A web developer generally works with all of the technical details of your web site. A very good web developer will also help you with web marketing, writing effective content, and achieving good search engines rankings.

Why are so many web sites ineffective at driving business? Many web "professionals" are clueless about how to create a successful web site and haven't kept up with changes in web marketing and technology. Search algorithms are constantly changing and social media is becoming an ever more prominent factor in good search engine placement. This was not the case only 2 years ago...

Web Developer vs Web Designer

A web developer is a software developer or software engineer who is specifically engaged in the development of World Wide Web applications, or distributed network applications that are run over the HTTP protocol from a web server to a web browser.
A web designer is skilled at creating presentations of content (usually hypertext or hypermedia) that is delivered to an end-user through the World Wide Web, by way of a Web browser or other Web-enabled software like Internet television clients, micro blogging clients and RSS readers.

Compared to a "web designer," a "web developer" usually has a much broader range of skills. A web developer will handle every technical aspects of creating and maintaining a web site, including:

  • designing the graphic layout
  • designing the web site architecture and navigation
  • coding the XHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
  • creating graphics and adding photos
  • creating links
  • testing for adherence to usability, accessibility, and web standards
  • programming web applications
  • creating databases

Web designer can usually design great looking concepts and turn them into web pages, but if any type of functionality and user interaction is required they normally don't have the skills.

How to evaluate a web developer

Most developers have a portfolio on their web site, if not make a run for it immediately. Always check out a portfolio, look at design, but also look at the types of client that they have developed web sites for. Companies in different industries require different web components and the ability to deduce whether or not the company you are considering has the required programming ability can also be seen in the portfolio. Pretty just does not cut it in today's web world.

Call your prospective web developer on the phone to talk with them about your project and their skills. Then email them to ask a follow-up question. If it's hard to communicate with them or they are slow in responding, look for another web developer as this is only a sign of things to come.

Location is also important when choosing a web developer. Chances are if they have an office with staff that they will be around for the entire life of your website. Freelancers can be more cost effective, but if they ever choose to get a 9-5 or got hit by a bus your entire folder of web files, and log in details can be lost. This would require you to start from scratch, and if your site was generating revenue your revenue stream can be severely impacted.

The following are 8 questions to ask your prospective developer. If they can't understand a question, you should assume that they haven't kept up-to-date, and if their answers are not informative and relayed in a metter that you understand, look elsewhere.

  1. What do you do to help clients create their web marketing strategy ?
    • A brief answer should include understanding your target audience, your product or service, and your competition. It should also ask about your objectives and how you'll measure your success. They should also see themselves as implementing your marketing strategy.
  2. How do you help clients prepare marketing copy ?
    • The answer should show that they understand that copywriting is a specialized skill and that writing for online audiences is different than writing for print media.
  3. What do you do to support high rankings in the search engines ?
    • A solid answer will mention determining which key phrases are used by your target audience to find businesses like yours and making sure these key phrases are used naturally in the text of pages. Run like the dickens if they create special pages just for search engines!
  4. Can you tell me what "web standards" are?
    • Web standards are guidelines for creating web sites that will work well on a variety of web browsers.
  5. How do you test your sites for compliance with web standards ?
    • The answer should be that they use online tests of XHTML and CSS provided by the W3C, the organization that creates the web standards.
  6. What do you do to ensure good usability and accessibility ?
    • The answer should indicate that they have studied these issues and that they test each site.
  7. Do you use tables or frames for layout ?
    • The answers should be "not very often" and "never." Tables are still useful for presenting tabular data. Otherwise, tables and frames are clunky old methods that are no longer necessary.
  8. Do you have some ideas of how you might save me time and money by automating routine business operations ?
    • If they don't suggest using a Content Management System (CMS), follow up by asking whether a CMS would be useful in your situation. In most cases, using a CMS will save money and time while also providing more powerful features.

A good web developer should be able to suggest several relevant ideas. If they can't, find someone more knowledgeable. Your web developer should know graphic design, coding, internet marketing, copywriting for the web, accessibility, usability, web application programming, and web standards. These are all KEY skills in effective web site development.

Contact Web Candy today and we would gladly answer any of the above questions and anything others that you may have.

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