How to Hire a Design and Development Company – Part I

May 8, 2012

Are you a small business owner or manager? Quick ... go look at your website. Is it awesome? Does it represent your brand the way it should?

How about your internal applications? Are you still using that old Excel spreadsheet with 400 tabs and macros that no one remembers writing much less fully understand?

If these questions struck a chord with you, then it may be time to get some help to get your technology working for you rather than be a constant hassle and frustration. Deciding you need some help is the easy part ... finding the right help? That can be tricky and a bit scary.

In this two part series we will answer some of the most common questions surrounding the process of hiring a website and application development firm.

  • Can the work be done in house?
  • Where do I find someone?
  • What about freelancing or offshoring?
  • How can I be sure that whoever I hire can actually do the work?

In this part we will tackle the first two questions. Ready? Let’s go.

As you can imagine, here at Cii, we get asked these questions almost weekly. Small business owners know they need help, but are petrified they are going to spend a lot of money and not get the results they want. This, sadly, is a common result, but it can be avoided if you ask the right questions.

Can the work be done in house?

One of the funny things about web development is that everyone has a cousin, friend, roommate who “does websites.” The best part is they do them for super cheap. We have had potential clients get downright angry at us because they know that they can get a great website from their best friend’s uncle for about $300 so we are obviously just trying to swindle them. To those potential clients we simply smile and wish them the best of luck.

As with most things, with design and development services you get what you pay for (up to a point, but that is a different article altogether). Creating a website or a mission critical application is a mix of both art and science. It takes years of work, practice, and trial and error to get really good at it. Is it possible that the uncle is a genius web developer? Absolutely, but odds are if he is, then he probably isn’t charging $300.

On the other side of the coin, if you have a designer/developer on staff, or even someone who aspires to be one, then it is often a great fit to have that person work with a group of professionals and learn from them so that, over time, they can pick up the skills needed to expand the project or simply maintain it. A good dev team will have the heart of a teacher and will be happy to answer questions.

Where do I find someone?

So you have decided you need some outside help now where do you find them? The easy answer is simply “google it,” but that is just the beginning. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to find a reputable company. Another good tip is to simply ask around. Look at your partners’ websites (heck, even your competitors). A lot of times the company responsible for the design will have a calling card in the footer.

One thing to keep in mind is that unless you have highly specialized requirements, it is always better to hire locally whenever possible. Why? Simple: you can build a relationship.

Being able to meet the team (or at least the team lead) face to face offers a ton of benefits. First, and foremost, being able to see and talk to a person creates a connection that just isn’t possible over the phone or with email. Also, it creates a much higher level of accountability. The brutal truth is, once you get to know a person, it is much harder to cheat them.

If you can’t find a local company for whatever reason, then it is important to dig a little deeper. Look at online portfolio, ask for references, ask a lot of questions. In the end, you need to be comfortable with the team.

Wrap Up

Hiring a designer or a developer is a big decision for any small business. The end result will greatly impact your business one way or the other. In part two of our series we will tackle the thorny issue of off-shoring development and how to determine whether the firm actually knows what they are doing. Hope you will join us.