One question I receive all the time is: “How do I find and then know if someone is good and reliable and frankly worthy of building my website?”
This is an important question because a website is meant to enable your business. Unless technology IS your business, you just want it to work effectively for you and your marketing. You aren’t a technology expert so you don’t necessarily know what to ask and how to evaluate whether the answers someone gives you are accurate or just BS.
This article will help you cut through the BS and avoid the losers and less than stellar vendors out there. It will empower you with specific questions to ask and the permission to trust your instincts.
Here are the 5 Must-Have Characteristics you should demand of any web professional you work with.
Solid Business Understanding
Yes, that’s right, does the person you are talking to actually understand how businesses work or are they only technicians? There is nothing wrong with hiring someone who is only a technician IF you have someone you can count on to run the strategic end of the project and communicate effectively with the technician. It’s like having a coach/consultant/technical project manager run interference between you and the technical staff. I’ve played this role on more than one occasion and it can work quite well. What I know about techies who don’t have a ton of business acumen is that they love to build stuff. The underlying architecture and gadgets mean more to them than the business application. They get giddy about building things whether or not they actually meet a business need.
As a small business owner, you can’t afford that. You need an effective marketing tool and online presence that supports the bigger business strategy. It’s not about the technology; it’s about what it can do for you. Work with someone who can bridge the business and technology gap with you.
Willing to Explain Things to You in Plain English
You should never walk away from a conversation with a potential vendor feeling like they are talking so much Greek that you just need to bow to their higher powers and abdicate your power. That is just crap. It’s like smoke and mirrors – ‘behind this poof of fog lies things that will forever remain mysterious” stuff. I’m not suggesting you need to learn the nitty-gritty technical details, but you should know and understand what you’re getting, why it’s important, and what it means in layperson’s terms. The person you are meeting with should be willing to do the “techie to English” translation for you until you are satisfied you understand.
Technical Chops Beyond One Popular Tool
I call this the “technical expertise beyond the GUI” factor. What that means is that the person you hire should actually know and understand what is going on “under the hood” of your site and any platform they build it on. For instance WordPress is an awesome tool on which to build a website. However, when WordPress got easier to use (compared to say 10 years ago) all of a sudden everyone was an expert. The problem is there are an overabundance of “experts” that don’t actually have any idea of what is happening “under the hood” and therefore can’t really help you in the best way possible. It’s like how people throw around the term SEO but don’t get specific about what they are really meaning by “SEO services”. Yes you want your experts to do things in the easiest, most effective way AND you also want them to have the technical chops to know what all those easy visual interface settings actually DO.
Ability to Marry Great Design with Solid Functionality
You want your online presence to not only look good but also work well. This becomes even more important as more people access the web using mobile devices. That means you need great design, usability, and functionality. It is not often that you find one individual who is a master at all these disciplines. Usually you will find someone to do the work and they will partner with people on their team who are better at one part or another. For instance, it is common practice for someone strong in technology and usability to partner with a graphic designer. This partnering and collaboration should be seamless and relatively transparent to you as the customer.
Reliability, Availability, and Transparency
You really want to hire someone who is going to be in business next year when you need help. That means don’t choose the cheapest, fly-by-night, “I’m doing this while I am looking for a full-time job” vendor you can find. Will this person be available to you ongoing if/when you need help? Can you count on them to meet timelines and complete projects for you?
In addition, you should always own the copyright to your site and the vendor should provide you a copy of any and all login information you need for your site and related moving parts (ex: domain registrations, email marketing, web analytics, etc.). (This typically happens after you satisfy final payment for a website launch.) If they are hesitant or don’t do this, run, don’t walk, away from them. What good is your online presence if you don’t hold the keys to your own online house?