A web development team is much more than a graphic designer or a programmer. At the very least, are needed skills and experience in UX/UI, SEO, performance, and digital marketing.
You have long known that your organization’s web environment is the most important piece of your digital channel. It is there where all the important conversions take place: new donor, new volunteer, quota increase… However, now your corporate website is not playing the role it deserves. You are not capturing and contributing conversions. It has become a simple presentation of your organization and not a marketing tool. So you consider renewing your website, and you will need a good provider to accompany you in the development and subsequent evolution.
It is a delicate moment because it is a strategic decision. You do not want to make a mistake and end up, again, in the starting box with the web. But, don’t worry: this post will help you define your project and hire the provider that best suits your needs. By following the steps that we will explain below, you will ensure that the entire web renovation effort is well focused, and that you achieve an excellent return on investment.
Define your goals in the digital environment
To hire a web developer, first of all you need to be clear about what exactly you want to achieve. If you don’t know, you won’t know who to look for or what to say to them. Therefore, the first step to define your web project is to have a minimum fundraising and digital communication plan. It does not need to be very extensive or detailed, but it should clearly state what the objectives of your organization are in the digital environment and which are the targets you are addressing.
After defining the global strategy, divide the digital channel into its different environments: web, email, Google searches, social networks, digital advertising and third-party websites / blogs. And it defines the role of each of these environments within the general plan. This starting point will help you to make a good definition of your new website.
Determine the scope of the project
Now that you know where you would like to go with your new website, you will need to do a small audit of your current website. Thus, by answering the questions: where are you and where would you like to go, you will be able to determine the scope of the upgrade project that you need to undertake. And determine in which aspect you have more room for improvement:
- Design: modify header images and illustrations, review the entire graphic line of the page, add design effects…
- Usability: improve adaptation to mobile, optimize CTAs (Call to action) and forms…
- Structure and content: modify content to focus on your target target, optimize it to increase the ability to attract SEO traffic…
- Functionality: add new sections or CTAs, create a private area for your social base…
- Technology: change the CMS (content Management System), integrate the web with CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software…
Do you need a web update with a new graphic line and a more optimized structure? Or a complete revision that will lead your website to multiply the volume of pages and the functionalities it offers to visitors?
Understanding the scope and clearly determining it will allow development partner candidates to properly estimate how much time and resources the project will require. With this you will avoid later surprises, and you will be able to decide what is the best time to start it.
The scoping phase is also the right time to answer questions like:
- What internal resources do I have to manage the new website?
- Which content management system (CMS) is the most suitable for my organization?
- What part of the current content (texts, photographs, etc.) can be reused?
- How long will it take me to create my missing content?
Finally, ask yourself if at the moment you are in, you really need to tackle a development project. If your answer is yes, do not hesitate about the convenience of hiring an external development partner. Content management systems like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal have allowed many people to create and maintain websites without the need for technical knowledge. However, to evolve in the digital channel, you will need outside help. There are very good reasons to hire a web developer:
- Save time.
- Provides technical knowledge.
- He will make sure to apply best practices.
- Provide ideas.
Therefore, it is important to know how to find, hire and work with a web development partner.
Looking for candidates: the RFP
Writing a good RFP (Request for Proposal) and conducting a good selection process is the most critical step of all those we have listed. You must open your options to a sufficiently large number of candidates. Ask colleagues in the sector to give you references of good options. And write an RFP that lets them know exactly what you hope to achieve. You must be completely clear about what you need and write it down in detail. Doing so will help you:
- Eliminate the wrong candidates: If the job description is clear, you can eliminate candidates who are not qualified.
- Save time: the web developer will be able to spend less time on the discovery process and jump directly to how to implement your project.
- Get Better Estimates – Knowing the scope of work will allow candidates to better estimate time and costs in advance.
- Think: writing things down is also a good exercise for you. It will help you define what you are trying to achieve and ensure that your strategy is consistent.
The RFP and the interaction with the candidates will help you to set expectations in advance. You should make sure to collect the following points:
- Basic information: present your organization. It indicates its objectives and the target it is focused on.
- Project Summary: What is the scope of the project? Complete new website design, integration, improvements? Try to express it as precisely as possible.
- Target and objectives of the web. It specifies the role to be played by the web environment within the digital communication and fundraising strategy. The audience you are targeting and what you want to achieve.
- Project details: Explain everything you can about the aspects to improve: UX / UI; contents; performance; SEO; technology; level of autonomy for updating content; maintenance and further evolution. Also on existing assets indicating everything that you will provide to the project from your organization’s team. They can be design guidelines, existing content, copy of the web, wireframes…
- The ideal candidate: indicate the level of experience you are looking for and other characteristics that you consider important.
- Time frame: When do you need your project to be ready? Specify the overall project schedule and the ideal launch date. Later, the candidates will adjust this forecast, validate it or modify it. But it is better to define a time frame from the beginning.
- Project management. Define aspects of the work methodology that you hope to establish: how often do you prefer to receive updates on the progress of the project; how you would like to be informed of budget or calendar deviations; etc.
- Mockups: if you have the necessary knowledge, you can create mockups to show new pages or functionalities.
- Examples: including examples will help candidates get a very concrete idea of what you are asking them for. You can also include examples of things that you don’t like and would like to avoid.
- Definition of budget. Like the calendar, it is an aspect that the candidates will set in their offers, but sometimes it is important to establish an order of magnitude.
- Proposal Requirements and Deliverables – Let candidates know what they are supposed to deliver and in what format. Make sure they fully understand the scope of the project and that they are very detailed in estimating their time, dividing it into sections so that you can correctly evaluate the offer and compare it with that of the other candidates.
- Contact, questions and clarifications. Provide a contact person with in-depth knowledge of the project who can help candidates submit the best possible proposals.
Choose the development partner
Now that you have received a good number of offers for your project, you have to choose between the candidates. To do this, it will be very good for you to create a table with all the dimensions to take into account, and establish numerical values for each one with their respective weights.
A web developer is a professional or agency that writes code. That is, they can work on your current website and modify it, or create a complete website from scratch. In addition, it is capable of working on the front-end and back-end to offer you a complete solution.
The front-end, or interface, is the part of the website that visitors will see in their browser. The back end is everything behind it. It is both the place where you manage your website and the way the website communicates with your server or database.
The web development team will need creative designers capable of proposing an attractive graphic line and experts in user experience. In addition to the content, the appearance of your website and the user experience will be key to being able to retain and convert visitors. Also, you will need back-end developers who are focused on how your website works. Take care of website functionality, speed, and other technical issues.
In general, the best option is to hire a generalist web agency that can do everything. That has a deep knowledge of the most important CMS on the market such as WordPress. That you can create complete websites from scratch, including design, implementation, programming and integration with other applications. And that can prove skills and experience in UX / UI, SEO, performance and digital marketing.
How to evaluate the quality of a web developer
Some guidelines that you can take into account when choosing the right candidate are:
- Knowledge and compliance with the technical requirements of the RFP.
- Response time.
- Communication skills: it is important to evaluate the communication skills of the candidates, not only in the proposal presented, but also in their general corporate image and, specifically, on their website. Are they clearly expressed? Do they answer all the questions posed in the RFP?
- Past Projects – Apply for and check out past work to get an idea of their experience, strengths, and weaknesses.
- Customer references and what they say about them.
- Prototypes Depending on the size of the project, you can also consider paying for the presentation of models or the development of small parts of the project.
It is also important to hold one or more meetings with the finalist candidates, to get an idea of who they are and how they operate. This is the perfect time to review and discuss the project scope with them to see which questions and new ideas they bring to the project. You can tell if they are enthusiastic about the project, if they are cold or intimidated, etc.
Manage the project
It is important to foster consistent points of contact throughout the project. In addition to setting expectations early on, you should set how often you would like to communicate throughout the project. To do this, be aware that long time waiting between contact points can lead to missteps that lead the project in the wrong direction. And, whatever the set frequency is, make sure both teams (developer and own team) respect it.
It will also help you in managing, setting, and tracking red flags. Your ability to manage the project will largely determine the final success, and this implies observing and identifying any warning signs such as, for example, lack of response and follow-up from your development partner, signs that they have not understood any aspect discussed in review meetings, etc.
If you appreciate that certain aspects of the project are not working, it is best to say so as soon as possible. Most developers will appreciate the information before they spend too much time on a path that is out of line with your expectations. The goal should be to solidify the relationship and establish trustworthy, two-way and open communication. This will make things work. You have to get them to work at ease for your project, that they feel really involved. And a part of it will depend on you and your team.
The most common steps in managing a web development project are:
- Kick off meeting: it will serve to establish contact persons, roles and communication protocol. Also to define accesses, necessary information, distribute tasks and address potential questions or problems.
- Partial objectives: especially for projects of a certain size, it is a good idea to propose smaller milestones. That way you can review what’s happening while it’s happening instead of looking at the finished product (and potential problems) at the end of the term.
- Payments and Deliveries Schedule: Create a schedule that works for both parties.
- Review and monitoring of partial objectives. It can be established through face-to-face or virtual meetings, deliverables or using some project management software.
- Final review, test and commissioning: Once the job is done, perform a final audit. And it publishes the new website in a restricted way so that several users can test and look for errors before its final publication. It also makes sense to agree on a warranty period in which the developer will continue to fix things that they might have missed.
A development partner is for life
It’s worth taking the time to compare. And don’t settle until you find a development partner who understands your organization, who has the right knowledge, who is serious, who is responsive, who is involved. They will become one of your strategic partners and a key asset for the success of your digital fundraising strategy.
If you do things well in the digital channel, the online activity of your organization will increase and, with it, your needs for new developments or evolutions of your current environment. Therefore, it is critical to have a good partner to accompany you on this path. The good news is that there are very good professionals out there. You just need to spend a little time finding them.