5 Things To Look For In A Website Developer 

By Steve Hoag

things to look for in a web developer

Deciding on a great web developer to create the website you want is a critical decision in the business world. There are tons of options out there, but only a handful that are right for your company. Many of them have their own unique proficiencies, and your mission is to find the one with the right blend of skills for your website. So what are five things you should look for? Read on!

Experience

Some web development firms have been around for a few months, and others for years. Older web development firms have the advantage of plenty of experience, having best practices in place, and years of knowledge of the internet industry. This can be highly valuable, but at the same time do they have the right TYPE of experience? Do they know the industry YOU are operating in and what your needs and wants are? Can they deliver on these? You may find that the older firms you look at don’t, but the younger ones do. That’s why it’s important to do your research. Ask to see a portfolio, and take a look at their website to see what they are capable of.

Great Customer Service

An important aspect of the web development process is customer service. Once you have your website completed, you will invariably have more questions. The web development firm you choose should be one that will stick around to help you as you acclimate yourself to the content management system and features at your disposal. Some firms will even offer ongoing support packages that can be very beneficial if your team doesn’t have a lot of technical experience.

Pricing

The price of custom developed websites can fluctuate greatly. Some may cost $500, while ones with more complicated features like e-commerce can cost thousands of dollars. Establish your budget and features needed before beginning your search. This will help you to narrow down the pool of potential developers. Also, ask for an estimate before finalizing any sort of deal. Many development firms will do this for free.

Communication Skills

Much like customer service, great communication skills are crucial during web development. The firm you choose needs to be on hand at all times to respond to all concerns and questions you may have. It is wise to choose a developer that is close in proximity to your business. Choosing a development firm that is headquarters half way across the world can create timing problems if not handled correctly.

Turnaround Time

Time is money. And this is especially true when it comes to web development. Developing a website is a lengthy process that will invariably need revisions, meetings, and troubleshooting. Having a developer that can establish a clear timeline and meet your deadlines is very important. Make sure to ask potential candidates for their expected turnaround times for deliverables, and compare these with your needs.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, October 16, 2013 5:52:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web development website

No Need To Reinvent the Wheel: Why Refreshing Your Website Can Be Better Than Rebuilding 

By Steve Hoag

Don't reinvent the wheel.

Ever heard of the saying ‘No need to reinvent the wheel?’ That statement holds true when it comes to websites as well. Think of your current design as a car. Refreshing your website is simply changing the design, while keeping the major structural elements in place still. Kind of like upgrading to a new set of wheels once the old ones are worn down. Rebuilding your website is like realizing you think wheels are too backward for you, and deciding to develop a set of jet engines instead. Now that that elaborate comparison is out of the way, let’s take a look at why a refresh can be a better idea than a rebuild.

Better ROI

How expensive is a refresh? It will vary from designer to designer, but at the end of the day it will always be substantially cheaper than a rebuild. That’s because the changes are mostly aesthetic, while a rebuild will require changing the architecture of the site, and is much more expensive in time & money. The results of a well done refresh can look like a complete rebuild though. Customers’ perceptions are what matters at the end of the day, and website refreshes offer significant results at a lower price point.

Go live quickly

How much time does it take to grab some new wheels? Maybe an hour or two at most. How much time does it take to develop and install some jet engines for a car? Maybe a decade. If you need a new look for your site quickly, then a refresh is the way to go. A rebuild takes a lot of time and effort to successfully do, and the turnaround time can vary greatly depending on obstacles and delays.

Still lots of customization options

A refresh can look like a rebuild as long as you hire the right designer. All you need is a solid structure in place already, and any good designer will be able to work his/her magic. It’s amazing what some new colors, layout, graphics, and font can do. And remember, depending on your website platform, you can still add tons of custom functionality with a bit of development work.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, September 26, 2013 4:57:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

Custom Design vs Template Design: Which One is Right for YOUR Business? 

By Steve Hoag

Custom Design vs Template Design

Creating a new website is one of the more exciting projects a business can take. It’s a chance to take a brand new approach to your online presence. That being said, it is important to understand whether you require a custom design or would be better served with a pre-made template. Both have their advantages and can be the right choice depending on the situation.

Custom Design Advantages

Unique Design

One of the most prominent advantages of paying for a custom design is that your website will truly be unique. Other sites may have similar elements, but there will be nothing out there that looks like your site. This is great from a branding and general marketing standpoint. Of course, having a custom design means your website will be considerably more expensive.

Search Engine Friendly

Custom designs usually mean you will be hiring a designer to work on the project. An advantage of this is that they will be following best practices and designing your site with things like SEO in mind. Designing a website from the ground up with SEO in mind will help you to boost your online exposure much more quickly than with templates.

Custom made for your needs

A custom design is the way to go if you need things like custom graphics, media, and widgets on your site. Also, good custom designs were made with your business’ vision and branding in mind. They will evoke the main brand associations you want to create. Templates were made with a general idea of this is good for photography, or this is awesome for a small business. They don’t tailor themselves to every customer to the same level that custom designs do.

Scalable

Successful companies grow like people do as they get older. They get smarter, stronger, and sometimes fatter. If you envision your site needing to grow with your company, then you need to go the custom route. Just like that trusty pair of high school gym shorts, a well-designed custom site is flexible enough for your company’s needs at every stage.

Website Templates

Budget friendly

Template based website designs are your wallet’s best friend. They won’t burn a large hole in it, especially when compared to custom designs. Some content management systems like Joomla offer a variety of free template to use, with options to purchase more advanced ones.

Shorter turnaround time

Website templates don’t require a designer to have to create a brand new design. This means all that needs to be done is to upload the new source code to the backend of your website. Also, custom designs usually require multiple revisions before the final product is delivered. Each revision costs more time and money. With templates, what you see is what you get. That makes for a much shorter turnaround time, which is nice if you need a website very quickly.

Novice-friendly

Website templates are usually made more novice-friendly than custom designs. They tend to be much simpler and easy to understand because of having fewer moving parts. Template are also typically used in some of the more popular content management system options like WordPress. These products combine the simplicity of a web template with the ease of use of their content management systems to help smooth the learning curve.

Once it comes down to it, the difference between custom and template based design are pretty stark. If you need a truly unique presence, are willing to spend more time/money, and want a solution that can grow with your business then you need a custom design. On the other hand, choose a template design if you only require an affordable, simple, quickly delivered solution.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Monday, August 19, 2013 7:49:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development website

Website Redesign Mistakes for Businesses: What Not to Do 

By Steve Hoag

website redesign mistakes

Website redesigns are awesome when done properly. Ideally you will be pleased with what you paid for, have a site that reflects all the latest best practices, and attracts your target market. However, there are many companies out there that are paying for redesign, and make some critical mistakes during the process. This severely inhibits their ability to succeed online. If you avoid the following mistakes, your redesigned site will be in great shape:

  1. Focusing on being flashy

There are a lot of cool technologies you can use in your website whether it be video, images or fonts etc. This doesn’t mean you need it all on your site! Putting way too many elements on  your website will make your business look like a 13 year old’s Myspace page. Focus on what is critical. Sometimes a minimalist approach can work better. You want your website to attract customers, not repel them with a neon pink color scheme, or background Justin Bieber music playing all the time.

  1. No clear call to actions

More often than not your website’s purpose is to sell something. Having clear call to actions is crucial in making it as easy as possible to secure a sale. Customers prefer to have quick and easy purchasing options, rather than having to dig through multiple pages to find the buying page. Call to actions can range from banners on pages, to a ‘Buy Now’ tab on the main nav. Make it easy for your customers, and you will be surprised at how many more sales you can get.

  1. Focusing on quick development without customer research

Research is a critical success factor when it comes to optimizing your website presence. You need to have an extensive profile of your target segment. Be responsive to their needs/wants, and design your site around that. If you go in blindly and design a website you think looks cool, but isn’t to your Average Joe, you will have wasted money. That means more redesigns and more headaches down the road.

  1. Unresponsive design

A growing trend is responsive design. This means making your site capable of adapting to every device that your target market uses. These can range from smartphones to tablets to computers. With the explosive growth in mobile browsing, it is very important that you optimize your site for all devices. If not, you could be missing out on some potential sales and exposure!

  1. Paying way too much, or not enough

Redesigns and their associated development can be an expensive proposition. Many design/development companies will charge anywhere from $500 to $10k or more depending on the scope of the project.  Before choosing which route to go, do your research! Find out exactly what you need, and how much is typically charged for that. Look at the design/development companies’ websites, evaluate their profiles and core competencies. If you are a business that is focused on government sales, find a firm that has extensive experience in that. Likewise, if your company is a creative marketing start up, look for a designer/developer that can mimic vision and quirkiness. Examine their turnaround times too. Can they match your required timeline? What are their policies for extra design revisions? Research is crucial in finding the optimal website solution.

 

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, August 7, 2013 7:00:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB web design web development web trends website

3 Web Trends to Watch For This Year 

By Steve Hoag

website trends

The rules of the online and tech world are constantly changing as innovations are made, and paradigm shifts occur. What was a new trend last year is now an industry standard. What things will change throughout the next 12 months? Read on to find out!

Responsive Design Becomes Mandatory

Smartphones are now mainstream. Tablets will soon join them as their functionality and price point become more attractive for consumers. This means online browsing will be done more and more through devices other than computers. Responsive design used to be a novelty, and luxury afforded to companies that were large enough to need it. However, this next year responsive design will become an industry standard as mobile browsing reaches critical mass. Companies large and small will need to make adjustments to keep up or stay ahead of the pack.

The Coming of Age of the Experience Economy

Big time tech players like Google, Microsoft, and Apple have had to change up their game lately thanks to experience focused companies. These include the likes of DropBox and Spotify. Tech is no longer the main differentiator, as customer experience is steadily becoming a key purchasing factor. Experience related factors like company culture, case studies, and a consistent user experience across all mediums are becoming the mainstays. Look for that to continue as the bigger players continue to adapt to this new model. It’s already happening with key innovations like Windows 8, and the Microsoft Surface.

The Increase of Data Ecology Diversity

Data is becoming more and more important in today’s world. Companies are gathering more data on consumers than ever before, and finding innovative ways of implementing their findings.  ‘New Data’ (personal/contextual) will interconnect with ‘Big Data’ (archival) and create new ‘Tertiary Data.’ The amount of data we have is ever increasing, constantly leading to more insight into our personal lives. The implications for businesses, governments, and consumers are profound. Will data analysis completely overtake business or personal visions when making decisions? Will ‘going with your gut instinct’ become a distant memory? Only time will tell.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:50:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development web trends website
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