When choosing a web developer or designer there are a few things to consider before you spend.
1. Choose a local developer.
I am a firm believer that you will get better production quality and work if you stay local. Meaning if you live in Tulare or Visalia California choose someone from Tulare or Visalia. It is okay to choose a developer from a few counties a way but I would advise against doing work with someone that is more than a day’s drive away. Why? because with a local designer you can talk to them in person. Yes, I know this is a strange concept in skype and twitter age world. But to be honest with you, these technologies only work so well, people lose e-mails. It is a lot easier to go over color schemes and designs in person than trying to explain it over the internet. Plus, when you don’t outsource to other countries it helps your local economy and networking circle.
2. Realize your budget and be realistic.
If you have a small budget then don’t expect a spaceship you will probably get a scooter. Stay away from developers that say they can give you a custom site for only $200 dollars. They are not telling you the truth. They are probably going to just give you a template and send you on your way. If you are short on cash I would recommend finding a developer that is honest that you are getting a template. Templates are not always bad, nowadays you can get nice ones for cheap. However, I would stay away from template sites like godaddy.com or oneandone.com. You can get better quality templates for nearly the same price from most local designers. Most developers would be happy to set-up customers with low cost templates, it is a quick buck. I know with a few customers I have offered them packages of finding a template, buying the template, installing the template, making a few hours of customization of the template, and instruction on how to edit the site for around $350 bucks. If someone is offering more than this for that price, I would be amazed. They are not telling you something, you don’t want to do business with those types of people.
3. Monthly fees are not always good.
A lots of web development companies have monthly fees. Most of the fees are legit and needed to insure good quality service. For example, spam filter\mailbox fees and web site hosting fees.
Now when buying a web site there are usually a few ways to pay the developers. One, pay a lump sum in cash and two, pay monthly fees. If you are getting a service, a custom web site, or a template web site be weary of monthly fees. Know what happens to your site if the developer goes out of business.
Both payment methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Usually when you pay a lump sum for a web site, you the buyer, owns the content. When you pay monthly fees you are essentially renting the site from the company. Lump sums usually means you own it but you might not get support after the site is handed over to you. On a monthly contract you often get a few hours free of support. If you are renting you need to know what happens if the developer goes under. Things happen, I have seen it before. One minute you have a web site the next you don’t because the developer lost his shirt but owns the site. If you own the site the hosting company will have to tell you before they go under or if they are in trouble. This will give you enough time to move your site to another hosting company.
4. Be cautious of proprietary software.
I am not a fan of in house content management systems and shopping carts. I think that there are a lots of awesome opensource, or shareware, systems that do the job. There is no need for a developer to re-invent the wheel. If they want to build something from the ground up the cost of the web site will probably be higher. Now if you are selling some wacky product that requires a strange shopping cart then yes, you might need a custom cart. But most customers just need a system like Magento to handle their transactions. A good developer will have his or her favorite shopping carts and recommend a suitable one for you. Go with whatever one they have the most experience with. This will lower production time because they will feel comfortable with the code. If they are masters at their system of choice they will be able to alter the shopping cart and create any needed plugins do satisfy your needs. Also a major plus is that if for some reason you are not satisfied with the design you can have another web developer easily look at the code. If the system is proprietary it is harder for outsiders to understand what is going on. This in the end will cost you more if you need to fix anything without the help of the original designer. So ask them what content management system they would like to use and then research it before you buy.
5. Get a professional.
Just don’t. Don’t hire some neighbor kid from next door. Get a professional like when you get a nice haircut.
6. Shop around.
Don’t just talk to one web developer shop around. If you are in Visalia California google Visalia Web Site Designers. Then call up four or five of the top designers in Visalia, California. Ask them for references. The first web developer on google is not always the best.