How to get the best work from a web developer

Business people usually expect web developers to work miracles – to read their mind, know about all current web developments and to create the perfect site in days.  Life of course isn’t quite like that.  The key to creating or updating your web site without tears is to spend time on the upfront planning.  Here’s my own tips on making it a smooth process – I have applied these to large-scale corporate roll-outs and also new sites for SMEs:

1. Be clear about your business strategy

What are your objectives for your website?  What impression do you want to create? Who are you targeting?  What do you want your users to do? What content or functionality do you need?  Take the time to get this clear and write it down in your brief.

2. Review competitive or similar sites

Spend time looking at your competitors, or businesses that are in a similar market.  Note down what you like and don’t like, and create a set of links to share with your developer.  This can cover functionality, design or content tone.  Talk to your prospective users and find out their likes and dislikes.

3. Write a detailed brief

Explain your strategy, and include your favourite links.  Include a set of wireframes to show the flow of pages and what functionality you want on each page – these can easily be created on excel or powerpoint.  Provide guidance on design, again using examples.  Think about how you will update content and whether you need a content management system or blog.

4. Explore alternatives with your developer

Discuss what the options are for your site – taking into account your budget and your appetite for updating your site yourself.  Spend time assessing them all – don’t rush to get the site started.  Also think about whether you want to change or add pages later (you almost certainly will!).  Ask for several design ideas before you settle on a look and feel. Then let the developer get on with the first draft.

5. Test and refine

Once the site is broadly functional, start to test it out.  Try to add content, work out the user journeys, show it to friends and friendly clients.  Keep a list of updates and bugs, and work through this methodically with your developer.  No website is ever finished, it is always in a process of improvement…

I’m keen to hear your comments on this checklist!

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies for businesses that want to use the web to grow their revenues.  If you are planning a major web project and want to ensure you get full value for your investment in development, contact us to discuss how we can help.