Your website is the hub of your business online, the core of your marketing efforts, the nexus of your sales, a powerful force to boost your credibility, and a platform to provide your clients and prospects with round the clock access to your brand (even when you’re sleeping). First impressions really count, and a great website is the digital business card you need to make the perfect positive impact.
But building the perfect website is easier said than done, and the prospect of hiring a web developer is daunting. A great website developer is hard to find in a market littered with people touting themselves as expert builders a week after they’ve figured out how to use WordPress.
Finding the perfect developer shouldn’t be stressful, and it isn’t, as long as you know what to look for. If you don’t know what kind of skills and experience make a great developer you’re going to struggle, and run the risk of spending a lot of cash on a site that doesn’t meet your business’ needs.
And nobody wants that.
Elements Of A Professional Website…
A professionally designed website includes a lot of elements, starting with:
- Simple Navigation – your visitors should be able to find what they need and what you want them to see nice and easily. That means clear, simple navigation menus, with signposts that clearly point people to whatever they need in a few short seconds.
- Stunning Design – the design of your site should look great, be on brand, and ensure a great user experience for your visitors. It needs to balance professionalism with easily read and fast loading content, as well as engaging visuals including photo and video.
- Valuable Content – your site needs informative, valuable and engaging copy that clearly represents your business, products, services, and the personality of your brand. Website copy is a delicate balance of explanation, entertainment, keyword optimisation and succinctity; don’t underestimate the importance of getting it just right!
- Search Engine Optimisation – speaking of keywords, both the structure of your site and it’s content need to be optimised to rank well on Google and other search engine results pages (or SERPs as we like to call them). Be aware of this if you are providing your own copy for the site – your developer should offer copywriting and SEO services to complement the build, make sure you take advantage of them!
- Fast Loading Times – you have three seconds to capture the interest of visitors before they click away. That doesn’t just mean you need excellent design, but also fast loading times. A professional site will load rapidly for the best possible user experience.
- Simple Conversions – your website should also have plenty of opportunity for visitors to convert, either into leads (by filling in a contact form), subscribers (by opting into your email list), or paying customers (by making a purchase). Quick and easy conversions require clear calls to action, simple signup forms, and an easy checkout process. If it’s confusing or time consuming visitors will click away, never to return.
Beyond this, there are a lot of other elements that go into a great website, from shop options to custom features and portals. Choosing the right developer is one of the most important business decisions you will ever make. Having a lacklustre website is the death knell of digital marketing. A cracking development team will meet your business needs, exceed your expectations, and deliver a site that has a huge, positive impact on your bottom line.
But you still need to know what makes a great team, right? To help you out, here’s what to look for in a website developer…
Get Clear On Exactly What You Need…
Before you do anything else, get completely clear on exactly what you need your new website to do and achieve for your business. Beyond that, think about the level of development required. Do you have an existing site that needs a revamp? Do you want to chuck out the current theme and start again with a new design? Or do you need a new site, portal, or app creating from scratch?
It’s important to get total clarity on what you need before you start talking to potential developers. A good developer will help you iron out the details and advise you on specifics, but at the very least you need to know the goals your new site should achieve.
Effectively communicating what you need and what you have in mind will give your expert a starting point, and ensure you get an accurate quote, timescale, and a finished site you and your customers love.
Get as specific as you can – one of the biggest reasons businesses are disappointed in web development is that they didn’t think through their needs and requirements thoroughly enough. The website they end up with is exactly what they asked for, but it doesn’t fulfill their actual needs, and consequently is a disappointment.
Find A Developer Who Wants To Understand Your Customers…
A similar problem happens when you’re not totally clear on what your clients need. At the end of the day, your website isn’t for you. It’s for your customers, it’s for your business and brand development. So to some extent, what you want it to do and be is irrelevant.
There’s no point building a website you love if it doesn’t deliver results because your customers hate it.
Great website developers understand this, and will take some time getting to know your business model, audience, and customer base. They will help you develop a website that genuinely serves your customers’ needs, provides them with real, tangible value across the areas they care about most, and creates an impression of your business perfectly geared towards your ideal clients.
Look For A Coding Genius…
When it comes to building websites, you’re not looking for someone with perfect English and exceptional grammar – you need that from your copywriter, but not from your developer. Websites don’t run on English but they do have their own language. Coding is a vital, core skill that every developer needs to know backwards. Coding is the heart of all development, and whether you need someone to code a new app or portal from scratch, or write custom code to create specific features on a template-built website, your developer needs to be hyper-fluent in code.
They should be capable of building your website from the ground up, whether you need them to or not. When you’re working with a coding genius nothing is impossible. Any functionality can be created with enough time and investment, it’s just a matter of writing the right code.
Check Out Their Portfolio…
Past successes are the best barometer to use when judging a person’s value. There’s a reason job interviews consist largely of discussing projects you’ve worked on previously. There’s also a reason a lot of A-list celebrities don’t need to bother auditioning for new roles.
The first thing you should do when checking out a web developer is look at their portfolio. What websites have they built in the past? Do they look good, function well, load quickly and, most importantly, do you like them?
While you’ll find a huge difference in visual style across a developer’s portfolio, due to the varying needs of their customers’ brands, you should be able to look past the specifics of the branding and consider if you like the site as a whole. Is it easy to read, informative, and effective at delivering the message of that particular brand?
We’ve recently completed several new websites and they’re all very different. From a professional psychologist’s site to a website for a local children’s nursery, the niches displayed in our portfolio are varied. Yet the quality of the sites we create is consistently high, and we would encourage anyone looking to hire us to develop a site for them to first check out of other projects.
But don’t stop at the portfolio.
Dig a bit deeper and follow up with the clients displayed there. Get a clear picture of exactly how involved your developer was in the project, and whether the clients were happy with the development experience and site they ended up with. If there are testimonials and case studies available on your developer’s website, all the better (it saves you a job), but make sure you get the client’s perspective on the project as well as the developer’s own.
Effective Brand Conceptualisation…
Speaking of branding, having a fully conceptualised brand for your website is a huge part of ensuring its success. Your developer should be looking at the needs of your brand before they even start working on developing the site. If you have existing brand guidelines, they’ll want to see them. And if you don’t, they’ll want to work with you to create them. Whether that’s as simple as settling on fonts and colours that match an existing logo, or as complex as devising a whole new brand, including photography guidelines, original branded images, and bespoke photography and videography, this is a very important step.
But branding is about a lot more than fonts and colours and the look of your website. It’s about the experience it gives your visitors, the way it makes them feel, and ensuring that the feeling you create every time they land on your page is perfectly aligned with your business goals and ethos.
It’s also about being consistent, which is why having a developer who fully understands the importance of a coherent brand is vital.
Graphic Design Abilities…
Just as website development is important, so is design. They are two sides of the same coin, and any website developer should have a graphic designer on their team. Your developer and designer need to work together. If you’re hiring an agency who offer both development and design services you’re off to a good start. Most developers prefer to have a designer they work with regularly, as it allows for fluid communication and rapport.
In an ideal world you’ll find a developer with access to a team ensuring they can develop, design and write everything to create a completely coherent and highly effective website.
Website Security Measures…
The more the digital world develops, the more concerned we all need to be about security. With hackers and cybercrime topping the headlines on a regular basis, you need to consider the security of your new website. Ask your developer how they plan to ensure your site is secure, and remains secure.
For example, every site we build has an SSL certificate to ensure the information passed between your server and browser is encrypted. We also include a security plugin to secure the site, monitor files and connections, and automatically block any malicious threats.
It’s also important to know that, in the event of a breach or security issue, your developer will be on-hand to help you out and fix the issue as swiftly as possible.
How Responsive Are They?
Communication is incredibly important when creating something as important and complex as a website. A great developer will not only build your site, they will be a truly collaborative partner, walking you through and working with you every step of the way. It’s important to find someone you’re confident will listen to and understand your goals, as well as create a functional, effective, attractive site that meets all those needs.
The creation process can be long and complex, you need to know they will offer a friendly and easy service. How easy is it to contact them? Do they have a live chat feature on their website? Are they easily available for phone calls and updates?
One of the biggest reasons website development projects go wrong is poor communication between the developer and the client. You need to find someone you can work well with.
Full Stack Development Skills…
A truly successful website doesn’t just look great, it also works perfectly for both your team and your customers. Clients should find the front-end of your site user friendly, while your team should find the back-end simple and effective. Your developer needs to be able to create the full stack of your site, ensuring both the front and back ends are perfectly developed and designed.
Your website doesn’t just need building, it needs marketing, and that’s going to require a lot of third party integrations. Whether you’re setting up your sales funnel, integrating your email marketing software and CRM, or hooking up something that’s really specific to your industry, your website needs to seamlessly integrate everything required for your marketing.
The right developer will understand that your site needs to be built around the other systems and their functionality, and create a solution that works perfectly with everything else you need to use.
Complementary Marketing Knowledge…
Speaking of marketing, there’s a lot more to launching a new website, or revamping an existing one, than development alone. You want to look for a developer who has complementary marketing knowledge, or is part of a team of marketers who can help you with the various other elements that go into your site.
From optimising the whole site and all its content for search, to advising you on what ongoing content needs creating to get you ranking on those SERPs, there’s a lot to consider in terms of marketing when building your site.
Video marketing is the perfect example of this. Video is becoming more and more powerful as a marketing tool every year, and is now an essential element of SEO, as well as content marketing as a whole, and website development. Sites featuring video perform considerably better than those that don’t, not only in terms of SEO but also user engagement, user experience, and conversions.
Looking For A Website Developer?
If you’re looking for a website developer who ticks all the right boxes, look no further. Acrylic have a crack team of marketing and development specialists here to design, build and market a powerful website for your business. We’d love to help, book a free, no-obligation consultation today and we’ll have a chat about what you need, and how we can create it for you…
Co-founder and director at Acrylic Digital, Simon is a technical wizard and man of many hats. If he’s not busy building websites, coding, or creating apps Simon is very hands-on in all our projects and business development.
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