check you’r happy with and move on to the next (also known as ‘deliverables’.  I do this with my own web design clients, and expect nothing less when I’m the ‘customer’.  By setting milestones, you can check whether the overall project is on time for completion deadline.   Google ‘web development contract templates‘, and find one suitable to your requirements.

12 - Make sure you stipulate that you have full copyright ownership of your site.  This is important in the case you decide to change web developers or hosting companies at any time in the future, you will be able to do so without having to have your site recreated.  The copyright ownership must be written into the contract.  Otherwise, under copyright law, the developer may own the work they created for you.   ‘Source code’ is different, as if the development team are writing components or code from scratch they usually have the right keep that component in it’s basic form, but any content, trademarks, logos, text and features that are specific for your site – remain yours.

 

Make sure that you keep on top of the development team throughout the project and answer any queries they have promptly.  Remember, if they need to know something important, they may not be able to proceed any further without that bit of info.   Follow all the above steps and your website will turn out exactly as you want it, and more importantly, when you want it completed.

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About Phil

Phil is creative director at PSM Digital but also freelances with web design and SEO in Manchester, UK. He researches and studies online business, along with the latest technological advances and development in design, SEO and social media.

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About The One Man Mission...

Hi I’m Phil. Welcome to my blog, where you’ll find useful information on web design, development and online business advice.  I’m a creative director for a digital agency in Manchester, UK and I also freelance web design also.  Currently setting up and developing a new online business, I am here...

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