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Web development can be the ultimate weapon for any business. However, it can also be the worst burden. It all depends on what you do and how you do it.
In this article, we will see 10 tips to choose a good web development agency or how to develop websites by yourself.
Tip 1: Research what kind of development you need
Sounds simple. But is the mother of all failures when it comes to web development.
Most people think, “Let’s add a website with this and that, 5 pages with X amount of content, and call it a day”
About 85% of websites and projects built that way will fail.
Let me ask you:
- What do you want to do?
- What is the project?
- What is your target audience?
- Who are your competitors?
- What are your competitors doing?
- What are your goals?
- What is the plan you have to achieve them?
Do you think the above approach answers any of these questions? No, of course it doesn’t! Hence the 85% failure rate.
Tip 2: Be open
This is something that all developers and designers experience almost every day: Everyone who doesn’t have specific knowledge or study in the field thinks they are a specialist. And then try to teach programmers, designers, UX researchers, engineers, etc. the profession for which they have spent years of study and work.
Do yourself a favor: Be open to suggestions.
They probably know a lot more than you do. And if you push for it, many of them will say “Sure, no problem” just to avoid losing the job. And you end up with a useless project and waste a lot of money.
Tip 3: …but not so open
A development team or a freelance developer needs guidance. They need to know the answer to the above questions in order to do something that solves the various problems.
Leaving web developers unattended may lead to conflicts and undesired results. This is specially true with freelance web developers who are used to more freedom, while most web development companies have project managers that will help you.
Nevertheless, you also need to make sure that they do what you need and not what they think you need. Your purpose and goals shouldn’t be changed by them, they only need to guide you on the best way to achieve it.
Tip 4: Web development is not only frontend
When businesses think about their online presence, they tend to think that their online presence is only what they see. Or, in other words, the front end.
The front end of the website or a mobile app is what we see when we go to the page. However, this front end is the result of a back end that can be custom (e.g. using PHP, Ruby or Python development) or uses a CMS like WordPress.
The content that users see is added through this backend, which also uses a complex setup of coding, server, database, and so on. Therefore, it is not as simple as it seems.
Let’s take an example: Let’s say your site is an eCommerce site, with some nice marketing features like wish lists or subscription lists for mailings, maybe some custom gamification features.
Then you’ll need a major server structure, you’ll probably use plugins or custom features, and you’ll probably include third-party APIs. All of this will be managed by a database, and depending on the size of your project, you might have different servers for your website, for your database, and for your emailing.
Tip 5: Is the web development company near me?
This may not seem very important. But sometimes it is.
While the global economy offers different and broader opportunities to start and run your business, many people like to have a local contact to turn to.
Note that we are not interested in this tip as we hardly work for our own country and you are probably not in our country, let alone our city.
However, our years of experience in this area show that customers often trust someone local rather than someone overseas. Someone who you can knock on their door to see how things are going or ask why something isn’t getting done.
If you research the most common search terms on Google, you’ll see that “development company near me” or “design agency near me” are common search terms. So are the same terms but with location included, like “design firm in New York” or “development agency in UK” or other similar search terms.
This shows that this tip is very important for many people.
I could argue: We are an agency that is geographically much closer than someone in your city or state. In fact, we are only a computer screen away!
But as I said, we understand that sometimes that proximity or more personal contact is important.
Tip 6: Can you outsource web development services?
This is the opposite case to the previous one: Instead of looking for a web development agency in your city or near you, opt for outsourcing.
Outsourcing is one of the smartest options if you are in a country with a high cost of living.
Of course, this is nothing new, almost all countries in North America and Europe (especially the United States) outsource. Not just services, but manufacturing as well. Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe are the main beneficiaries of this economic paradigm. From Apple to Nike to Google and any other big name you care to mention, most production is outsourced.
The benefit of outsourcing is that even if the cost per employee remains the same, money is saved. And a lot of it.
Let’s say a developer working at your company earns $ 50 an hour on average.
And let’s say a developer working from Bulgaria earns $ 50 an hour.
At first glance, there is no difference.
But in a second glance, you realize something: for the developer who works in your company, you have to pay 8 hours 5 days a week, whether he works or not. You must pay for the cost of the infrastructure to have it in your office (electricity, computer, desk, etc). The load of administrative personnel and accountants is enlarged. Ending the relationship with the developer can be troublesome and costly.
While the outsourced developer or designer charges only for what he does, in the project you define. Once finished, there are no more obligations. And you can deduct the cost of your taxes!
But more importantly: the Bulgarian developer may well be willing to accept less money, especially if there is a significant commitment of money.
Let’s clarify that I put the example of Bulgaria and a freelance developer, but it could be an outsourced agency from Argentina or India or Egypt or whatever comes to mind.
The point is: outsourcing is a smart solution to get great value for less money.
Tip 7: Before website development, hire a UX company
A client requests web development for a highly complex site, for which they already have the designs in Figma. There are 28 screens, which must be connected to each other through content relationships.
The web development company also did the SEO of the previous version, ranking the site with more than 800 keywords on the first page of Google (not an exaggeration or a typo: more than eight hundred pages).
When developing the provided design, very serious problems appear. And no one can connect. Furthermore, the only way to get the job done is to duplicate the content, both on each page and throughout the site.
Until finally the client realizes that he made a very serious mistake and spent a lot of money on something completely unusable that is going to sink his business.
Can you imagine such a nightmare?
Well, we don’t need to imagine it. The development company that did the SEO and had to develop that Frankenstein design was ourselves. Despite our constant warnings, the project went ahead. Luckily it was never launched, because the customer could see with his own eyes that he had thrown the money away.
Well, the web designer was very creative. His work was impeccable aesthetically, but he knew nothing about user experience, development, information architecture, or responsive web design. Then, the content could not be related in a logical way, there was no way to reach at least 50% of the designed screens, the mobile design screens were completely different from the desktop ones (which forced us to duplicate the content, creating a part of the code for desktop and another that was only shown in mobile. But obviously both loading at the same time).
This is what is called UX Debt, and the cost to the client was very high. Let’s say enough to buy a late-model mid-size sedan. On top of that money. we had to add 5 months of time.
Why was this website development such a failure?
Well, coincidentally we are a UX agency and a web development company at the same time. But let’s not talk about ourselves, because it is just a coincidence. Suppose the case is more general.
So, the first and unavoidable thing is to hire a UX agency that does a heuristic evaluation of the existing site, pointing out the problems and opportunities.
Then, the same agency must create the information architecture (IA) of the site, generating a logical structure for the flow of user traffic.
Finally, the UX company will deliver a report with all the above information. And many times, with wireframes that visually identify the most important elements of the design. In this way, the designer is hand-off, often using collaborative design environments such as InVision, Zeplin, Figma, etc.
In general, a UX company can charge for this between $ 10,000 and $ 20,000 (if it is in the USA or UK and depending on whether there are wireframes) and between $ 2,000 and $ 10,000 if it is an overseas UX agency.
The savings in time and resources plus the precision and the correct guidance will make that amount be recovered almost instantaneously. Many times in less than a month.
Every dollar invested in UX yields a return between $ 2 and $ 100.Charlie Claxton, Head of UX at Amazon
Another “developer went bananas” user case
Lack of planning on website development is quite common. Even for expert devs.
We had this incredible project for a large software company. Since they are a software company, it means there are a lot of programmers and coders. LOTS. We’re talking of 500+.
Now, these were incredibly capable software programmers and coders. And they also thought that meant they knew web development as well.
So they started with a WordPress site. After that, someone else thought WP wasn’t enough, so they created a Ruby site that contained WP inside a “bubble”. Not the best idea, but that was what they did.
However, it seems a different team took control of the website. This time they converted that Ruby site into Django with parts in pure Python. The original Ruby site with the encapsulated legacy WP was inside a bubble again, this time inside Django.
Some time later, things changed again. This time, they took the legacy WP that was inside Ruby that was inside Django and displayed the result using AngularJS.
After a few months they called us to convert everything to WP, only that properly done. It took us 4 months of hard work, cleaning 4 different languages and making it all work in one single framework.
To make it harder: they wanted the front-end to look exactly the same, pixel by pixel, and the information architecture had to be exactly the same as well, which was a nightmare because Angular can use the same name for everything (which they did), but WP only allows for one single slug.
Long story short: they spent years and then a lot of money to fix what their programmers did.
Bottom line: developing your website without a consultation with UX experts is a risky bet to say the least. And the results, no matter how good, will never be as good as those produced by a scientific methodology.
Tip 8: Hire a web development company that also does web design
This is a very good tip. We used to think differently and would have recommended choosing two different firms: a development agency on one side and a design firm on the other.
With time and experience, we’ve gained a different perspective. And most good web development services include design services. Which is very handy, because the developer can ask the designer what a particular element is for, or needs a specific design element that wasn’t initially thought of.
The point is that the synergy of the two disciplines makes the project run more smoothly. Plus, you’ll probably save some money since most design firms that offer website development services will probably do one package for everything.
Tip 8.1: Hire a web development agency that also does marketing or SEO
If you have already created a website, you know that marketing and SEO (or SEM) are fundamental to your website. Also, for your business development.
Marketing and SEO are different things, but they have a lot in common. Let’s just say that marketing guides SEO strategy. And having great SEO results without a good marketing plan that converts those results into customers and therefore money is kind of pointless.
And if you’ve done a little research into SEO and Google’s requirements, you’ll already know that technical SEO is becoming more important every day. As of May 2021, it will officially be a big part of the Google Search algorithm: if you’re not ready, you’re going to lose a lot of traffic.
However, not all website development companies know how to handle it (in fact, it’s the minority. Probably about 1%, and that’s not an exaggeration).
I mean: it’s not that they don’t know HOW to deal with it. It’s just that it’s not in them. They will basically build something according to specifications. But if you don’t specify exactly what you need in terms of SEO, they won’t do it.
So it’s a good idea to find a dev company or freelancer that also does SEO (wink wink) and can implement all the technical requirements naturally.
Tip 9: Ask for their customer support policy
Any decent development agency will offer some level of support. It depends on the company and how they offer that support.
It also depends on the size of the project and the type of project. For example, if you are using WordPress or any other existing CMS (Content Management System) for the project, the company may decide to give you only a basic support for it as there are countless resources for WP support and it will be faster to check them.
So again, it depends on what the developer company wants to provide as support or what agreement you have, and there are almost infinite possibilities.
In our own company, the bare minimum that we provide is:
- Lifetime backups: we keep a backup of everything on 2 different servers for as long as possible. If our clients’ sites have problems, we always have a backup
- Basic training by video: we provide a video explaining how to use different features of the developed project
- Basic training one on one (if requested): in this case, we teach users how to do things in the backend with zoom or Google Meet
- Brand guidelines or User Manual: the former applies to projects where the use of the site must follow brand guidelines; of course, we also provide this for branding projects. Otherwise, we provide a written User Manual with instructions and images.
- 3 months support for bugs: if there is a bug, we fix it for free if it occurs within 3 months of launch. If the bug is actually a functional bug, we will fix it for free no matter how much time has passed. This is in conjunction with our Guaranteed Results policy.
There are other companies that do it differently, or charge a fee for some things, so it’s imperative that you ask before starting a project: what’s your support policy for website development projects?
And always be prepared to recognize that the answer to this question is a game changer. If the support is inadequate or they want to charge you a lot, run as far away as you can. Otherwise, you will be asking for trouble.
Tip 10: Develop your page yourself!
Do you have a knack for development? Do you have a project that is not very important (for example, a quick website for a hobby or a personal blog or a non-commercial event)? Do you have a project that is important, but you’re brave and willing to get your hands dirty?
Then do it yourself!
It’s not the most recommended thing to do, but it’s not impossible. And depending on your skills, it’s not even very difficult (I’m always talking about easy pages).
You can create a simple site with just some HTML5 and CSS. I’m assuming you’re not a Python website developer, or you wouldn’t be reading this!
Or, if you don’t know any code, you can go the CMS route! You can use web creation services like Canva, WIX, or WordPress. They all allow you to create a website without any coding knowledge and with some nice features.
In the case of WordPress, there are 2 versions (hosted or open source). In the first case, you have a set of pre-made templates and themes that you can use.
And if you decide to host your own WordPress website (which is the smartest decision) but don’t feel like designing or coding, you can use builders like Elementor. Elementor allows you to build a website in a visual way, using content blocks. They have some professionally designed elements, so you can get a great website in no time and for very little money.
Will it be the same as a professionally designed website? Probably not.
Will the website development be head to head with an Elementor based site? Absolutely not. There’s not even a chance.
On the other hand: for small projects where you’re not risking money… it might be a good idea. At least something to consider.
Bottom line: if you’re willing and able to do it yourself, just develop your own website!
It’s a lot of fun and you’ll learn a lot. Just don’t try it for a business website because it will prove to be very costly.
Conclusion: It all comes down to “be smart”
Just throw off any preconceptions you may have. Look at the problem you have with a clear head and research options.
Ask questions. Try to get a good idea of what you need to get the results you want and what you need to provide to the company.
And don’t skip the UX consulting step. It rarely pays off. And there’s a 99 percent chance you’ll lose a lot of money or your earnings will be less than they would be if you had that professional advice. Simply put, it’s like hitting the jackpot. You might hit the jackpot, but you know the odds are against you.
Whatever you decide, just make sure the company you choose is experienced and has a record of similar work.
I hope these simple tips help you make a good decision. And if you need to consult us, we’ll help you for free!
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