Everyone touts customer reviews on their sites or sales processes… Usually, these are taken out of context or when the client is asked… but how genuine are these reviews? We recommend looking at a couple of criteria to evaluate these statements. Look through the company’s portfolio and randomly call a few companies and ask for their opinions. Most web development companies will place a link to their site at the bottom of the sites they create. Use Google to search for the tag line (in quotations) to find companies not in their portfolio and give them a call. Ask outright for companies that won’t give a glowing review and why they won’t give a positive review. In a corporate structure, fear is a determent to honest feedback. Try to contact employees outside of work, look at places like Linkedin to get into contact with employees past and present to ask your hard questions about the company. You are likely to find these employees by doing a simple company search on LinkedIn.
Purpose and goals outside of revenue
What does the company do besides just making money? Does the company you want to partner with have any other goals or proposes? Do they actively support the improvement of their employees? Do they give back to the community? Do they support any charities? How do they better the world around them? While we often don’t think of these questions, it is important to know the full extent of how our money is used. Remember we vote with our dollar.
Most people who start a project implicitly trust their development partner and don’t have the technical know-how to evaluate the and product and services they receive. There are several questions that you can ask to evaluate the transparency of your development partner. Ask outright if they use overseas outsourcing partners for their services. Can you see the progress of your site? Can you gain access to the source control logs showing how much work was done on your project and when? What priority is your project given? How many developers are on your project? And finally, post-development do you have access to your source code? Are you able to host on a hosting company of your choice or are you a hostage on their proprietary environment? Can you get direct access to server log files to audit the application’s performance and stability? Will they allow a third-party audit of your project and take corrective measures.
Support of your Independence
Does the company you are utilizing for development support your independence? Do they sell you additional services beyond development or recommend companies with better capabilities for services they don’t excel at? Hosting, SEO, marketing, graphic design, and ongoing support are all areas of focus you need to have direct control over and a clear understanding of your partner’s abilities. Any development firm should support and encourage your independence outside of there services.
Measurements for success
How does your development partner measure success? Most companies measure success simply by dumping a website on the web and how much money they make in the process. Any company you choose to use should have your ultimate success in mind, and use it as their only metric for their success. If they produce a website for you, does it fill your needs or simply just provide a web presence? If they produce an eCommerce solution for you, do they care about your profitability and conversion rates or do they just want a monthly retainer for ongoing maintenance? Anyone you partner with should see that your success is there number one concern and should stand behind what they produce.
Often the bane of any web project is web development agencies have slippery contracts regarding ongoing support, warranties, and maintenance. If your web development company truly cares about you as a customer they will stand behind there work and provide you the best of ongoing support and prioritization. Just because the project has been delivered doesn’t mean that the needs have ended. You want to find a web development partner that will actively make suggestions on how to improve the project they have produced. If technology changes they should actively provide ample warning of how it will impact your project.
Education and consulting
Most web companies will take any project they get, and the money of there prospective customers as well, without regard to requests and project feasibility. This is a dangerous situation for any company and especially startup projects. Knowing when to consult, say no, warn a client of concerns, or the likelihood of success of their project is the most basic symbol of integrity with any development agency. Often this is the first value thrown out the window when sales are slow for a company, and fiscal desperation supersedes honest consulting. A web firm should evaluate the projects they take on for success likelihood and educate the customer of additional costs beyond development to make a project successful. I have seen it many times; a development company take the full budget of a customer without ever mentioning that they will need to invest in SEO, SEM, marketing, social media and more to make their project successful. Ask questions beyond your website needs, and ask how the company will make your project successful. If you get superficial answers run away from that company as fast as you can!
How they treat their employees
One of the most telling and hardest facts to find. Most companies won’t allow their employees to speak the truth about company culture and how their customers are treated. Most of the time you will need to find employees that have moved on (again . . . use LinkedIn.com). Any company with any integrity should treat their employees like they are an important asset to the company. Incapable or disgruntled employees are a risk to your project and you need to understand the internal company culture that ultimately you are investing in.
What are they hiding? Why are they hiding it?
When we shop for a car we will read consumer reports, search through customer reviews and forums online until we are ready to buy. Often with web development consumers are completely blind to what they are buying from whom. Things to look for that are indicators of the companies honesty or stability are as follows. Do a business entity search, check out there business license standing. Check the BBB for the rating of the company. Don’t look at the grade, but the number of complaints filed. Verify claims on their site of awards or certifications the company and its employees have received. Often outdated information is used to make the company look more capable but awards can be purchased and certifications require renewal. Look for reviews. Look for complaints online.
The hardest thing to qualify is the actual technical capability of the team working on your project. Meet your team! Get to know them face to face. Call and talk to them directly, they are what you are paying for and you should have direct access to them. If you are developing on Magento, then the company should have Magento certified devs. Development is a highly subjective and personal preference driven art form. Seek out capable and skilled technical consultants. If you will spending $20,000 (for example) on a web project, spend a few hundred dollars to bring in an outside consultant to validate the provider. They will ensure that the quality of the product, implementation methodologies, and project management skill set is in line with your business needs. In the end, they will verify that the team you are using is able to get the job done with a high degree of quality.
Technical Environment – Bonus Points
You wouldn’t buy a new car from a dealership with 20-year-old tools and a shop, why would you buy a web application from a development firm with outdated tools and practices? Questions you should get detailed answers from before you sign the contract for are:
- What source control solution do you use to manage my project?
- How are backups done of my project during development?
- Are the development systems your programmers use modern multi-monitor high-performance systems?
- What development tools are you using for my project, what version of those tools?
- What database platform is being used?
- What are the hosting requirements for my project?
These last 2 questions can be very telling as to the ability to have freedom from your developer after the project is completed. If they develop on an enterprise database, for instance, do you have the ability to acquire a license priced often over 1000.00 to host it independently? Is there a less costly method that can be utilized for your project? Are multiple IP addresses required to host your project? How are updates applied to your project? Ensure your development firm is current and modern in its processes, practices, and environment.
Anyone taking on a web development project should ultimately be as educated as possible regarding what they are buying. The problem with software is that it is so intangible that consumers have a hard time understanding how and why it works. Most consumers simply care about the superficial appearance of there project with no consideration with what’s under the hood. Hopefully, this list gives you a great jumping-off point to find the right website development company for you. Here at NuEthic we hope these tips will help you grow your company with the right partner.