The key to a successful website project that is delivered on time, on budget, and exceeds expectations lies in the compatibility of two people: the web developer and the client or consultant managing the strategy and timeline.

A website project shouldn’t become a nightmare filled with anxiety and buyer’s remorse. In the same vein, a completed website shouldn’t just be a digital brochure. To be effective, a website needs to achieve organizational goals, fuel sales opportunities, be adaptable, and be easily administered and measured. Enter the web developer soul mate.

Gravity Marketing LLC and SafeNet Consulting Inc recently presented the BizStarts professional program, Make Your Next Website a Success. We shared our perspective on the best practices to employ and mistakes to avoid when embarking on a website project. Following are our tips for finding that ideal web developer that will march in lock-step with you from beginning to end.

Clear Vision
Each web development company offers a unique specialty, and are difficult to compare apples to apples. They do, however, have their own distinct skillsets and ideal clients or website projects. To save time, money, and effort, have a clear idea of what you want before sitting down with a potential web partner. Write down your website strategy, purpose, end-user functionality, and budget. This will help you evaluate and compare web developers against watch other to weed out the developers incapable of delivering the level of complexity you are looking for.

Programming Cost
Depending on your website plan and platform, you could spend anywhere from $2,000 with a low-end, sole developer to $100,000 with a high-end development company. A word of caution: the cost and development team you choose should not be determined by your available funds, but what is best and most appropriate for the website project. Keep in mind the programming cost would only cover the coding component of website development. So if you don’t have in-house capabilities for strategy and creative, you’ll need a budget for those components in addition to the programming cost.

Websites are created using HTML code, either from scratch (completely custom) or by using a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, SharePoint or Sitecore. Picking a platform is just the foundation the site will be built on. Developers will need to create custom code to develop the site you are envisioning. Take the time to evaluate the CMS you are choosing or your web developer is recommending. Make sure you understand the level of modifications you can make on a regular basis without the need for developer intervention.

Contract Length
How much maintenance and support would you like or need after the site is built? A low-end solo developer is most likely available for the short-term build and then quickly moves on to the next project. A mid/low-end development company with multiple programmers would typically stay on after the build to assist with major updates. A high-end development company building custom, complex CMS or e-commerce platforms will have a long-term relationship with you – building, maintenance, and major updates.

Small and medium businesses looking to build informational websites with little complexity are best served to work with a web small or medium development company (not a sole proprietor) that offers a staff of developers, custom CMS or an off-the-shelf CMS platform.

The most effective way to narrow down the type of company you’d work best with is to first document a clear vision for what you would like the website to accomplish. Next, list the qualities you’d most like to see in a web developer. Third, take an honest look at your internal team to determine if you need to bring in a consultant to help streamline the process. And finally, start meeting with candidates to find your perfect match.