If you've started a home-based business, sooner or later--preferably sooner--you'll have to think about starting a website. Unless you feel comfortable working with html and other website coding standards, and have some experience with effective design, you'll probably want to hire a web developer to manage this vital task for you.
Without some experience in website design and development, choosing the best web developer for your needs can seem like an intimidating task. Here are 5 questions to help you narrow down possible candidates to handle your all-important business website.
1. What Other Sites Have You Worked on?
This is a great question to ask up front to find out the overall look and feel of a developer's work. If a developer's sites all seem flat and dull to you, they probably won't be a good choice. By contrast, if the sites are overly fancy, with a great deal of Flash programming or other add-ons, you might lose visitors if your clientele tends to prefer a more basic design, or if they tend to use lower-end computers. A Flash layout that takes five minutes to load is going to lose customers, no matter how pretty it is.
2. What Is Your Development Process?
This question can have an infinite number of answers, but how a developer works through a project could mean the difference between a developer you're comfortable with and one who drives you crazy. If you're the kind of person who likes to see a project in more-or-less final form before giving your approval, a developer who works through things in phases, with large numbers of revisions and a lot of back-and-forth, might bring more frustration than you're willing to deal with.
3. How Do You Structure Your Billing?
The development process can also have a major effect on billing. If a developer does a lot of preliminary wireframes and charges by the hour for every increment of the development, you could be looking at a bill beyond what you originally budgeted. A developer who charges a flat fee per page might work better if your budget is fixed.
4. Will I Be Able to Make My Own Updates in the Future?
How important this question is to you will depend on your comfort level in dealing with code, ftp uploads, and other elements of website maintenance. Many developers are happy to construct code in such a way that you can easily make changes via copy/paste. This will also save you money down the road, and also prove helpful if you need to make a time-sensitive update and can't wait for the developer to make time to get it done.
5. How Much Do You Charge for Ongoing Changes and Maintenance?
If you do want your web developer to take care of updates and overall maintenance, be sure to ask what ongoing fees will cost. If you don't anticipate a lot of changes to the site, this might not be an issue. But if you constantly update daily specials or other timely information, maintenance could become a costly proposition, so be sure to work through this issue ahead of time.