How to choose the right Web Professional, Web Designer or Web Developer
by Adam Kress, Orlando Business Journal
Starting a business is a daunting task. Finding time, money and willpower all are top priorities when getting a company off the ground.
But somewhere early in the process, just about every entrepreneur today faces the challenge of figuring out how to create a website to promote their business offerings.
It’s often a source of frustration for entrepreneurs who aren’t too tech-savvy. Often times, experts say, small businesses and startups end up working with fly-by-night Web developers who fail to deliver or overcharge for basic services.
The challenges also can be great for larger companies working with Web developers. Keeping a massive project moving forward often is difficult, particularly if it’s a high-traffic consumer site.
According to Amanda Blum, owner of Howling Zoe Productions in Cape Cod, Mass., many smaller companies get discouraged working with Web developers because they’ve been burned in the past. “There’s no big governing body or general certification that all Web developers go through,” she said. “So it’s hard to tell who to hire.” That’s changing says Bill Cullifer, Executive Director for the Association of Web Professionals. “Establishing national certifications for any profession is a lengthy process. For example, establishing credentials for the housing construction trade and the “general contractor” took decades. Although we’ve only been at this for a little over a decade, we’ve been working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor and Education to define the role of various Web professionals including the Web developer, Web designer, and Webmaster.” The organization also works with hundreds of local community collages that now offer degree level programs “adding to the credibility of the profession” said Cullifer.
Blum’s marketing and Web development firm helps guild clients through the process of getting a website developed or overhauled. A big key to the process, she said, it to create positive expectations and a realistic budget up front. “The budget should depend almost solely on functionality. If you’re just serving up basic company info, that’s a lot different than building a site that has an e-commerce component — that can triple the price right there.”
She said no company can get a good site for less than $2,000.
Many startups have severely limited budgets and are wary of plunking down a lot of money to a Web developer they don’t know. On the flip side, many startups who use a friend or family member to build a site end up with more frustrations than results. “Look for testimonials, and not just recommendations on LinkedIn,” Blum said. “Talk to people the developer has worked with in the past.”
Bill Cullifer, the executive director of the Folsom, Calif.-based World Organization of Webmasters (www.webprofessionals.org), said those in the market for a Web professional should treat it like they were looking for any other service. “It’s a lot like the general contracting industry,” he said. “You have to ask around and look for referrals.”
The nonprofit WebProfessionals.org has several thousand members and offers training opportunities along with several different professional certifications.
Cullifer said a critical component in choosing a Web developer or other Web professional is for the client to educate themselves on the front end. “It’s always a challenge, because the whole process is so new to so many people. Most customers don’t know what they’re looking for, so they really need to figure out what they want first.” A great place to start is becoming familiar with the various Web professional titles. For example, “if you were to build your dream home you wouldn’t start the process by hiring a plumber” added Cullifer. Like the construction trades, Web professionals also specialize in the areas of Web design, Web development and Web marketing. “It’s important to choose the right mix of skills” said Cullifer. To learn more about the types of skills and what the various Web professional titles are and what Web professionals do visit. http://webprofessional.org/what-do-web-professionals-do/ page.
Cullifer said it’s also important to have a strong working relationship with a Web developer because you’ll be working together a lot. “Go through the interview process with several people. Lots of clients get in a pinch simply because they don’t get along with who they are working with.”
To help address this problem, Cullifer launched The Web Professional Directory (www.webprofessional.org) in 2010.
“It’s user-centric, so the more positive votes a Web professional gets, the higher they move up in the rankings,” Cullifer said.
For larger companies, the challenges in working with a Web developer often are different than those faced by smaller firms. Budgets are bigger and money may not be the issue. But getting so many people moving in the same direction can be a challenge, and often much of the work is done in-house.
“Your calendar has to be flexible, but there needs to be a contract with concrete deliverables,” Blum said. “And remember, the whole process is going to take a lot of time and effort on your part.”
Particularly for larger projects, Cullifer said, it’s important to know one Web professional probably can’t do it all. “Designers are very different from search-engine optimization experts, for example. There may be a need to outsource some of the specialty work, just like a general contractor would do in building a home.”
Three top tips
• Do your homework: Find out exactly what you want your website to do before meeting with Web developers.
• Have a budget: Getting a friend or family member to build your site might be cheap, but it probably won’t be effective. Make sure the developer knows your budget and sticks to it.
• Be flexible: Particularly on large projects, building new websites can take a lot of time. Realize the Web developer will need a lot of company information before they can start building.
Read more: How to choose the right online designer | Orlando Business Journal