The Ultimate Guide To Hiring A Web Development Agency
Hiring a web development agency is not rocket science. The tricky part is finding one that is the ideal fit for you, capable of understanding your requirements and delivering them to you.
The task at hand can be a breeze if you just know what to look for and what steps to follow, and you need to look no further!
We have got you covered with this comprehensive step by step guide to hiring the best web development company in USA for your web application project. Depending on your current stage, you can choose to jump directly to any of the sections below:
- Scoping the project
- All the options (onshore vs offshore)
- Choosing a web developing company
- Questions to ask for qualification
- How much does it cost to build a web application?
- Selecting the right technology stack
- Factors to consider while choosing the tech stack
Scoping The Project
The first and really crucial step in starting with website development is really knowing your own requirements. Having a clearly thought out approach and defining the framework you want is essential for communication with the potential web development companies you are looking to hire. So get started with your own homework first!
1. Defining the Development Needs
Web development is a really broad term and encompasses a number of things. What services do you want from the web development company?
Is a just focused on website development or do you need a web app as well? Are you looking for web services to connect multiple applications on the internet?
Having clearly defined product requirements not only helps you get a clear idea of what you are hiring for, it also is instrumental in narrowing down the choices among the prospective web development companies.
For example you need a web app to be developed alongside the website, this would automatically eliminate the companies that solely offer website development in their portfolio as they don’t meet your requirements.
While you are at it, it makes sense to also define your business goals and how is the website going to help you in accomplish them. Ask yourself, “What is the end goal for getting into website development?”
The answers may very, from brand awareness and product information to generation of leads, sales and eCommerce, but having this bit sorted right at the beginning would be really useful for measuring the success achieved at the later stages.
2. Building a Roadmap for Developers
A creative brief and project requirement documents are a must for building a roadmap for the developers. This website prototyping phase is the cornerstone and arguably the most important step of the project. So what exactly does this entail?
The project requirement documents are essentially the backbone of our project. It contains the project outline, goals you envision for the project, product specifications, features and technical details that you wish to be incorporated by the web development company into the final product delivered.
The brief contains all the guidelines the company would essentially need before embarking on your project clearly documented on paper. This roadmap not only helps the website development team to better understand your requirements, it also leads them to give you a better estimate about the time and the resources that would be needed by them to complete the project.
3. Drawing a Framework
Nobody understands the requirements and the desired framework of your website better than you do so drawing a basic framework of the design you have in mind constitutes best practices. Quickly jot down the list of features you want the web development company to incorporate into your project.
The basic framework need not be something very technical or complicated. A basic diagram of the design on paper can do the trick.
Conversely, if you want to go that extra mile, there are tons of prototyping tools and wireframing tools like Mockplus, Wireframe.cc, Proto.io, available at your disposal which you can avail to draw the framework. The best part, most of these are free or offer a free trial you can avail before making the actual purchase.
All The Options
Once you are done with your basic homework, the search for the company that meets your requirements begins. There are literally tens of thousands of options to choose from.
Don’t believe us? A simple google search for a “web development company” gives 3,240,000,000 results, that too in less than a second! So how do you narrow down your search? Just follow these steps.
1. Deciding on the geographic location
You can choose to hire an onshore web development firm (one that operates within the same country and time zone as you) or you can opt for an offshore development company. There are pros and cons of both. You need to factor in your preferences and availability of resources to reach the decision.
Onshore web development company
- Pros: More efficient communication owing to same time zone, better understanding of local design and user experience patterns, and in person and face to face meetings are more feasible.
- Cons: Increased project costs
Offshore development company
- Pros: Significantly reduced costs (almost one-thirds compared to onshore companies), decreased project starting timeline due to availability of more resources and lower labour costs.
- Cons: difference in time zones leading to difficulty in communication, and cultural differences in user design experience.
There are incredibly talented developers everywhere, the decision to hire a developer depends on your personal preferences. If you have a good budget to start off, an onshore company is the ideal fit for you but if you are working with a constraint on resources, offshore development teams may just be what you need.
2. Finding relevant companies that meet your needs
- Don’t rely on Google search results
A company that ranks on the first or the second page of the google search results is not guaranteed to be the best of the lot. Google rankings just mean that the company has undergone SEO optimization but is not an assurance of the quality of deliverables so searching on Google or other search engines doesn’t help the cause much.
- Ask for references within network
Your own network is a great starting point for getting recommendations for suitable web development companies. Ask people for their experience working with the company and enquire about the satisfaction with their work.
- Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn can be a great platform to reach out to people within your own niche and network with them. Ask your contacts there for references for a website development agency they might have worked with in the past.
- Reach out to other businesses
If you come across a website that really resonates with you and is developed along the lines that you envision your own website to work on, reach out to that business, connect with their digital marketing team and ask them who designed their website for them.
Choosing A Web Development Company
Once you have shortlisted a list of prospective companies, focusing on certain guidelines can be instrumental in making a selection. Here are the things you need to keep in consideration.
1. Company’s own website
How the web development firm has designed and developed it’s own website can act as a screener for you. A company that doesn’t put in the extra efforts to develop their own website isn’t one that would likely go an extra mile to ensure the success of your project either.
It is a good indication of the capability of the company, its design style and technological expertise. The things to look for are the functionality of the site, visual aesthetics, how updated it looks and the user experience it provides.
The website would also ideally include the portfolios and case studies of other companies they have worked for and a quick review of those would give you an estimate of the kind of work the company is capable of producing and deciding whether it meets your requirements.
2. Work experience
Several niches like eCommerce require complex development process both frontend and backend, so a web development company that has previous work experience in the niche of your business is an added advantage. They are likely to be familiar with the requirements and the challenges designing and developing for you would pose.
The understanding of industry specific trends and challenges is essential for the company you hire. It must be familiar with the target customers segment and be capable of coming up with innovative ways to keep the site competitive.
Experience is the difference between a good developer and a great developer. It is highly recommended that you look for someone experienced in your niche yet capable a delivering a unique product.
3. Cost-Value equation
Web development companies work across a staggering price range. As with any other product, the higher the price, the better the quality. It is up to you to determine what value proposition would be the most beneficial to you.
Pricing is decided keeping the following three factors in consideration: technology used, experience of the company, skills of the developers. Higher price generally results in better result so the best approach is to decide on your budget range and then look for companies willing to work within the specified price range.
Apart from design and development costs, there are additional costs associated with developing a website as well. We would cover it in further detail in the further section.
4. Soft skills and communication
You need to work in close correlation with the website development company over an extended period of time. Ease of communication with the developers and designers is very important for the project completion and smooth project management.
The soft skills the people at the web development company, the replies they give to your email queries, and proactive behavior, all give insight into the level on understanding and ease of communication that would be there once they start working on the project.
5. Getting to know the team
It is vital for you to understand who exactly would be the people working on your project. You might hire a top end web development company but the price you would be paying them won’t be justified if they assign a bunch of new hires to your project or outsource it to another team altogether.
Meeting with the project manager and developers who would be working on your project not only helps establish concrete channels of communication, it also helps determine credibility and establish trust in the company.
6. Ongoing client relationships
The job of the web development company doesn’t really end once the website launches. The site may need to be updated, the analytics need to be monitored and success needs to be measured in terms of the pre-defined parameters.
The ideal web design company should act as your partner during the initial project launch as well as after it. It should outline the next steps post launch proactively and help your website be constantly on the top.
The results of the website development should be quantifiable by the use of analytics tools in order to continually reach your goals. Collect information about ongoing maintenance plans that the company might have or if they offer content management and service plans in order to deliver value over a long period of time.
Questions To Ask For Qualification
Now that we have determined the key areas you need to focus on, how do you determine which companies match your criteria. The best way to vet the shortlisted companies and selecting one that best meets your requirements are a set of leading questions that you can ask.
- What is the range of services offered by you?
- What is your process and what is the expected time-frame for project completion?
- Pricing strategy, what is included and how would I be billed for services not included in your quote?
- If you had to pick one project from your portfolio as your favorite, which one would it be and why?
- Do you have any case studies that can measure the success of any of your previous projects?
- Can I meet the team who would be responsible for working on my project?
- How does user experience factor in your design approach and what is your strategy to ensure a responsive design?
- Do you have a content creation strategy and how do you ensure SEO optimization of it?
- How do you ensure updation after project completion?
- What are the parameters to measure success and what analytics do you use?
How Much Does It Cost To Build A Web Application?
Websites are highly customizable products and the uniqueness of each product entails a huge variation in the prices. Depending on the functionalities you wish your website to contain, the price range may vary from a few hundred dollars to even tens of thousands of dollars. Start by search for them by ‘software companies near me‘.
How much would it cost you to hire the best web development company? The question doesn’t have a straightforward answer as there are a number of variables involved.
Hiring a web development company puts you at the higher end of the price spectrum vs hiring freelance web developers. There are multiple specialists handling different aspects of the development process which subsequently increases the associated costs. However, it comes with an undeniable advantage as well. As with almost everything in life, higher the price, better the quality.
While deciding on the budget for web development, remember there are multiple layers of cost associated,
- Initial design and development costs
- Cost associated with hosting the website
- Maintenance and support costs
- Marketing and SEO expenses
Selecting The Right Technology Stack
A technology stack is the combination of tools, programming languages and frameworks which are used by the developers for web development. It consists of a number of different layers of components used to build web and mobile applications. All applications consist of two main components, the client side (front end) and server side (back end).
The back end comprises of the operating system, web server, database, programming language and web framework.
The selection of the tech stack varies, depending on the type of application being developed. Before going into deciding the tech stack that would be the best fit for you, let’s do a quick run through of the popular tech stacks available.
1. LAMP stack: LAMP is an abbreviation of Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.
It runs on the Linux operating system, Apache HTTP server, MySQL database management system and PHP programming language.
LAMP works well for dynamic web applications. It can be combined with other open source software packages which results in high flexibility and customization. The other variations of LAMP include MAMP (uses Mac OS), WAMP (uses Windows OS), LAPP (uses PostgreSQL) and XAMPP (which runs on Linux, Windows and Mac making it truly cross platform)
2. MEAN stack: MEAN is an abbreviation for MongoDB, Express.js Angular JS and Node.js
3. Ruby on Rails stack: Rails is a web development framework written in Ruby programming language. It works on two basic principles,
- Don’t repeat yourself- negates the need to type the same code over and over again.
- Convention over configuration- emphasis on existence of a best way to do things.
It facilitates quick development by the use of its repository of gems- library integrations. The stack allows for quick scalability and has backend compatibility with MySQL. The MVC pattern, RESTful design and object oriented programming make RoR the tech stack of choice for web apps that require less time to market.
4. Python/Django: Django is a server side framework written in Python. The transparent and clean coding ensures that the development process is quick and efficient. It enables Python developers to quickly understand the project architecture and gives them tools to finish web development in record time.
Python/Django is the tech stack of choice for designing of the minimum viable product (MVP) that contains all the necessary tools for future development and scalability. It can also connect to the third party applications, thus accelerating the development process further. For projects that entail heavy load processing, it is the tech stack of choice by many custom software development companies.
5. .NET stack: The Microsoft owned tech stack combines C# language with the .NET framework.
Factors to consider while choosing the tech stack
Type of the project
Small projects: These are usually characterized by low complexity and require faster delivery. Use of simple technologies like CMS can be done in case of such projects. The content management systems like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla have relatively low costs associated with them.
Large projects: These typically require the use of numerous web technologies and a number of programming languages to make them capable of processing large loads and making the design more responsive.
The examples include social media sites, large e-commerce platforms, where there needs to be scope for scalability as well as fast customization. The preferred tech stacks would be PHP, Python/Django, RoR and LEAN stack. Read our detailed guide on PHP vs Python.
Time to market
The estimated timeframe decided upon for project development and the projected launch date play an important factor while deciding upon the technology stack.
Number of factors affect the TTM of a web application like integration of third party applications and developer expertise. If the web development company you are looking at hiring has a team of experienced developers who are experts in the tech stack you decide upon, the time to market gets reduced significantly.
Tech stacks of choice for reduced time to market are Ruby on Rails (which provides its open source libraries called gems) and Python/Django (which offers seamless third party integration)
Lesser TTM directly leads to saving of monetary resources. Lesser the number of hours spent developing in web development, lower is the cost associated.
The best web development practices call for a minimum viable product or a MVP that has the core functionalities you wish to see in the final product. It essentially comprises of the “must have” features while the additional “good to have” features can be added at a later stage of development.
Once the success criteria have been met with, there should always be the scope for future growth in terms of scalability- both horizontal as well as vertical. MEAN stack and Python/Django are the tech stacks of choice for building scalable MVPs.
Summing it up
Making the decision of hiring the web development company that meets your criteria and fits your budget is not an easy task. We sure hope that we made your decision making process a tad bit simpler with our comprehensive guide. Drop us a comment below if you found it helpful.