Hiring someone to
build a Web site is not a small undertaking. Most people
know so little about what it takes to build a presence
on the Web that they feel slightly intimidated by the
whole idea. It would be less formidable to build a new
location for your brick-and-mortar business than to
put your brand—your business face—in the
hands of someone who may speak a different language
than you in terms of what building means. Most Web site
developers are happy to know what look and feel you
want to convey; when you tell them how you want to be
perceived as a business you are doing them a great favor.
Nothing is harder than having to guess—and even
worse, getting it wrong.
are some tricks to finding the right developer. If you
know someone who has a Web site that you like, ask who
did it. The best developers are found through word of
mouth. The Web site development business—just
like any other—is only as good as its reputation.
Take the time to look
at Web sites that your competition has. Look in general
for styles and functionality that appeal to you. Write
down the URLs (Web site addresses) of these sites and
give them to your developer. If they don’t want
to know your opinion, you know that they are not the
right people to help you.
Ask to see Web sites
that the developer has done recently. Go to the site
and look around, paying special attention to how easy
or difficult it is to find what you are looking for.
Ask to see active sites—not designs that have
been made and not sold to anyone. Of course you may
want to look at those later, but first look at what
they have successfully achieved for other clients. Most
developers/designers are delighted to show off their
work. Ask for references.
Ask about the following
skills if you are planning a more complex Web site with
interactive and e-commerce functionality, or are planning
to add these components in the future:
- Can you (the developer) develop
tools to help us easily update content?
- Can you also develop the back-end
- Can you develop secure e-commerce
- What development languages do
- Do you use flash intros in your
- Do you use frames? (Frames should
- What Web-authoring tools do you
use? (Adobe & Macromedia are standard tools,
Front Page is not for commercial use.)
- How quickly will my site load
and what browsers will you test it in?
When you look at
their portfolio of published sites, look for these things.
You may want to have a Web-knowledgeable associate look
- Is it easy to find information
and to get back to where you started?
- Is the navigation system simple
and visually appealing?
- Are there broken links?
- Are the pages and overall design
- Is there a contact page and site
map and can they easily be found?
- Is there enough relevant information?
- Are things aligned properly?
- Is the text easy to read?
- Do the pages load quickly?
- Does the site make use of the
- Are page titles appropriate and
- Is viewing the site a pleasant
Go through your project
ideas. You are not obligated to enlist their services
unless you are perfectly confident they are the right
person for the job.
Remember, most developers
and designers work widely across the entire United States,
if not the world. You want someone who knows how to
use the Net to reach a wide audience, not necessarily
someone in your hometown. By considering non-local as
well as local developers, you’ll have a much better
chance of finding the perfect fit for your company.
to Ask Yourself and Tell Your Developer
- What kinds of information do
I want on my Web site?
- Who do I hope will use my Web
- Will my Web site require regular
- Will I be able to make changes
myself? If I require someone to
make changes, does the developer have that service
If so, at what cost?
- Will I need to sell products or
services through my Web site?
- Will I need a database to store
and retrieve information?
- Do I want my Web site optimized
for search engines?
- Is initial optimization included
in the package I am purchasing?
- When do I need the job done?
- What is my budget?
Here are some definitions
of basic terms you will need to know when you have a
conversation with a Web developer or designer. Even
having a small idea of what these terms are will help
you feel confident when you interview a potential Web
A good developer
should have knowledge in site design, architecture,
good navigation techniques, and an understanding of
search engine optimization. If you use a freelance
firm they may need to hire out for some of these services.
It is good to know something about what will be done
by the developer/designer and what will be farmed
out. Most freelancers have someone that they work
with on an ongoing basis.
people who write code. You or your developer will
need one to create databases or develop forms or other
interactive properties of your site. Some of these
things are simple and others quite complex. The programmer
must be fluent in the programming language you choose
to build your site with.
You want to be sure
your site functions correctly with most computer platforms.
Most people should be able to see your site as you
intend for it to look no matter what browser or operating
system they use.
The above services
are very important to your site's success with the
Hosting Services & Your Domain Name
A host is a service
(server) that makes it possible for your Web site
to be seen across the World Wide Web. The host is
critical. If your site is down half the time then
you are in big trouble. You do not have to pay a significantly
larger amount for an excellent Web host. Ask for their
statistics. Ask about security and redundancy.
The more control
you have over your Web site hosting the better. Should
your developer go out of business or you lose touch
with them you will still need to interact with your
host. Make sure that you have control over your domain
name. Do not turn it over to a developer or a host
without being certain you can access it under all
circumstances. Be certain it is in your name and that
you have access to it. It is your brand; take care
Sites and Search Engine Optimization
A site should at
least be developed to include basic search engine
optimization. Optimization is both a built-in property
of your Web site and a long-term process. Basic optimization
methods to can be applied to your site as it is built,
even before you commit to long-term optimization services.
If you are upgrading your current Web site, ask if
these optimization techniques can be added. Basic
optimization methodologies must be in place so that
your site can be promoted through the search engines.
Later, when you want to expand your online efforts,
having these basic optimization properties in place
will save you money.
Here are some basic
principles that have been laid down by the Googley
folks who design all of Google’s sites. If your
Web developer understands these are good basic principles
of design and business on the Web, then you are in a
- Focus on people—their
lives, their work, their dreams.
You know what you like to experience. Make sure
that you extend that to products that carry your
name, including your Web site.
- Every millisecond counts.
No one has time to waste—least of all you.
There is a lot to absorb in this world and you
want people to get to the heart of whatever you
have to sell quickly and efficiently.
- Simplicity is powerful.
Bells and whistles are fun, but they can be annoying
and time-consuming. You are a business, act like
one. Save the flash and toys for other sites.
That does not mean that you cannot have an awesome
listings engine that has all of the latest innovations.
Just tone down the flash and the music on a business
- Engage beginners and attract
Be relevant to those who are familiar and comfortable
with the Web as well as to those who are new to
it. Keep the complexities down to a minimum. That
listings engine I mentioned above should be very
easy to use as well as full of options.
- Dare to innovate.
Especially now. Look into ways to enhance your
site and stand out from the crowd. For instance
try adding that listings engine I mentioned rather
than just plugging into MLS. Use video of your
listings or properties. Learn to use established
methods in new ways.
- Design for the world.
Know that you are being seen everywhere from Henderson
- Plan for today's and tomorrow's
It will be there if you have the vision to prepare
- Delight the eye without distracting
Do not treat your Web site like a billboard. Entice
your visitor’s eye.
- Be worthy of people's trust.
You know what that means. A little research will
let you know if your potential Web developer/designer
- Add a human touch.
Make people feel like your Web site is somewhere
they want to visit, stay awhile and meet the owner.