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.

Tablets: Another Consideration in Web Development

Let’s face it; many people are still not enamored with tablet PCs. Thousands may already own an iPad or any tablet but there are still plenty of individuals who choose the bulkier but more feature-rich notebooks or even netbooks. The tides of change cannot be stemmed though and tablets will become a major platform in personal computing in the near future.

As consumers, we can see that as an improvement over what we have today. But for webmasters and web developers, it poses yet another challenge. With sales of tablet PCs rising, the time is right to start investing on tablet-friendly website versions. Yes. Versions because you do not have to totally redesign your website to accommodate internet surfers using tablets. Like with smartphone users, you can specify a version of your site to be served to those using tablet.

When developing the tablet version of your website, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Keep file sizes to a minimum. In the future, all tablet PCs would be equipped with Wi-Fi functionality. Today though, plenty of tablet PCs still connect to the web using 3G networks. This means pages would not load as fast as when the PC is using Wi-Fi connection. As a result, you have to ensure that your website’s tablet PC version is light and would load easily. Most internet browsers are impatient and if you cannot deliver the info they need on time, they would easily hit the back button and try another website.

2. No Flash. Android-powered tablet PCs support Flash. Apple’s iPad does not. We can argue all we want that Android-powered tablets are better than the iOS-powered iPad, but it will not change the fact that sales figures are on the side of the iPad. That said, you have to find Flash alternative to use on your site if you need multimedia content on your site’s version for tablet PCs. Furthermore, contents using the multimedia platform from Adobe cannot be read by search engine bots thus lowering your chance to get higher ranking on search engine result pages.

3. Resolution and the accelerometer. Most tablet PCs are equipped with accelerometers so there is no definite resolution to target when designing for tablets. There’s another thing to consider with accelerometers. You have to design your site in such a way that no matter how it is being rendered, the area above the fold is well optimized. Above the fold means the area that the visitor can see without having to scroll down. Make sure that you make good use of this area in any resolution or display layout.

Remember that tablets are still relatively young and in the near future, they would come with better and newer features. Make sure that you are on top of these changes and adapt your site’s design to accommodate future changes.

Become a Web Developer Overnight – Well, Not Really

Since working in the technology industry, I’ve had many people tell me that they would like to get paid to develop websites. They’ve asked me numerous questions like: How do I start? Where do you find work? How much should I charge? and so on.

The truth is, there is work out there and ALOT of it. But the work that is readily available really depends on your experience.

When I first started, I was just out of college, with a handful of personal websites I had developed through a Multimedia Journalism class taught by Cindy Royal. And honestly, I wasn’t the best student or the most talented. I was married with a new baby, who breastfed while I worked on my homework. Who has the time or energy to develop award-winning websites with a baby attached to them? And since I didn’t have any real-life experience working with clients, I scrounged up some mom-and-pop type websites for really cheap. And I mean REALLY cheap. I got these jobs from my friends and relatives.

It was when I got a full-time job in the non-profit sector of the technology industry with salary and benefits I honed my skills and learned how the industry operates. When I had down time, I would train on Lynda.com. Which I highly suggest for less than $400/year you get training that would otherwise cost thousands. And lucky for me, my boss loved to send me to training seminars, and said “yes” when I suggested that I go to Photoshop World in Boston and “yes” again when I went to it in Las Vegas, sent me to SXSW every year, Knowbility’s AccessU and a plethora of others. I didn’t make much money at that first job, but the “perks” made it well worth it.

After that job (and my second child), I freelanced for a little bit, but I was antsy to get back into the workforce and see what the for-profit sector held for me. So when I got a job at an advertising and interactive agency with competitive pay, I was psyched.

Compared to my first job where my skill set grew by leaps and bounds and I exercised it at my leisure, this second job was where I put it all into practice. I was constantly under deadline for big name, big money clients. I learned fast that it is all about the client, the money and “getting it right the first time.” A huge adjustment after my “for the good of the people” job.

In fact, the first day my supervisor asked me how it was going, I said, “I didn’t realized I would be already working on a project,” considering I was still setting up my computer and getting passwords for my system. He told me, “Sink or swim!” If I had jumped into the waters of this second job before experiencing the first one, I definitely would have sunk.

That job catapulted me into becoming a true professional. I worked long hard hours. “This is not an 8-hour-a-day job,” I was told regularly. Eventually, the late nights and constant stress got to this mother-of-two (not to mention wife, cleaning crew, and all-around super-woman-extraordinaire). More tired then fearful of whether I would have enough work or not, I went back to full-time freelancing and I haven’t looked back yet.

Knowing people in the industry, has been a key factor in getting jobs. But there are a couple other tips that I can offer those first starting out.

1. Offer referral incentives to your clients, if they send you someone who signs a contract, they get 1-year of free hosting or something like that.

2. Start with the people you know, have business cards ready to hand out.

3. Go to seminars in the industry (Photoshop World, Flash Forward, SXSW, etc) – get to know people via networking to find out how they get clients.

4. Find a niche market and get to know the people in that market. (Ideas for markets listed below)

5. Avoid people who want something for nothing like the plague, try to work with people who know that starting a website will actually cost money.

6. Apply SEO to your own website. Advertise for yourself. Write articles for the industry, you never know when they will be picked up and linked to, which will increase your web ranking.

7. Subcontract with former employers.

8. Subcontract with agencies.

9. Always keep learning. The more you know…the more you know…and the more you are worth to a client.

10. Get to know other web developers and try to get a semiotic relationship going where you can hand clients off to each other.

Niche Market Suggestions

1. Wedding Industry
2. Restaurants and Nightclubs
3. Maintenance (Lawn Care/Plumbers/Auto Care)
4. Government/Non-Profit
5. Music (accomplished musicians, not just rock bands looking to make it big because they usually don’t have money anyway)
6. Children (Boutiques/Daycares)
7. Medical (Hipaa Rules Apply)
8. Home Builders/Construction
9. Lawyers
10. Death – a little morbid but as my favorite personal business finding motto goes “Birth and Death – neither are avoidable nor stopped by recession” (Funeral Parlors, Casket Makers, etc)