Getting Good Value from Your Web Development Shop


So you've been put in charge of your company's website. Either you volunteered to do this, or it got forced on you by some higher-ups and now you're stuck navigating this fairly opaque world of web development.

Your first option is probably to open up your favorite search engine and look up "web developers Denver" or something like it. Soon, you get a whole list of websites for the hundreds of thousands of firms that exist here and abroad. You have a budget that you need to stick to, but you don’t want a bad result, so how do you get a good developer for a good value? Well, there’s one rule that you need to know before you get started: Firms can charge whatever they want for no particular reason

There’s no handbook out there that says that a website of a certain complexity costs a specific amount of money. I’ve seen quotes for the exact same website range from $2,000 to about $35,000. The discrepancy in cost isn’t easy to explain, and higher costs don’t necessarily equate to better quality either - an extremely good programmer could probably hash out some code in 20 minutes that will take a lesser programmer days to figure out. Unfortunately, you as a client are left pretty much clueless to where these numbers come from, but there are a few things you can ask to save yourself some trouble and get the best value from your firm.

What breadth of knowledge does the firm have?

Find an agency that generally does what you want them to do, but have proven to excel at things beyond your scope. Getting an agency that just does one thing well may seem like a good idea if it applies to you, but you may find yourself needing flexibility in the future that you won’t be able to get. Likewise, getting an agency that’s know for radical, trendy design may seem like a good marketing ploy, but you’ll find out quickly that ultra-trendy is not best practice for a reason - it confuses users.

What level of support do they have?

If you’re looking for a development partner - pay attention to their support policy and proposal, it will speak volumes about their quality. A great partner will have a “warranty” period on their sites, and will tolerate several revisions in the development process. Likewise, you should know exactly who is working on your site, and at what points. All of our clients at Carbon8 will have a dedicated account manager, and usually, the email address of a developer directly working on their site.

Do they have specialized experts?

There’s two ways that an “all-in-one” agency can look. Technically, a one-person agency can claim to do everything, and usually at a good price, but there’s literally no way that one person can provide the expertise that multiple people are needed for. A good agency will have separate roles for people with specific expertise - the person programming your site should not be the same person who designed it. In some cases, combined roles can work out, but for most higher-level, enterprise sites, you want a multitude of experts to be available.

Jon Syu
written by JON SYU

Jonathan is the senior technology manager at Carbon8, with years of experience working with various nonprofits and businesses in technical, development, and marketing positions. He began his programming career at 12, when he realized that he could create games on his graphic calculator instead of learning math. At Carbon8, he is responsible for all things technical, providing direction to Carbon8's development offerings and overall strategy.

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