Choosing a web design & development team for your next project

| November 18th, 2008 | , , ,

You’ve got a great idea for a web site and you are looking for a talented team of web designers and developers to get the job done. You don’t want to get stuck with a firm that will over promise and under deliver, or worse, vanish altogether in the middle of a project. How do hire the best team for the job? Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing a web design and development team for your next project.

Project Management Skills

Every team needs a leader. This person doesn’t have to be a dedicated project manager, but they should take the reigns of the project and communicate and interpret conversations between the client and the rest of the team. Even a one-man-shop, or freelancer, should demonstrate to you their ability to manage projects in a timely and efficient manner. Without a strong project leader, your project will become mired in the mundane, circling deadlines without ever getting off the ground.

Design Skills

Web design is a unique skill that has a lot of parallels to its predecessor, print design, but throws in a lot of additional parameters to consider. Traditional print concepts — tracking, kerning, leading, line lengths — all have their roughly matched online equivalents, but throw in things like browser limitations, bandwidth considerations, image compression algorithms, and even the most talented designer can become confused. Web designers should understand the basic constructs of HTML and the pixel, because their design is going to be confined by them. Unfortunately, magazines like Communication Arts tend to glorify web sites who ignore the founding fathers intent to deliver readable content, having opted instead to dominate the browser with Flash and heavy graphics. To design well for the web, a designer needs to relinquish a certain amount of control to the web browser. Letting go of the need for absolute control over widows, orphans and color palettes is a necessary consolation to make when designing for the web. Good web designers are able to work within limitations imposed by the online medium, without trying to skirt them and sacrifice your site to whatever design demigod they worship in the process.

Development Skills

As mentioned above, a basic knowledge of HTML and the pixel is mandatory. But web sites today aren’t just online brochures like they used to be. At Pelago, we rarely work on a web site that doesn’t have a database behind it, or at the very least, some kind of server side code generation going on. An agency possessing good development skills will deliver you a better project for several reasons. First, they will be able to streamline the construction of your web site, using conventions like server-side includes and database delivered content. Second, whoever ends up maintaining your web site is going to have a much easier job of it if the site was built correctly the first time. And third, when you are ready to expand your site, which you will do, it will be easier to integrate new features. It is also important that the web developers be willing to use the right tools for your project. We’ve had to rescue too many clients because they’ve chosen a developer who used some obscure programming language or outdated, unsupported third-party app, all because they were unwilling to learn something new.

Additional Skills

There are some additional skills that aren’t necessary for a web design and development agency to get the job done well, but that are certainly to be considered as a bonus if you can find an agency possessing them.

The main skill is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 90% of SEO can be handled during the web site development stages.The remaining 10% is the voodoo which will get you on page one of Google. Our web sites tend to perform extremely well in search engines mainly because we are very thorough during development. If SEO is important to you, look for an agency that understands SEO and will implement the basic underpinnings — complete image and anchor tags, 301 redirects for displaced pages, unique title tags — for a successfully ranking web site.

Reliability is a soft skill that can make or break your project. Some agencies may promise you too much during the sales process to earn your business, only to deliver an inkling of the initial concept. Other agencies may disappear altogether during the middle of a project, focusing instead on a bigger client or running out of morale on your project.

The web is a relatively new medium and most of the web design & development agencies have only been around for a few years. There are no certification processes or formal credentials for a web agency to obtain. These are just some ideas to get you started looking. Meanwhile, be diligent in your search; feel out referrals, ask a lot of questions and contact references.

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2 Responses to “Choosing a web design & development team for your next project”

  1. Peter says:

    Hi,I m a team leader of web design.This article helps me for the management.Thanks.

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A collection of useful tips, tales and opinions based on decades of collective experience designing and developing web sites and web-based applications.

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Intervals is online time, task and project management software built by and for web designers, developers and creatives.
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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