How important is it that you find the right developer or development agency to fulfil your online endeavours?  What is the difference between a company charging $500 for a website and the other who charges $5000?  What are the ongoing costs going to be?

These are just a few of the higher level, typical questions which arise when a small to medium business initiates their first project with a goal of creating an online presence for their brand.

How do you find the right developer?

It’s important that you look for certain traits in developers and agencies which stand out as being indicative of a more professional approach, which in the long run will lead to a more successful outcome.

1) They will “listen” to your questions, they will not try and tell you how to run your company, they will not trivialise important aspects of your requirement.

2) They will be experienced in developing with technologies which are widely used and robust in nature.  Their preference will be to use established tech – not try and sell you the latest fad in “cutting edge” garbage and over hyped one hit wonder magic.

3) They must be able to prove they can scale to your requirement.  Do not choose a one man band who claims to have the ability to handle your project despite never having completed anything of such a level of complexity in the past.

4) Your developer (a good example is this web design company in Stockport in the UK) should be able to immediately identify whether there is an off the shelf CMS or other application for the task, where this is the case, costs can be much lower than having a custom written package developed, project completion times can be reduced to negligible with a bought in package – whereas actual programming and development can be time consuming and therefore far more expensive.

5) Find out how much of the development is outsourced.  A huge factor in the success of a project is dependant on how closely developers work together in a team – the importance of this aspect increases with the size of the system in question.  The more work completed “under one roof” – the better.

Why do Prices Vary so Much for the Same Project?

The software development industry is plagued with incompetence and those who are living by the “fake it until you make it” mantra.  Avoid the pitfalls by considering the following points.

1) A person or agency offering a solution for $500 against another agency asking for $5000 is an opportunity which sounds too good to be true – and it probably is!

2) Some agencies will literally “copy and paste” the source code (or the browser output at least) of a competitor website.  These charlatans must be avoided at all costs – sadly the only realistic way of determining whether or not they are technically capable themselves (rather than code thieves) is to draw up a list of technical questions which they must be able to answer competently.

3) It may be that the difference in quotations is down to one agency offering an off the shelf solution, whereas the other, more expensive agency is quoting with a view to coding the application by hand.  It is important that you identify this difference and compare “like for like” quotes – for example compare quotes for “off the shelf” against each other – and compare quotes for “custom written solutions” with each other – do not cross the types.

4) The cheaper option may not include all of the facilities you asked for, take care to ensure that the agency has taken into consideration ALL of your system requirements and have not skipped those important and complex nuances which can make or break your project.

5) The agency at the top end of the pricing scale may be acting as some kind of simplistic “middle man” – which is even worse than outsourcing without disclosure.    There is no room for “middle men” in the industry of software development – always ensure you are talking with the developer and not some snake oil sales person who literally knows nothing about technical development beyond what they read on facebook.

What about ongoing costs after project installation.

Costs of hosting and support must be considered when pitching for quotes for web design and systems development.

1) Your hosting costs should match the user volumes and technicalities of the underlying system. Hosting can start as little as $1 a month for a 5 page website.  So if you are going to get 20 visitors a day on a standard website – then that is all you should pay.  For larger database driven systems – the costs will increase slightly – but realistically unless you are driving vast numbers of visitors and customers – then hosting should be no more than $20 a month.

2) The support costs vary as well, and are determined by the amount of help you need on a day to day or week to week basis.  Always choose a retainer, but ensure that it is not a long term contract which ties you to 10 years of support – you may well find that you are only calling for help once every 2 months.  Make sure you can cancel and move to a plan whereby you only pay for the help you get.  The balance of the two will establish itself over time.

3) Make sure the hosting company has a server IP in the country you are primarily targetting.  This can help slightly with SEO, but performance can also be compromised in certain locations. Additionally – hosting support is by far better carried out in the same timezone.

4) Be clear on how much updates to your website are going to costs you.  This can be established on a page (update) by page basis or functional change basis or content addition changes.  Identify in advance the kind of updates you may need as time progresses and your web site and business grows.

5) Differentiate when getting support exactly what you are paying for.  You should not be charged for bug fixes.  Bugs are the fault of the developer, whether these are introduced by third party add ons or in-house coding, they are not your responsibility unless you have signed something which states otherwise.

We hope this helps you in finding your ideal developer.  If you want advice or a chat about your requirements you can visit the site above for more information.