Finding Professional Web Development Services

Every new and small business owner is at least generally aware of the need to have an Internet site for their business. Creating the site without professional web development services can work if the skills are present, but with the professional support the site can quickly become a time consuming nightmare when the business should be the focus of the owner. There are several things to consider when looking for a professional.

The first issue is cost. Many companies are prone to hiring a family member to create the site to save money. While this seems like a good idea in the beginning, very quickly the family member will grow tired of having to constantly make changes to satisfy the owner’s needs and the frustration with an incomplete site begins to emerge.

Looking for a professional includes asking for references and portfolios. The true professional will have a series of sites and examples that can be viewed and even used to see what features the designer is able to make. Without the portfolio the type of site may be left up in the air, again causing frustration.

Many designers will also agree to setup the domain and hosting services needed. The domain is the actual address that begins with www. The hosting provides a place for the domain to reside. This is required in order for a site to be found on the Internet.

Many designers also have the ability to create the needed graphics for the website. If they do not, they usually have a relationship with someone who can provide these for the owner. In many cases, a photo of the retail location, logo, or other graphics are needed to provide a great presence for the company.

When the site is created, the job does not end. Part of the initial conversation should include what is available regarding site maintenance when completed. Many companies need to have a photo gallery to show their wares, or a shopping cart for sales. These will need to be continually updated after the initial site goes live. Setting a price for ongoing maintenance is best done prior to signing a contract.

When the site is live it is time to begin combining the traditional advertising with the site. Include the domain name in all advertisements, business cards, stationary, and any signs on the building or company vehicles. Just making the site does not guarantee people will visit. But, if people know the site is available, they will check out the products and services long before they ever visit the actual retail location.

Having a website available for people to view before they visit the retail location helps make the sales easier when they do. The customer who has already reviewed the products and services is visiting or calling because they want to purchase. Making sure the web development services are professional and the site is completed on a timely basis is important to get the company online and functioning in the Internet as efficiently as possible. Without a presence on the Internet, a business can be missed because people use the Internet to find what they are looking for more than any other method.

Web Development De-Mystified

You know you need a site, or maybe that the one created in 2002 isn’t serving your purposes anymore. Now it’s 2010, we’re steadily approaching Web 3.0 (even though no one is exactly sure what that is) and suddenly there are literally gazillions of options available. Really. That’s the technical term. Gazillions.

Where to start?

The answer to that question might be where not to start. As a web developer with 12 years experience building and maintaining so many sites I’ve lost count, I feel fairly qualified to give advice. My first word of advice is don’t use your web hosting company’s free site builder tool. While I can’t honestly speak for ALL of them, I can speak for MOST of them and they’re usually poopy. (Again, that’s the technical term.)

Why? Because they’re cookie cutter technologies that usually don’t have decent SEO (search engine optimization) functions built in, the templates are often straight out of the 90’s and when it comes time to build a REAL website, you will likely have to scrap everything you’ve done. That’s because these proprietary systems are often quite unfriendly when it comes to how they write code — they don’t play well with others. I’ve had to rebuild quite a few sites from clients who started out with one of these free template sites and let me tell you, it wasn’t pretty.

The second major piece of advice is don’t use Flash. Unless you want a site that’s like a big fancy store that people can peer through the windows but no one can enter, don’t use this Google-prohibitive technology. While Google claims to be able to read the content inside Flash movies, they simply cannot be optimized for search results in any meaningful way.

Finally, the third and final suggestion for today (carpal tunnel is setting in)… find a human being to work with. Yes, there are other types of free awesome wow that’s totally amazing site building thingies online, but chances are, if you find someone to actually talk to, you’ll get a lot more out of it, for what should be, but are not always, obvious reasons. Simply put, web designers are humans with real experience. They can recommend new technologies to you faster than you can find them on your own, they have tons of experience working with other clients and will often see hidden opportunities available to your business than you’d ever dream of.

So the conclusion is, robotic free template site junk = bad. Real human beings that might cost more but deliver beyond your expectations = good.

Effective Approach to Remote Web Development Projects

Effective management of remote developers is not as easy as it may seem, especially if this is your first time working with remote employees. Generally, there are two pretty obvious solutions: either you hire a qualified project manager to do this for you, or you do it yourself. Each has its own pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look at them.

The apparent disadvantage of hiring a project manager is that you have to pay him. However, hiring a project manager may be a better option for those who are not quite familiar with software or web development and for those who have to work with a large number of distant employees. A good project manager will be able to resolve all minor issues without disturbing you, and will bother you only occasionally. A qualified manager can offer efficient solutions that you could have overlooked owing to lack of experience or some other reason. This option is best for those who just don’t have time to manage distant projects or for those whose time is worth more than a manger’s salary.

The other, a bit rougher, way is to handle everything on your own, and this one requires a more strategic approach.

Plan beforehand
Before you hire a freelancer or few to work on your project make sure you understand what you want, and most importantly, how you want it done. The same thing can be achieved in different ways, and you have to decide how you want your project executed before someone starts working on it. Simply saying that you want a blog or an e-commerce website will not do the thing. Do some research, find out about possible solutions and select the one that suits you most, and then look for freelancers or outsourcing company that has qualifications needed to bring your project to life.

Be clear
Write a detailed technical specifications that describes how exactly everything should be done. If you lack the qualifications or experience to do this, it’s advisable that you hire someone who does. I can guarantee that some changes and modification of your initial plan will still be required, regardless of how good and thought-out you initial plan is, but a qualified person will help you avoid a situation when you realize that everything, or most of it, needs to be redone.

Sign a contract
To protect your investment ask a company or a freelancer to sign a contract that specifies due dates for each stage of the project and describes what exactly is considered a successful completion of a certain stage or the project as a whole. Your contract should specify how exactly the payment will be made and at what stage of the project. It is best to make payments in milestones after successful completion of each stage of the project. If you agree to pay an hourly rate, make sure you discuss the approximate number of hours needed for completion of each stage of the project.

Test the product
This is often overlooked by many employers, but is actually one of the vital steps to successful project management. Programmers or web developers often cannot find bugs or errors in their own work; it’s like proofing the essay you wrote. Make sure each bug, and more often than not there is one, is fixed before a certain stage of your project is completed. Do not postpone this, as fixing a certain error at an early stage is easier than it will be later, when it will become a part of the big picture. After the bug is fixed, test everything again; oftentimes fixing a bug produces one or more new ones. Try to have everything checked and tested before it’s too late. You do not want to hear from one of your users that a certain feature that is already in use and is vital to a bunch of other features does not work properly.

Outsourcing your web or software development projects is a good practice, but only if you approach it strategically. And unless you are an experienced developer or project manager, I recommend that you hire someone qualified to help you manage your remote development team.