You have decided to build/ rebuild a website. Now you’re looking to hire a website development agency/ vendor.

Today we’ll talk about what you should look out for in a vendor.

Let’s dive right into it.

1) Good communication skills are crucial

A vendor with good communication skills helps to ensure that they fully understand what needs to be done. It sounds simple, but it is not uncommon for miscommunications to happen.

It could happen if the vendor does not lead the project well, or the business needs are not well-understood, and/ or you don’t know what to look out for.

In any case, the vendor should lead the project and ask important questions about your business. This is especially true during the initial and planning phases.

It will then allow for the vendor to translate the business requirements into technical requirements for the website.

2) Their understanding of your business will impact how well your website will be developed

This includes an understanding of your business, sales process, challenges, future business roadmap, and stakeholders involved in using the website.

Every business is different. Even businesses who are selling the same product/ service may have different sales processes. The challenges faced by the business, along with their future roadmap are unique to each business as well. There are no one-size-fits-all and should not be treated as such.

Understanding the various stakeholders’ involvement and use of the website is also very important. For example, a business may have a HR team that wants the ability to post job openings on the website. The HR team wants to receive an automated email upon a job applicant’s submission.

Additionally, the sales team would like all the sales leads to be collated into a Google Spreadsheet and updated daily.

These may or may not affect the frontend design of the website. But it will affect the backend set up and development. Thus these issues should be discussed at the initial stages to scope out the project and set it on the right track.

3) Review the scope of work covered in proposal and quote

You’ll want to look for the below items:

3.1) Planning

On top of information gathering that we’ve covered above, it should also include:

  1. Information Architecture – Think of this as the blueprint of the website. What are the pages of the website, how will they be structured hierarchically, what are the URLs of these pages?
  2. If you already have an existing website, this should also include URL redirections and mapping from your old to your new website. This is important to ensure the website migration is done properly and not mess up your current website rankings on Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
  3. Wireframe/ Priority Guides – These lay out the content of each page. A wireframe showcases the content along with the design structure of the page in a visual format. Whereas a priority guide only focuses on content prioritisation, and can simply be a numbered list instead of a visual format.

3.2) Design

This stage focuses on the user experience of the website. You need to remove as much friction as possible for your end users. Help them find what they need easily, and fast. If users can’t find what they need, they will exit your website immediately.

This is why it is important that the vendor understands your business in order to understand what needs to be prioritised.

The design should also be both desktop and mobile responsive. By responsive, we refer to the fact that your website should appear the way it should be regardless of the devices used (desktop monitors, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc).

This means that font sizes should allow the content to be legible (recommended to be at least 16 pixels). Clickable buttons and elements should stand out and not be blocked/ hidden by other content.

3.3) Development

There should be two stages in development:

  1. Staging environment – This is a test version of your website that is not open to the public. You use this to conduct User Acceptance Testing (UAT), test out any functionalities, app plugins, etc. Once it is proven to be successful and does not cause conflict with your website, you then push them to the live environment.
  2. Live environment – This is the live version of your website that is open to the public.

You also want to look at the proposed Domain & Server hosting. Things to look out for include assured uptime, security, and backups of your website. There are other factors such as shared hosting, or dedicated hosting. This is dependent on the volume of traffic you’re expecting.

Shared hosting means that you’re sharing the server with other websites. Dedicated hosting means that you have the entire server to yourself. This affects the security and performance of your website.

Generally if you’re just starting out, you don’t need a dedicated server and not worth paying more for it. You can always upgrade it in the future when the need arises.

3.4) Maintenance & Future Scalability

You’ll need to check if the quote includes an on-going maintenance of your website. Typically it involves security maintenance, updating of your website and plugins, and any ad-hoc issues such as design or functionality breakage. This is important to keep the website functioning the way it should be.

For future scalability sake, you want to ensure that you have ownership to your domain and server hosting, website, analytics tracking, etc.

You’ll have a higher chance of project success if you have discussed all the above with your vendor.

Over to you:

Does your current website development vendor cover these?

Or maybe you have some questions or feedback for me.

Either way, let me know by dropping me an email. I would love to hear from you.