So you or your company is looking to hire an online or digital professional, and you don’t know where to start.
The first step is evaluating your needs. This might be difficult if you aren’t very tech savvy, and once you actually start putting some thought into it, you may discover that undertakings, like building a website, or launching a social media marketing campaign, are more involved then you thought. Keep in mind that your needs will likely change throughout the project as you begin to discover what methods, strategies, and services you need to implement.
Let’s say your company needs a website.
Things To Consider Before You Hire Anyone
- Communication. Make sure that you designate a single point of contact before the project. What this means is that only one person should be communicating with your designer/developer/web-professional. This person should manage the expectations and needs of your company in terms of this project. If your designer/developer/web-professional starts getting emails, calls, and texts from a group of people all requesting different things without communicating with each other, things will get confusing very quickly. Your project may go out of scope because too many requests were submitted, or you may even end up with conflicting requests. All of this will cost you time for your web-professional to sort out what actually needs doing.
- Scheduling. Good time management is key to keeping your project on track. Keep in mind that it’s very likely that your web-professional has other clients, and that things take time to do. Make sure you work with them to set a timeline of when work should be completed. It’s also important to note that with this type of work, it’s very difficult to give accurate estimates of how long something will take, especially when it comes to development. New requests when the project is in progress or unforeseen technical issues will add unknown amounts of time to a project. Please be respectful of your web-professionals time and try to keep communication within regular business hours unless it’s an emergency.
- Pricing. What kind of price range should you expect to pay? Well, this depends on the services you need, the scope of the project, and the level of experience of the people you hire. Generally speaking, you’ll likely be able to find a web professional for almost any price range. Just keep in mind, you’ll get what you pay for, for example; a $600 car isn’t going to run as well as a $6,000 dollar car.
- Hire Individual Contractors, or Hire a Firm? You’ll have to decide if you want to find a web firm that can do several, or all phases of your project, or if you want to seek out an individual content writer, designer, developer, and any other service you may need such as SEO, or online marketing. Some contractors may offer several services.
Designing A Website
- Content. First, you need to figure out what kind of content you want to put on your website. Websites are designed around content. If you skip over figuring out your content, or at least get a general idea of your content and hire a web designer first, your designer is going to be left with a lot of guesswork. You’ll end up either having to pay for more revisions to the design later to fit the content, or you’ll end up having to make your content fit your current design.
- Don’t know what kind of content you need? The best thing you can do is get a solid rough draft of what your website’s content will look like, and then have your content writer work with your web designer to come up with a design that best suits your needs. Remember that you don’t need a polished draft in the beginning, and worrying about details too much may slow down progress. At the beginning of the design process, it’s important to know what types of content you’ll need (blog posts, testimonials, services list, etc.) and how long you want each piece of content to be.
Make sure to send your designer any branding materials they will need to include in the design.
Once the design is finalized, make sure that your designer has provided you with the source file (.psd, .ai, .sketch), exports of all images within the design, the names of the fonts they used, & files of any non-standard fonts.
Hosting & Prepping For The Development Phase
After you get your content and design finalized, you’ll need someone to actually develop your site. If you’ve already set up a hosting account, make sure you give your developer any login credentials they need at the start of the project. They’ll need access to any existing website before they can do anything. If you don’t have hosting already set up, they’ll help you configure everything you need. Keep in mind that hosting is a separate monthly fee that varies depending on your needs and the company you use. If you plan on switching your hosting platform, your developer can assist you with this but this process usually takes up to a couple of days so it’s best to get all that settled before you even begin the development phase of your project.
If you have an existing website set up and need your developer to access it, you’ll need to give them your sites FTP login. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is how your developer will access the files on your website. This login information is not the same as your hosting account login. If you don’t know your FTP login credentials, your developer will likely have to call your hosting provider and reset it, which will add more time to your project, as some hosting companies may take up to 24 hours to reset your FTP login credentials.
Once your hosting is all set up, and your developer has access to it, the development phase begins!
Developing Your Website
Functionality. The amount of functionality & custom styling is what determines how long it will take your developer to actually create your site. Your developer will give you a rough estimate on how long things will take & get to work.
Hands Off. During this phase of the project, you won’t be doing much except waiting on periodic progress updates from your developer. Keep in mind that you really shouldn’t be requesting any changes to the design at this point, and if you do, it can drastically slow down progress. Imagine if you were building a house, and halfway through building it, you decided you want to add another floor. It’s not going to go very smoothly.
Progress Looks Messy. Don’t worry if your site looks bad at first. Websites under construction will look messy. It doesn’t mean your developer is doing a bad job, it just means the job isn’t done yet.
Mockup ≠ Finished Product. Websites are almost never an exact match to the original design. Now, this doesn’t mean that your developer is going to change the design around, it just means that a fully functioning website is likely going to look slightly different for the sake of functionality.
Test. Make sure all of you content is error-free, and that the website is fully functional.
Up And Running. Now you’ve got a website.
If you’re not sure what you need, here’s a list of Web Professionals and what they do.
Web Developer – A web developer codes and configures websites and web apps.
Software Developer – Software Developer or Developer often used as a blanket term for all of the different types of developers and their specialties.
SEO – (Search Engine Optimization) These are the people who guide you through how to optimize your website to rank higher on Google and other search engines. They analyze your site and tell you how you can improve based on things like Keyword Research and Link Building and other optimizations that help people find your stuff.
Content Writer – Content writers create articles, blog posts, and other forms of written content. There are many different types of content writers in terms of web. For example: bloggers, social media copywriters, ux microcopy writers, etc.
Digital Marketer – These people specialize in online marketing. They do things like run online ad campaigns and help come up with strategies to market your company online.
UX Designer – User Experience Designers specialize in engineering your user experience to be as effective as possible. UX Designers often provide a range of specialized services like split testing (setting up multiple versions of a website & testing each with real users to analyze how they interact).
Graphic Designer – Graphic Designers create illustrations, icons, and images.
Web Manager – Web Managers maintain your website and manage all aspects of your web presence.
Web Consultant – A specialized consultant who can audit your web presence and tell you where you can improve.