Finding a web development partner is easy, but finding the right web development partner for your company's needs and objectives is a lot more challenging.
Unlike in fields such as engineering, certifications aren't widely recognized in web development, which makes it harder to evaluate potential partners. What's more, there are thousands of web development companies, from small businesses specializing in e-commerce sites to large agencies that run digital marketing campaigns.
In order to locate the web development firm that will be the best fit for your company, evaluate your potential partners using the eight qualities below.
"Location, location, location" isn't just for real estate anymore. Many companies want to work with development partners that are in their own neck of the woods so that they can schedule face-to-face meetings if need be.
You should consider not only where the firm is located, but also the location of the developers who will actually be doing work for you. Some firms are "US-based" only in the sense that they rent an empty office somewhere in the country — meanwhile, they outsource the development work to locations overseas.
While outsourcing overseas isn't inherently bad, it presents a few substantial issues that can be a dealbreaker for many companies. The potential problems with outsourcing offshore include:
- Time zones: If you're located in the United States and they're located in Asia, then one of you will always be working while the other one is asleep. This makes it a lot harder to sync up and talk through noteworthy recent events.
- Communication: Language barriers can lead to misalignments and misunderstandings. Combined with the time zone issue, this can make it hard to have productive meetings about issues and changes.
- Security: Who will have access to your organization's sensitive data, and where are they located? Depending on the regulations of your industry, you may not be able to have third parties or foreign nationals handle this data. Even if it's legal, you need to make sure that the company is reputable and that you restrict access as much as possible.
Your choice of development partner should have previous experience in the platforms and technologies that you need to use, and be able to clearly prove this expertise upon request.
Case studies, testimonials and portfolios are three excellent ways to get a better sense of the firm's previous work. You can also check the firm's page on Clutch.co, a website for B2B reviews.
3. Documented Processes and Clear Expectations
Firms that are reliable and reputable will have a documented set of processes that they follow for each project. Following these processes helps them get work done in a timely manner and gives you a roadmap to better understand the status of your project. If you don't find an explanation of these processes on the firm's website, or don't get a clear answer before closing the deal, this should be a red flag.
In addition, both parties should communicate all of their expectations before signing. Quotes should be detailed, describing exactly the work that the firm will perform for you. This will help prevent "scope creep": the unanticipated addition of new features and requirements partway through the project.
4. Good Questions
While you're interviewing potential partners, the right web development firm will also be evaluating you to see if you're a solid candidate to work with them.
The firm should ask enough questions for them to clearly understand your goals and motivations so that they can meet your expectations by the end of the project.
Even before you sign the contract, you can get a sense of how easy it will be to work with your choice of partner. Think about how responsive the firm has been throughout the sales process: Did they get back in touch with you right away once you expressed interest? Did they send you the documents you needed in a timely manner?
Answering questions such as these will give you an indication of what communication style the firm prefers, and how swiftly they can move to address your concerns.
Your choice of partner should let you know what kind of support you'll receive during the project, such as weekly calls with the project manager or another representative. In addition, the firm should let you know who will be your primary point of contact if you have questions or concerns after the project is completed.
Some firms also provide the option of maintaining a support retainer after the project finishes. New software updates can break things in the application, requiring fixes at intermittent intervals.
If you collect or store sensitive data, you may want to evaluate your potential partners' security practices before signing anything. This will make sure they're properly safeguarding your data.
Businesses in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare and finance may also have custom or unique security needs. If this describes you, make sure that you choose a partner who has experience working with clients in the same industry.
8. Code Ownership
One of the biggest advantages of custom web development is that you can scale and modify the solution to fit your changing business requirements. Make sure that once the project is finished and paid for in full, you'll have complete ownership of the code base.
There are many web development partners to choose from, but not all of them are right for your situation. When looking for a development partner, do your research on both the firm and your specific needs for your project so they can meet your expectations and deliver a successful end product.