What to look for in a web agency or developer for your small business website

So you’ve decided to hire a web agency or developer for your website.

But now you’re tasked with one of the most important decisions you can make when building a new website: picking the right web agency or developer to create your new website.

And make no mistake, this is critically important. Pick the right one and everything will be smooth sailing and you’re going to end up with a website that will pay for itself. Pick the wrong one and it’s going to be a daily headache.

But there are so many agencies and developers out there and how are you going to figure out which one will lead to the path of happiness? Well, the short answer is that it’s going to take research. The long answer is that it’s going to take a lot of research and asking the right questions along the way.

So let’s go over what you should be looking for when you’re selecting a web agency or developer to build your new website.

What does their portfolio look like?

Obviously the first thing that you’re going to want to look at in a web agency or developer is their portfolio. And if they don’t have one, well that’s a problem.

Look to see what kind of projects they have built over the years. Is there variety? Have they worked on a lot of projects? Do they discuss what went into each project and how they built it?

And then click through those projects and go to the websites. Venture around the sites and look at how they are built. Are they working (which is always the first question)? Can you use all of the functionality it has to offer? Or are there a lot of user experience issues?

Do they look cool and inviting? Does the website display the best the client has to offer? Are you feeling compelled to learn more about that company based off of that website? Could you see your business having a similar website?

Basically, do you like what you see in their portfolio? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably worth it to continue looking into them and seeing if they really are someone you might want to hire for your site. If not, it’s best to continue looking elsewhere.

Have they worked with similar businesses and websites?

Next, something that you’re probably going to look for next is to see if they’ve worked with similar businesses like yours.

For example, if you run a floral store, have they worked with florists before? Or have they worked with sporting good stores in the past? Or if you do something that involves a membership website, have they built membership sites before?

This isn’t going to be a deal-breaker if they haven’t worked with a business like yours, but it can be helpful. They will likely know ahead of time what they are going to need to do, and they can lead you down a better direction than you originally thought. That can lead to a better and much more effective website for you.

Learn How to Make Your Next Website a Success

Even if you’re hiring an outside agency or developer to build your new website, creating that website is still a challenge. There are a lot of things you need to know going into it. Fortunately, you can get the guide that will walk you through each step of the process so that you can feel more confident and walk away with a much better website.

Learn More About Creating a Website for Your Business

Do they blog about their past projects and what they’ve learned?

Also, when you’re looking at their portfolio, look to see if they discuss those projects in greater detail. Do they talk about the problem their clients had before they were hired to build the website? Do they mention how they took what they learned in the discovery phase and turned it into a great solution? Plus, do they mention the results of that project and how it helped the client in the long run?

And then see if they talk about what they learned during the project. Speaking from first-hand experience, each project I do is a different experience. Sometimes you end up with a great client and sometimes you end up with a project that is littered with minefields (both in the code and offline).

Each project is a chance to learn. So do they mention what they learned during that project and how they might have adapted their process for future projects? That’s a good sign that they are someone who knows what they are doing and will work to help you out.

This might not be a complete deal-breaker for you, but if you’re trying to break a “tie” in your process, being able to see their process and their learning might be an advantage.

Do they create content to help others learn?

Next, you want to see if the web agency or developer blogs, vlogs or otherwise creates content to help people learn about websites, digital marketing or similar things.

For starters, this shows that they know what they are doing. If you can write something and teach people about a subject, and do it well I might add, then you truly understand the topic. So you can feel confident that you’re hiring someone who knows what they are doing.

But it also shows that they care. They don’t think about their clients as just a number or a dollar amount. Instead they want to help people be successful with their websites and their businesses. And if the content is simply available on their website and not behind a paywall, then they don’t necessarily care if the people they are helping are their paying customers or not.

And that can trickle down to how they help you. They might take the time and effort to teach you about your website and how to use it. And hopefully even after you’ve gone your separate ways, they’ll be able to at least give you advice if you need it.

It’s those little things that could total up to being a big help when you’re creating your website.

Are they active in a community?

Also another thing that you’ll want to look at in a web agency or developer is whether or not they are active in a community such as WordPress, Drupal or a local Meetup of some sort. Again this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it can be a way to break a “tie” between two candidates.

See if they contribute to a WordCamp, Drupal Camp or other similar meetup. Do they speak at these events to share their knowledge and to help others learn? Do they sponsor these events? And if so, is their sponsor booth helpful?

Also, are they online on forums helping out other people? Do they engage in various chats, such as the occasional Twitter chat? Are they taking the time to help better a community in some way or fashion?

Again, this shows that they care about the community and the success of people, whether or not they are a paying customer of theirs or not. And that means you can expect great service and a pretty good time working with them.

Do you get along with them?

Finally, this actually might be the biggest piece of the puzzle. Do you like them as people and does it seem like you could actually get along with them during the duration of the project.

Because that chemistry is going to have to work in order for this project to work. They could be the greatest agency in the world, but if there’s a disconnect between the two of you, no one’s really going to be happy and the quality of the website will likely drop.

But at the same time, someone who you might have towards the middle of your list after looking at their portfolio might work better because you two are a better fit for each other. It really just depends.

Most developers and agencies will have a way for you to have a free consultation call with them to figure this very issue out. They want to take on successful projects just like you want to hire the right person or people for the job.

So on this call, work to get to know them better professionally. Are they as knowledgeable “in person” as they are on their website? Do they seem caring about your website or do they just want to get you in and out the door as a client? Will you be better off for having worked with them?

This is all really subjective, and the criteria for if you’re going to be a fit changes from person to person. But if you get off the call feeling confident that this is going to work, then it’s most likely a good idea to go with your gut. And if not, it’s probably back to the list.

Just make sure that you feel confident in the web agency or developer that you select. Because this might be the most important decision you make for your website and your business.

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