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By: Jennifer Devitt on March 9th, 2014

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All development firms are not created equal

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Are you in need of a developer to modify your website, create a website from scratch or develop an application to make your business run smoother? Naturally, you either rely on word of mouth from a friend or associate or you hit Google to find some who fits your needs. The results can be overwhelming!

These days everyone is a web designer or web developer. You need to look closely at the sites, portfolios and services pages to determine who the big boys are. A web designer may not be a web developer or "programmer/coder" and vice versa. When starting your search you need to determine which you need and why. Many development firms also offer design, but many designers may not offer development or if they do it will be on a basic scale.

A development or design firm that doesn't specify languages or databases should be a red flag. Many firms are offering only WordPress or Joomla. And, they are relying heavily on themes and plug-ins. While that may work fine for some, what happens if you need something more customized? Do these firms know how to customize the solution? Is attempting to customize a box solution even the best option? Remember your business or your client's business is unique and different from the next guy, so why should the solution come from the same box?

A custom developer will list all available languages and databases they service. If you are seeing just website design and development, you should understand that the services are limited. Many can offer development on a very basic scale, enough to get by. However, that can leave your site or application riddled with errors, broken links or security issues. Many times it's a good idea to see if the firm offers case studies. The case study will give you an insight into what scope of the project was and what the solution and end result were.

If you are in need of an e-commerce solution, just being able to implement a cart isn't the best solution and not the only item required. E-commerce comes with many security concerns not to mention customization. You want a firm that has expansive knowledge on the inner workings of e-commerce not just how to use a plug-in. You may need a firm with expertise in working with payment processors, or one who can connect your e-commerce system to your inventory system or your accounting system

Sure, if you are just in need of a very basic, brochure type website a design or marketing firm that just offers "website design & development" might be ok. But what happens if you have needs beyond that? It's best to consider different levels of development services prior to making your decision. While some basic services may have a more attractive price tag, it could cost you more in the long run when you need to find someone who can do more than the basic work you started with. Your website is your window to the world, it is not the place to skimp or take short cuts.

If your needs exceed a basic boxed solution it is best to do your homework and research potential firms to do the work. If you have a website and now want custom business solutions to work with your website try looking for firms that do system integration or inventory management, etc. These terms may seem overwhelming but when you sit down with a qualified developer and explain what systems you are looking to link via your website or online portal you will quickly see that the terminology is semantics that the developer uses. Do some homework. Document what systems you are using and which you want to connect or develop and start talking to developers today.