5 thoughts on “How To Choose The Right Web Developer”

  1. Excellent advice Wayne!
    Coming from the tech side, dealing with vendors has so far been the most frustrating part of my job. Look forward to more!}

  2. I’d say an RFP is a bad way to go. Many of the best small firms will ignore RFPs, especially in a market like there is today. Responding to RFPs is expensive and time consuming when compared to referrals, and (as a vendor) you have no idea how many other firms you are competing with. In addition, it’s impossible to write a web-app RFP that won’t elicit a wide range of solutions and prices (making apple-to-apple comparison fairly difficult).

    Good firms are buried in referral work– and you will most likely have to compete for THEIR services. I wish this wasn’t the case, but if you want a good firm, it’s a sellers market.

    Finally, by trying to establish the scope of work yourself (and define it firmly enough that you get meaningful proposals), you are cutting the vendor out of the strategic/planning phase of the project, where they can be of immense value…

    (note: I owned a custom web dev firm for 8 years and sold it a few years ago. We grew like gangbusters and never once responded to a shotgun RFP)

    It’s no surprise that RFPs will elicit the best and most thorough responses from the firms that most desperately need the work (and silence from the best–and busiest– shops).}

  3. Tony,

    You make some great points – I owned and operated a dev shop in the late 90’s. While I don’t find the “only those desperate for business will read RFP’s” to be true, I do agree that the RFP can’t be “too rigid.”

    Eliminating your developers or designers from giving any type of professional input is not only foolish but it’s counterproductive. I probably should’ve included that in my article as well. But I do think an RFP is not only valuable for the client, but for the vendor as well. Things always get overlooked in initial phone conversations and most firms need some type of guideline for creating a quality statement of work. That also protects the client from firms who create an overly limited statement of work.}

  4. You’re right about locking down the spec. We have spent a huge amount of time optimizing our process and now rather than wasting time developing a bid, for clients that meet certain criteria, we simply specify and generate their website for them on spec. If it is close enough to what they want, they just pay for the work together with any revisions and look and feel (we generate a fully functional site, but don’t do custom design work on spec as it is too subjective – but then we’re also happy to work with third party designers for skinning the site and use best practices CSS, so they can make substantial changes to the structure of the site without making much in the way of changes to the mark up).

    Of course, it took us years to lock down the process, but it’s basically about agreeing business objectives,required tasks and for each task (use case) agreeing all of the actions and screens (including exception cases such as when a form entry was invalid). Of course, we can’t generate everything in a few hours, but we find in under a day we can usually generate rich web apps with pretty compelling functionality.

    Why waste time looking at references and RFP’s when you can just spec and build the site! Of course, if you need serious consulting to determine how to achieve your goals online, we offer that as a service (or recommend you speak to someone else and then come back when you know what you want to build), but it is surprising how many business problems can be solved pretty quickly with the right generator!}

  5. Great article, Wayne. I’d agree with Tony’s opinion that RFP aren’t usually a good idea, but there are situations where they work, and also as many versions of a traditional RFP as there are of deals made between people every day. Using those detailed components, even with a partner, can improve communication a lot.

    My own experience to add to this is on ‘design’, which to me (through my commercial real estate development years and as an art collector) meant aesthetic form as much as function. Anyone who has a more formal knowledge of the history of design and art might have as hard a time as I have communicating what we want to web designers who don’t have that background. I’ve learned that I just have to put in a ton of work myself (in Photoshop, by hand, whatever) to get what I want. Apparently, being able to date a font on sight to the 50s or 30s or whatever makes me an oddball to a lot of designers.

    It’s likely that most people reading this site would relate more to the web designers than to me …but you never know. :)}

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