Most small business owners simply don’t have the time or technical skills required to create a professional website. To get top quality web design, it might be best to hire a specialist.
But, hiring a web developer can come at a cost. It’s best to know what website design features you need before seeking out affordable quality website design. This guide will help you understand when to use a web developer, what questions to ask, the steps to find the best web developer for your business, and what to avoid.
Recommended: To learn what goes into creating a website from scratch, read our guide on How to Build a Website.
When to Use a Web Developer
Before you decide to hire a web developer or web development team, first consider if the nature of your website project merits professional help. Businesses typically turn to web developers for one of the following reasons:
- They want to construct a project from the very beginning. This generally applies to existing businesses and startups that require the automation of business processes — like file transfers, report generation and distribution, order entries, and claims processes — by an in-house or dedicated web development team. It also applies to startups seeking to enter and establish themselves within their niche market as quickly as possible. In this situation, startups need an outsourced web development team to save both time and money.
- They need to add a specialist to their in-house team to assist with an ongoing project. In this scenario, a business has two options: either hire a freelance web developer or outsource a developer through a web development agency for a set amount of time.
- They want to use technology that’s unfamiliar to their in-house team. In this case, a business can either wait for its in-house team to learn how to complete the project or hire a web developer from an outsourcing company who already knows what to do regarding the required technology.
If one of these reasons applies to your business, then hiring professional help for your web development project likely makes sense.
If not, you may want to consider building your business website yourself using one of the Best Website Builders.
5 Questions to Ask Potential Web Developers
Once you determine the nature of your project and confirm you need professional help, it’s time to select a web development partner. But, how do you choose between potential candidates?
Ask each of them these five questions:
- What’s the estimated project cost?
- Do you offer additional marketing services, such as copywriting and graphic design?
- What’s the project timeline?
- Will people who’ve worked with you before work on my project?
- Do you provide any guarantees?
New business owners often have many financial concerns and don't want to end up with a massive, unexpected bill. As such, make sure you determine the project’s estimated cost and how the provider will bill you.
If you prefer that one developer completes most of your project instead of having to work with several companies, you’ll want to confirm your chosen web developer also offers key marketing services needed to establish a successful website and business.
Depending on your requirements, your project may reach the finish line fairly quickly or it may take quite a while to complete. If your website requires complex customizations, for example, it’ll last more than a few weeks. In general, web design and development projects take 12 to 16 weeks to complete while complex projects can take months.
A quality website takes time, so it may not meet common standards if it’s built in a couple of days. Quality websites also require quality professionals to build them. As such, you need to know if your web development company employs established developers with experience working on what you need.
Finally, remember to check if your chosen web development company guarantees good work and a timely project. If you’re unhappy with the final result, you need to know your web developer will fix it at no extra cost.
Interested in designing your own website? Read our Business Web Design Basics guide to learn more.
Steps to Find the Best Web Developer for Your Business
You must consider a variety of factors when choosing a web developer based on your business’ distinct requirements.
But, in general, expect to take these 10 steps in order to launch your ideal website with the help of web developers:
1. Identify Your Challenges and Expectations
Because every web development project is unique, you may find it difficult to determine which web developers will best suit your project if you don’t first understand your project’s size and goals.
Some of the challenges you might face include creating a well-designed website that earns high rankings in search engine results and implementing relevant features to persuade visitors to remain on the site longer. These features can include call-to-action (CTA) buttons, easy ways for customers to contact you, and adequate page-loading speeds.
Importantly, you should identify your web development project type before you start your search. Common types of web development projects include:
- Simple Web Projects: These projects typically involve the creation of a simple website or the integration of additional features into an existing site. Those additional features might include a contact form, CTA buttons, new page templates, or a subscription button.
- Medium-Sized Web Projects: These projects usually include the expansion of both static or dynamic websites as well as the creation of ecommerce websites. Medium-sized web projects also can focus on integrating third-party services, such as customer relationship management (CRM) tools, a content management system (CMS), application programming interfaces (APIs), chatbots, and databases.
- Big Web Projects: This category generally refers to projects that involve video-sharing media apps or social networks that require sophisticated technologies. But, big web projects also can include the integration of a website with cloud-hosting servers in order to collect all user data.
2. Decide What You Need From Your Developer
Next, think about the type of web development skills needed to complete your project. That set of required skills will help you determine if you need a front-end, back-end, or full-stack developer.
Here’s an overview of the skills each type of developer offers.
These developers focus on the part of a website seen by visitors, including its design and layout. Yet, front-end developers don’t play the same role as web designers.
Web designers create a site’s overall user experience to ensure it’s visually creative and attractive. This process often includes designing a website’s layout and color palette.
These professionals work on the part of a website’s structure visitors don’t see. Specifically, they focus on how a website operates. If you need to improve your website’s speed, integrate third-party services, or resolve technical issues, then a back-end developer may provide the right fit.
Some of the technologies back-end developers use include the PHP scripting language; the Python, Ruby, and Java programming languages; and the MongoDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite database management systems.
These developers deal with the whole shebang, offering expertise in both front-end and back-end website development. Despite their higher hourly rates, full-stack developers can provide a less expensive option because their clients don’t need to hire two separate developers. As such, they often appeal to cash-strapped startups.
3. Choose the Required Specialists
When selecting a web developer, remember that you’ll likely have to work with them for a while. As you carefully consider who to hire, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need a developer for a very long time in a full-time position?
- Will you need additional developers in the future?
- Do you need help managing the hiring process?
- Do you want a web developer to work under supervision?
If you answered “no” to all of these questions, you should consider hiring a freelance developer. If you instead answered “yes” to many of them, it’s probably a good idea to hire a dedicated web development team to assist you.
Here are some of the best places online to find freelance developers:
- Upwork: This well-known job marketplace for freelancers has many popular features, including time tracking and automated payment per accomplished project milestone.
- Freelancer.com: Another good place to find remote workers, this site includes online chat and project milestone payment features.
- Guru: This popular job marketplace includes 3 million freelancers and offers three different payment options: by milestone, by task, or by the hour.
Here are some of the best sites to visit to explore examples of good web development teams:
- Clutch: This business-to-business (B2B) review platform gives clients an opportunity to share their experiences working with different web development companies. It also has a rating system that showcases a team’s specific strengths and weaknesses.
- SoftwareWorld: This review site lists top-ranked web developers based on reviews by client and location. It also emphasizes the industries in which each web development team successfully worked in the past.
- Agency Jet: This award-winning web development agency designs and develops websites with conversion as its primary aim. It also offers small business web design packages.
4. Verify Their Experience
Before you hire anyone, remember to verify and evaluate their credentials. Specifically, try to find out more about the individual members of a development team and their past work. You can do this by reviewing the profile of the company and each developer on LinkedIn, Behance, and Dribbble.
In addition to a development team’s technical skills, you also should look for several other important skills. These include:
- Communication: Web developers with strong communication skills typically gain a sharper understanding of your project requirements with fewer misinterpretations.
- Teamwork: Effective teamwork is vital among developers, project managers, designers, quality assurance (QA) managers, business analysts, and any other team members — especially on large projects with many complicated features.
- Proactivity: Developers who share feedback proactively about technological issues and recommended improvements can benefit your project greatly.
- Approachability: The moment team members feel they can’t collaborate, problems they might have resolved easily in the past can grow into huge issues. This can cripple your project during the course of its timeline.
The best way to determine if web developers have these skills is to conduct video interviews. You can either do this live or ask potential developers to create a video of themselves telling you more about themselves and how they’d provide solutions to common problems.
5. Choose a Working Model
There are three primary working models from which you can choose for your project:
- The Project-Based Model: Startups and established businesses with small web development projects typically favor this model.
- The Dedicated Team Model: This model works best for businesses looking to achieve complex functions on their websites, such as the integration of cloud storage or artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots. Businesses also choose this model if they want to avoid the time and costs associated with employing in-house specialists.
- The Extended Team Model: This is the best choice for big projects on a tight budget. But, this model requires you to take responsibility for oversight of the project and control of all team members.
6. Discuss the Proposed Plan
Each of your potential web development partners should provide a plan that outlines the actions they’ll take to complete your project as well as a proposed timeline.
After you review each plan, discuss specific project milestones and the timing of progress check points with the developer or development team.
7. Choose a Payment Model
Your potential web development partners also should provide a full quote for your project. As you review those quotes, take time to consider how you prefer to pay these professionals. Specifically, web development projects generally use one of two payment models:
- The Fixed-Price Model: This is the best option for small web development projects with a clear outline of the required work and project timeline.
- The Pay-As-You-Go Model: This model works well for small, medium, and large enterprises when their project’s required tasks and expected timeline remain unclear. This generally involves paying by the hour on an individual basis, depending on the work completed for a project.
Finally, if there’s any chance your total cost may increase during the course of your project, make sure you discuss potential price hikes with the web developer before you start the project.
8. Share Assets and Check Your Progress
As work begins on your project, share your logos and brand guidelines with your web development company. If you don’t have any, consider creating them. Alternatively, if your web development team works within a full-scale, digital marketing agency, that agency may offer copywriting and graphic design as additional services.
When your web development team reaches individual project milestones, check in to assess the quality and speed of the work. Strong communication during each checkpoint will help you avoid disappointment later because it’s much easier for developers to make changes during each stage of a project vs. at the end. If you’re unhappy with something, tell them so they can fix it before moving on to the next stage of your project.
Get a jump start on creating cohesive branding for your business and website. Read our How to Choose a Color Palette guide to learn more.
Other Services You May Need
Web design involves more than just building a website — a fact that surprises many small business owners. You also must determine what information should go on your site, how to attract site visitors, and what to do if your site crashes or experiences technical problems.
Most web design agencies have experience with these additional aspects of website development and offer services to address them. Here are four other services you may want to discuss with your web development team:
- Website Management: Running a website involves many technical aspects beyond simply creating the site. If you lack the required technical skills, consider outsourcing your website management. This service not only ensures you have expert help when technical issues arise, but also provides continuous testing and optimization to decrease the potential for future problems.
- Content Marketing: Establishing a blog the moment your website goes live can help you drive traffic to your site. But, a blog can only do this efficiently when you update it regularly with new and engaging content. If the prospect of writing and uploading content regularly puts you off, consider using a content marketing service to do it for you.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO will help your website appear near the top of search engine results so people can find it more easily. But, increasing your site’s search engine ranking requires a variety of digital tactics. Because SEO tactics evolve constantly, consider outsourcing this task and read our guide on How to Improve SEO.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) and Social Media Marketing: Digital marketing can significantly impact a website’s popularity, which may lead to business growth.
Because many small business owners lack the skills or time required to execute these marketing efforts, external services can seem attractive. If desired, you can hire your web design agency to manage your website development as well as other marketing efforts.
What to Avoid When Choosing a Web Developer
While there’s no shortage of web design companies, you definitely want to avoid those charging exorbitant prices for unsatisfactory work. As you evaluate potential web design companies, watch out for these red flags:
- They Lack a Clear Plan. A good web design company should provide a project plan tailored to your specific business needs. Typically, this starts with the company asking you a series of questions. Your answers should help them create a clear plan that shows exactly what they’ll do and why it’s important.
- They Don’t Provide Mobile Optimization. Approximately 63 percent of Google’s U.S. organic searches originate from mobile devices, according to Oberlo. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, it may lose traffic and leads. Don’t hire a web development company that fails to mention this because it’s an essential part of conducting business online.
- They Don’t Consider Lead Generation, the User Experience, and SEO: While aesthetic features play a key role in website development, functionality is equally important. Strong web designs also take lead generation, the overall user experience, and SEO into consideration.
It’s relatively easy to find a web design company to create a site that’ll take your business to the next level or simply add new features to your existing site. But, selecting the right one requires careful consideration so you don’t have to sacrifice functionality or aesthetic features.
Even though a web developer will perform most of the technical work, make sure you start with a good understanding of your specific project. Read our guide on what a good website needs to learn what you should think about before approaching potential web design companies.