How to choose a web developer (or not)

How to choose a web developer (or not)

Whether you are less than familiar with the terrain in the web development world as a relatively new business owner or part of a big company or know your ins-and-outs of the industry — this article is definitely for you.

No matter where you fall in this spectrum, there are three things to consider before moving forward in building a site.

1. Scope

This assumes that you have a strategy of how the site will achieve its goals, be they monetary or otherwise. You know what you want the site to do, how and why it’s the right way.

Is the strategy to:

  • Establish yourself as an expert in the field by blogging?
  • Sell items online?
  • Need an image gallery to show your work off?
  • Pound the pavement and network, pointing all to your awesome site?

It’s important understand this, because in most cases you will be (or should be) asked.

2. Money

You just knew this one would come up right? How much money have you / has your organization set aside to do this? Whether the developer asks you or not, you know it’s going to come up eventually.

The money in question will not just go towards the development of the site, but also the subscriptions, research and maintenance needed to keep the site running smoothly.

3. Tech skills

How tech savvy are you? More specifically, could you do some of the things that you might otherwise have to pay for? Examples include copywriting, graphic design, photography, coding. If you’re an organization, these tech skills usually reside in your IT department.

So let’s bring it all together

Here are three scenarios we commonly encounter.

You have big scope, not much money and a lot of useful skills

Lack of capital means an agency is pretty much out of the question, yet you have these two choices:

  1. Do it all yourself: Beware of the time trap. You might start out enthusiastic, but if you’re too busy working on the site to generate income, you’re burning yourself out. Or you’re too busy running the company and you don’t have time to get the website finished. Better to do one thing well (like a great blog) while running your business than spread yourself thin.
  2. Contract a freelance developer to help out: Perhaps you know someone you trust or can hire a student inexpensively when you need help. Make sure you have the time and desire to manage the web developer.

In both cases, you’ll probably be doing yourself a favour by dialling the scope back. Better to do one thing well than five things poorly.

Big scope, plenty of money and variable tech skills

This comes down to these skills:


  1. You have useful skills: You could contract out to a freelance developer if you’re techy enough and have time to manage him or her.
  2. You don’t have tech skills: Hire an agency. If you’re not techy you may not be able to manage a developer effectively.


  1. You have an IT department: Consider hiring an in-house web developer who may also be able to provide general tech support or graphic design. The longer that person stays in the organization, the more synergy and value you will get out of them.
  2. You don’t have an IT department: Especially if your organization is growing, I’d recommend hiring an agency. The agency may be able to help you with things like branding.

Undetermined scope, some money and variable skills

The lack of scope here means a lack of purpose. Whatever you wish to accomplish, you should first write down what you want to achieve with having a website before investing anything.

A possible exception would be if you want to start a blog to write about something you’re passionate about. In that case, I recommend doing it on the cheap and see if blogging is for you.

Perhaps your healthy business was never online. Now is the time for a business plan or at least a solid online marketing strategy. You need to know if going online makes sense for your company. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t.

If you’re thinking about selling things online, then you should definitely write your business plan first as you stand to lose a lot of time and money should the endeavour fail. There are schools and services out there, like TBDC that can help you write a business plan.