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3 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Professional

This article is based on interviews with Jobber’s Jaryn Shoemaker, designer, and Eric Franck, front-end developer.

Jaryn and Eric spend their days improving Jobber’s web presence. We asked Eric and Jaryn for their tips on how to determine if your business needs to hire or contract out a web professional to build a website, and, if so, what to look for.

1. What do I want my website to do?

Do you want your website to be a brochure for your business? A way to collect new leads? Should your website be a showcase for your work or a conversation with the marketplace? These are a few of the questions you need to answer for yourself before getting started.

“Sometimes, people get excited about having a cool looking website and brand before they even have a business plan, but it’s really important to ask questions about what you’re trying to accomplish before spending time and money on a site,” says Jaryn. “Can you define what you do? What are the services that differentiate you? How do you want people to experience those messages?”

Once you understand your core business, ask yourself what you want your website to do in order to support it. Will customers to be able to request work on your site? Are you planning to accept payments online? Will you have a blog that shares information, advice, and photos of your work?

“Your designer or developer needs to know these things in advance because your decisions will affect the style of your site, the choice of template, or even the platform that it’s built upon,” says Jaryn.

“You want whoever is creating the site to understand the subtleties of your vision, not just take a job order and produce something that serves no purpose,” adds Eric.

2. Can I build my website on my own?

Both Jaryn and Eric like Squarespace as an inexpensive option for DIY websites. It’s a low-cost platform, easy to get started with, and provides an easy to use interface that even web novices can quickly master to create polished-looking websites in no time. Squarespace sites are also mobile-ready, meaning they deliver a quality user experience on a range of mobile devices and platforms—a must-have for today’s businesses.

If you don’t feel like you have the time, or skills, to create your own website, or if you plan on adding more advanced functionality, then hiring a professional may be the right choice for you.

“There are a lot of technical implications behind the scenes,” says Eric. “Stuff like search engine optimization (SEO), but also administrative pieces like domain registration, hosting options, security, reporting, integrations with other software . . . things an experienced person will identify and handle for you.”

Another professional service you may consider in making your website the best it can be is photography, according to Jaryn. “Great photography can make a huge difference both in terms of how you look up front and getting the most out of your marketing,” she says, stressing the importance of quality before and after images. “If you want to use images as a big part of your brand and social experience, a photographer can be a good investment.”

3. Who will maintain and improve the site going forward?

Websites are not a set-it-and-forget-it online brochure. It has to be somebody’s job to maintain your site from front to back.

“As a freelancer, I experienced customers who just wanted me to design them a website, then walked away and never dealt with it again. But that’s not how things work,” says Jaryn.

If you want to get the most value out of your website, you’ll want to make sure you’re regularly maintaining it. A typical website maintenance routine may include: fixing broken links, updating your menu (as you add/subtract or change services), and adding new content as your business grows.

“What people forget is that all the stuff they do to create a cool website and deliver a great experience requires a commitment to maintain that experience,” says Eric. “That’s why I encourage people who are just getting going not to overthink things. Get a site up that meets your basic business needs, see how it performs, then make improvements by yourself or with a contractor’s help as you go forward. A contractor will cost you something, but not as much as making a bunch of mistakes early that you have to go back and fix afterward.”

Hiring a professional

If you’ve decided you’d like to hire or contract out to a web professional, it’s important to understand the differences between a designer and a developer.

Generally speaking, a designer is in charge of how a site looks and a developer writes the code to bring the design to life online.

Sometimes a web professional will be experienced in both design and development, but it is important to know the difference so you can ask the correct questions when hiring someone to help with your online presence.

If you aren’t working with a web pro who is experienced in both design and development, they should be able to help you round out your web project’s team. Often, a good designer will work with a good developer and vice versa. “It can be tricky to plan things if you’re trying to coordinate two remote people that haven’t worked together before, so I always recommend working with your trusted vendor’s own trusted partners,” says Jaryn. “If they have been working in tandem for a while, odds are they’ll have a portfolio of projects to show you what they are capable of together.”

When it comes time to hiring a contractor, make sure look at their website. If you don’t like the contractor’s website, what are the chances that they’ll be able to put something together for you that meets your expectations?

Additionally, make sure to check out the contractor’s portfolio and references. A little bit of due diligence ahead of time will save you headaches down the road and make sure your online presence is as professional as the rest of your business.

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