Many issues come up when you hire to have a website built or updated. Don’t hesitate to ask these questions of your website developer, the answers will go a long way towards ensuring a healthy start to the project!
1. What is their billing rate?
It’s a good idea to get this information upfront and in writing so there are no surprises. Billing can be based on an hourly rate or on a per project rate. It is often the case that designers will ask for up to 60% of the projected project costs up-front, with the rest billed later.
2. What maintenance will be needed (and maintenance costs)?
It is important to determine how much maintenance will even be needed on the site once it is up. Ideally, you will have been set up with a user-friendly content management system (CMS) and will have been properly trained in using it- thus lessening your need for ongoing maintenance.
Most small and short tasks such as adding new posts and pages, simple software updates, etc… should be easily able to be completed in-house, with infrequent bug fixes, hosting problems, and design overhauls being the focus of outside maintenance.
From there, it’s important to know the fees that will be charged for each maintenance needs. Usually, web developers will charge hourly rates for maintenance – including charges per call or request for work. Just make sure this is all clear in advance.
3. How much of the developer’s time will be taken up by this project?
Don’t forget to check to see how much time the developer has to dedicate to you on this project and how many other projects they are working on.
Obviously, they can’t focus solely on your website if they have other clients, but there should at least be certain times that you know they are dedicated to working on your site. If not, the work being done for you runs the risk of being put off as other, ‘more pressing’ work takes priority.
4. What are the best times to contact during development?
Specific times, usually coinciding with times that the developer is focused on your site, should be set aside for discussion. This could be once a week or even less frequently. It doesn’t matter when and how often this is, as long as you have agreed to it and you stick to it.
5. What happens when there are problems after the site is completed?
Ask the developer what will happen when something goes wrong with the website. How quickly will they be able to respond? If it is something major like the site being down, it is important that they are are quickly available. Thus, it is important to put a priority level on bugs and problems – is it an emergency or can it be dealt with later?
Emergencies, of course, are an exception, but emergencies should be real rather than every time you need some small change or you have a new idea for the site. This will allow the developer to focus on the work at hand and will save you money in not slowing them down every time you call/contact.
6. Is there a Statement of Work (SOW) available?
It’s a good idea to include statement of work created by the developer and signed off on by the client. This is the outline of all of the information discussed above, so it is clear what is expected of the developer and what is not. It should also include a timeline for completion of tasks.
— Parts of this post inspired by a highly informative talk at WordCamp 201 San Francisco: “How to Hire and Manage a Developer” by Steve Zehngut. Video from the talk will be up in the next week or two, check back at WordPress TV!