Choosing Your Web Marketing & Development Partner
1. What is it you most want to accomplish with your website?
Most people have many goals, but it is helpful to focus on your top two or three, and these may overlap. Examples are: to project a new image, to provide customer service, to give visitors information about locations, to provide current information that users will return to repeatedly.
2. Decide what part of the online market you want to play in –high end, middle market, or lower end.
There should be congruency between your market, your budget, and your shortlist of possible website partners. It may sound obvious, but remember that the companies offering you huge art and technical staffs (and everything in between) will charge you for it. On the other hand, it is difficult to find all the requisite skills needed in a one or two-person shop to effectively deliver a “middle market” solution, which is more complex than the flat screen, message of only “here I am”, sites of the Web’s infancy so popular only a few years ago.
3. That said, realize that the industry of website developers is made up mostly of smaller-than-average-sized organizations .
The smallness is a byproduct of the types of individuals that are attracted to this work ( highly creative, highly productive, highly customer-focused) and the need to deliver quality solutions quickly, which would be impeded by layers of bureaucracy. Focus instead on the skills and experience of the team. For example, learn what expertise they have in online transaction processing, graphic design, database design, writing, or Web tools such as Java Script. Consider what your requirements might be, both today and down the road.
4. Consider what kind of partnership you want to or need to have with your outsourcer .
It is important to get the right match based on what you yourself are able to provide, what you are comfortable with, and what you want to pay for. At one end of the spectrum is the “crash and burn” philosophy. You give the developer all the copy, the graphics, even what you want on design, and they put it together and get it out the door, quickly and with a minimum of involvement with you. Many companies deep down want to operate this way. At the other extreme are those who want to be highly involved in your business. You won’t talk much with them about what your site will actually look like until you have had extensive consultation on your business strategies and practices. This can be very valuable, but is costly in terms of elapsed time and fees.
You also need to consider the issue of project management as the site is developed. A successful project involves the right project management from both the client and the vendor. You will want to consider how you and your potential vendor fit into this.
5. Take some time to examine websites that the company has already done and to talk to people for whom they’ve done work.
The sites are probably more helpful to you than the company’s own website, but bear in mind that the client always will have the final say as to what a site looks like or contains. (If you hate the graphics on one site but not the others, chances are the web developer didn’t like them either.) Is it clear what the site is trying to accomplish, and who makes up the target audience? Try to see past glitzy graphics (or lack thereof), although the site should be visually appealing as well as functional.
6. Be willing to use (and pay for) the teams expertise in helping you to determine the best design for your site.
Yes, it is helpful for you to have seen a number of sites and thus have ideas about what you want. However, presumably the teams on your shortlist have extensive experience, so they should know what works and what doesn’t. You will want to ascertain how much assistance the group is willing to give you, and how they will charge you for it.
7. Learn about the team’s timetable .
It is not unusual to be unable to start a project right away. However, once the project is started, you will want your developer team to have enough availability to finish according to your deadlines. At the same time, it will be very important for your internal team members to deliver the content and other actionable items by the agreed-upon dates. Nothing is more frustrating than to have a site that is almost ready but continues to wait on some critical material or approvals before it can be released.
8. Last, if you haven’t done a website or intranet before, be prepared for a brand new experience.
It helps to be able to act quickly, make decisions, and roll with the punches. You should expect a pleasant, fun experience! One of the most exciting aspects of starting a web presence is that it involves people from several different areas in your organization. From funding the budget to determining what to accomplish to gathering content to releasing the site, you will do best if you take the view that this is not a one-person project. The experience also often suggests some organizational change if the site is going to continue to be successful –at the very least, you need your organization and customers to buy into the idea that you are starting to do things in a new way. Embrace the change for all the positives it can bring. Find a partner who is sensitive to your needs, and thus who can help you be successful.