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How to Choose the Right Website Developer

Learn how to choose a website developer and about the benefits and drawbacks of working with the different types of people who build websites so that you can find the best website developer for your small business website. References and reviews are very important in this industry, so if there’s an agency or developer you want to work with, make sure to speak with their clients,



There are many different kinds of web developers out there, and some are more worthy of that title than others.

And making the wrong choice can be very costly. So if you want to prevent this from happening, you’ve got to understand all your options.

With this in mind, below I look at four potential options, including the benefits and drawbacks of working with them, and why they might be the right choice for your small business website.

1) The WordPress VA (Virtual Assistant)

This person has figured out WordPress pretty well. They know how to install a WordPress theme (either free or purchased) and can make some modifications to that theme to help match the colours of your brand. They will probably have a pretty good understanding of what plugins are available to match your needs, as well.

The Benefits: Typically, hiring this kind of developer will cost you considerably less per hour than someone who’s qualified to work as a full-stack web developer. Putting together small-sized sites is their specialty.

The Drawbacks: Often, WordPress is all that they know, and rarely do they know any HTML or CSS, which would allow them to customize your website, or add any extra bells and whistles that you want to have. So, if you’re going to choose this option, don’t expect anything spectacular.

Also, keep in mind that oftentimes, purchased themes are so rigid that even moving an element from one part of the page to another is impossible to do for someone with this type of limited knowledge.

Another drawback is VA’s tend to have limited knowledge in all of the aspects that make a successful and effective website. For instance, they are not experts in brand positioning, design, copywriting, SEO or content marketing. If they were, they would be charging more and promoting themselves as such.

When to Hire Them: You would want to hire a WordPress VA when you are not interested in a fully branded/customized website. If you accept the fact that your ability for customization is going to be severely limited, and you’re okay with that, then this option might be for you.

But remember, if you’re working with someone who only has this amount of knowledge, you’re basically going to get whatever the theme preview shows, aside from some minor colour, text, or image changes.

Below, I’ve included a couple of examples of these kinds of WordPress themes.

As you can see, when you look up these themes, you’ll find screenshots of how they’re going to look on a finished website.

But don’t forget – if you’re working with a WordPress VA, then what you see on the screenshots of these themes is pretty much what you’re going to get.

You could also make this choice if you are already well-versed in marketing strategy, copywriting, and branding, and can simply tell your VA what needs to be done.

In any case, you should anticipate them having limited knowledge in some or all of these areas.

2) The Programmer

This person is what I lovingly call a techno-geek. We have a few of these types on our team and we would not be as successful as we are without them!

The Benefits: They know programming inside and out. They live, eat, sleep, and breathe this stuff, and will therefore be able to customize your website however you see fit, at least in terms of how you want it to look and function.

The Drawbacks: They can build you a fully functional website, no problem. But don’t expect it to look pretty! When it comes to branding, marketing, copywriting, design, and layout, most of them are pretty much clueless (sorry, techno geeks).

This means you will probably need to hire someone else to help with those areas if you are not equipped to handle them yourself.

When to Hire Them: If you have a complex website in mind that needs to be customized to fit your needs, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hire this kind of developer.

Whether it’s an eCommerce engine, membership site, or a database-driven tool, a fully trained and experienced programmer will be able to deliver what you need.

But don’t forget, they’re not going to have design acumen, or be able to help you build your brand, so if you don’t have this stuff fully fleshed out, you might have a problem.

3) The Freelancer

Typically, freelance web developers have more than enough knowledge to be able to design and develop a decent website.

How do I know this?

Well, besides the fact that I’ve worked with my fair share of freelance contractors over the years, if they weren’t able to do this, they certainly wouldn’t be able to make a living as a freelancer. And even if they were just doing it in their spare time, if they were completely inept, it wouldn’t be worth their while.

However, locating a reliable freelancer is often like finding a needle in a haystack. If you can find one, that’s amazing, but they’re usually few and far between.

In any case, some of the best places to find freelance web developers include Fiverr, Upwork, and Guru.

The Benefits: First off, hiring a freelancer could cost considerably less than some of the other options out there.

Moreover, freelance web developers will usually have enough programming expertise to be able to handle most customizations and challenges that come up, and will not need a plugin for every single function (which could bog down your site’s performance).

As I said above, if they didn’t have this level of expertise, it would be practically impossible for them to make a living, which is why most of them tend to be pretty competent.

The Drawbacks: Even though they may appear to know a lot about web development, it’s not possible for one person to be really good at everything.

As I already mentioned, it’s rare to find a really good designer who’s also a great developer (they do exist, but they are a rare breed), so you’re probably going to have a particularly tough time finding someone with all these skills.

That being said, you will likely need to have someone else on your team who is well-versed in marketing and copywriting, so you can offset any weaknesses the developer may have.

When to Hire Them: If you’re able to find a knowledgeable and reliable freelancer, then you will undoubtedly have a great asset on your team, and they can probably save you some money, as well.

But don’t forget that you’ve got to be aware of what their limitations are so you can offset those areas with other people on your team.

So, make sure to take stock of their skillsets, or lack thereof, and consider what the real cost will be, if you do have to compensate for any of their shortcomings.

4) The Web Development Agency

There are several different types of web development agencies out there, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on the category we fit into, which would be boutique web development agencies.

I mean, if you’re looking for a big-name agency that only multi-billion-dollar corporations would use, then you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyway.

The Benefits: A boutique web development agency is not just a one-man show, and it’s not focused solely on building websites. It’ll consist of a team of professionals that can offer all of the different areas of expertise your business needs for an effective marketing strategy.

Typically, these areas include:

  • Copywriting
  • Brand Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Strategy Consulting
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Website Design and Development
  • Content Marketing and Lead Generation
  • Social Media Marketing and Management

So, the main benefit of working with a web development agency is that you’ll have access to a team of people with various areas of expertise that can work together to create a seamless strategy.

You don’t have to hire a separate individual or company for each aspect of your marketing, and as a result, everything should be more comprehensive and consistent.

In addition, once you let them know about your needs, goals, and the nature of your business, they will already know what is needed and can discuss options with you to create something that is a perfect fit.

This prevents you from having to know what is needed yourself or spending time keeping tabs on every member of your team, which will allow you to focus more on building your business.

Another benefit is that collectively, the team will have in-depth knowledge of your brand and brand voice so that no matter what your needs are, they can consistently deliver that brand messaging across all mediums. This consistency has a powerful impact on how your business is perceived and the amount of trust it elicits.

The Drawbacks: Depending on which agency you want to hire, the price point might be outside of your budget. That being said, no matter what agency you choose, make sure to do your research.

Always ask for referrals, and spend some time talking to them, so you can decide if this company’s going to be able to deliver what’s promised. If they are expensive, but they have a good reputation for being on time and on budget, then the extra costs could balance out in the long run.

When to Hire Them: Hiring a web development agency could be one of the best things you’ll ever do when creating a new business. It will give you peace of mind that your new venture is going to get going on the right foot, right off the bat.

It may seem pretty expensive, but if you look at the bigger picture, it will likely save you a lot of time and money in the long run if you make this initial investment in your business.

My final piece of advice is to do extensive research on any agency or developer you’re thinking about hiring.

Why do I keep harping on this point?

Well, just like every other industry, the world of web development is full of scammers and charlatans just waiting to pull a fast one on you.

Many people will claim to be developers, when in reality, all they know is how to use a website builder like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace.

As I already mentioned, references and reviews are very important in this industry, so if there’s an agency or developer you want to work with, make sure to speak with their clients, and scour the Internet for reviews, so you can have a better understanding of what it’s like working with them.

Whatever you do, if you’re looking to hire an agency or developer, you’ve got to do whatever you can to ensure they have a high level of experience and skill, so you know they’re going to build the right website for your business.

This is vital, because at the end of the day, the quality of your website – both in terms of its design and how it’s coded – is incredibly important on so many levels.

With that said, you have to ensure that whomever you hire understands how to design and build a quality product for you.

Otherwise, you could end up wasting a lot of time and money and be faced with having to go through the whole process over again.


(Featured image by Campaign_Creators via Pixabay)

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Susan Friesen, founder of the award-winning web development and digital marketing firm eVision Media, is a Web Specialist, Business & Marketing Consultant, and Social Media Advisor. She works with entrepreneurs who struggle with having the lack of knowledge, skill and support needed to create their online business presence. As a result of working with Susan and her team, clients feel confident and relieved knowing their online marketing is in trustworthy and caring hands so they can focus on building their business with peace of mind at having a perfect support system in place to guide them every step of the way.