Trusting a web developer can be tough. I have worked in the industry for quite a few years now, and something that came up again and again throughout certain phases of a project (predominantly in the initial stages and at Discovery Meetings) was the client admitting that they’d had problems in the past with developers who had either got them by the short and curlies in terms of making small website updates and charging a steep fee for the process, or more commonly, simply gone AWOL.

Such stories are unfortunately all too common, and as a result, web design/development can often be regarded as being an industry full of rip-off merchants – which is a shame. True, there are people out there who are happy to fleece those with less knowledge, but I think this occurs in pretty much any industry.

Having a website professionally designed and developed is a big process. I’m not talking about those who will pop all your content in, change a few settings/colours and maybe add a couple plugins if it’s in WordPress. If you’re having a website done through me for example, the process is:

  • Application
  • Discovery Meeting
  • Approve Proposal
  • Client Onboarding (a process within a process!)
  • Sitemap
  • Prototype
  • Coding
  • Checks/Launch
  • Followup/Offboarding
  • Optional Ongoing Support

Therefore there is a lot of work involved on my part, and a significant investment from the client too.

Imagine going through this process when you don’t trust the service provider. The project is much more likely to hit roadblocks, including:

  • The client is reticent/resentful of investing in the project because they are unsure of whether they are being ripped off or if the work is necessary
  • The client may take longer at supplying things needed for the project, eg. content
  • The client may feel they need to ‘micro-manage’ the project, especially if they aren’t getting regular updates on how the project is progressing
  • Mis-communication issues resulting in more need for revisions (this can also bump up the cost which is then starting a sort of vicious cycle)
  • Possible project abandonment

Now everybody wants to avoid things like this happening. So, what should you look for in able to have a trustworthy relationship with your website developer?

They have been referred to you

If someone you already know and trust has referred a developer to you that they’ve worked with, that holds a much higher weight than simply Googling someone and having a look at their online portfolio. You’ve got two points to consider here: one is that many developers are subcontracted by agencies/designers so they aren’t always able to put their work up on their own portfolio; and two for those you google that have a pages-long portfolio – do you know if they took many extra rounds of chargeable revision to achieve? Did the developer build it then just leave the customer to it? Hard to tell in this case.

They are looking for a long-term relationship

No I don’t mean you need to hire someone looking for the love of their life. A good developer wants to work with you to help you meet your business goals, from the web side of things. They know that websites require continual care and maintenance, and they want to be there taking care of it for you so that if something were to go wrong with the site further down the line, you’re not in some kind of crazy panic about what you’re gonna do.

If a developer seems to crack out websites but makes no mention to after-care or support post-launch, then you may want to make sure that you’ve got extra support in place to maintain and drive traffic to the new website after it’s been built.

Some larger companies will of course manage this by hiring an in-house developer, but not all businesses have the budget to hire a staff member with all the associated costs and leave to think about.

they know what they’re talking about

From a client’s perspective, harder to spot, this one. Anyone who has installed a theme and some plugins can potentially throw in enough jargon to make you assume they know what they’re on about. Look at content they’ve written, sign up to their mailing list, see what they’re helping others with.

They have a process

I get quite a few people who are interested in a website, and then would like to know how much it costs after a quick phone call or email. Years ago, we would answer this with the limited information we had, then sort of cry into a coffee mug when after the build commenced, it turned out the client was looking for a whole lot more because they needed it to do A B and C, actually. So then the developer either does the project at a loss or the client has to fork out more money which they weren’t aware of at the start of the build.

So whilst I was on maternity leave, I invested a lot in creating a solid process for my website design business. This means that now people have to fill in an online worksheet before we even get to the Skype meeting or the actual proposal. It’s not for everyone, but it is for those who are ready to get their site going and want to see if I’m a good fit to work with. Likewise, I need to know the full deal before I quote, so that it’s much less likely to need altering down the line.

I hope you find these pointers useful in your hunt for a website developer – and if you’re interested in working with me, you can view the full process I use here.