Top ten tips for choosing a web developer

Here, James Frost reveals the key considerations for small business owners to make when choosing a web developer.

The latest online figures from the UK Cards Association published last month revealed that UK shoppers are spending the equivalent of £4,600 a year on web purchases, more than any other country in the world. Brits love online shopping because it’s convenient, and it’s easy to shop around to find the perfect choice. We’ve become a nation of savvy online shoppers, and today’s retailers have to work ever harder to retain customer loyalty in a highly competitive environment. Choosing a web developer is a pivotal process in creating the right website to do this.

Today’s digitally-driven consumers have come to expect the ease and convenience of shopping across multiple channels, from researching products and services online, to returning items at the click of a button. The web is helping to level the playing field for SMEs, empowering independent businesses to compete with larger rivals. Your website is the shop front of your business; how it looks and the user experience could make a huge difference to getting customers through the door.

With this in mind, here are my top tips for choosing a web developer to ensure your website stands out from the crowd:

  • Look at sites they’ve designed to see if you like their style. Do they offer bespoke website design or simply out of the box solutions that all look the same?
  • Do they have a systematic process that leads you through the design/wireframing phase? This will help you clarify what you will get and what information you will be required to provide.
  • How much do they ask about your business? They should be keen to get a deep understanding of your business or product in order to develop a website that will meet your business goals.
  • Ask them if they will maintain your site after the initial build. Discussing costs for security upgrades and essential maintenance will enable a cost comparison with other providers.
  • Do you want to be able to edit the site yourself? If so, ensure they can they build your site on a platform or content management system (CMS) which will allow you to easily edit pages.
    Ask if you will own the copyright to the site and establish whether they can also provide you with original, editable source files. Be aware of additional costs (licensing fees, etc.) that not owning the copyright can result in.
  • Ensure they adopt a ‘Mobile First’ approach and that this is a part of their design and development culture. Mobile friendly sites are essential, especially now Google places more value on this aspect of a site. Check the developer’s current client sites with this tool.
  • When choosing a web developer ask if they can also help with copywriting and if so, review some of their work to ensure they are as experienced in this area as they are in developing the website itself. Engaging and readable copy is essential, check that readability of copy is in line with your customer requirements, run a check here.
  • Can they also help you with search engine optimisation (SEO)? If so, ask how they keep up to date with SEO trends. Make sure if you decide to use one agency for development and SEO that they are skilled in doing so, check how their previous sites rank for non brand key terms. If you will be using a reputable CMS the chances are there is already a plugin in the market that can help with this, either for free or a low cost.
  • Make sure your developer is certified with a payment gateway service. The best development teams can integrate a payment system into your website within hours, enabling you to be up and running and selling online as soon as possible.

James Frost is CMO at Worldpay

Further reading on choosing a web developer

Nominations are now open for the British Small Business Awards, the leading event celebrating the brightest stars in the SME sector. Click here to enter, and make sure you get involved today using the hashtag #BSBAwards. Good luck!

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