Web development agency checklist: before you choose

 min read
9 December 2021
Adam Gontarz
Adam Gontarz
CEO
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Contents

  • Intro

In 2019, there were 23.9 million web developers in the world. In 2023, that number is projected to reach 27.7 million. So it might feel like there shouldn’t be the slightest problem with finding a web development agency that can handle the building of your new web app. 

But looking at the number of horror stories of web development processes going wrong, it’s obvious that it’s not that easy to find a web development agency that can both understand the business goals of each company and build efficient, robust web apps for them.

Quite often, the development fails because the clients didn’t realize the most important step is to do thorough research before choosing a web partner. So what’s the best way to find an agency that meets your needs? Or rather, how should you prepare for meetings with web development partners for your web app or enterprise website? Here are a couple of steps you should consider.

#1 Think about your goals

Before you write an RFP, ask for referrals, or search online for potential web firms, take a moment to think through just what you’re hoping to achieve. It is a good idea to set some clear goals for your new web app – such as increasing sales by a certain percent or boosting brand awareness. Setting clear goals will help you figure out which features you should implement on your site and the type of web developers you should hire to work on your site. Doing so can also help you evaluate what you already have and what you’ll need (e.g., content) from your web partner.

It’s important that your goals be as precise and realistic as possible. Writing goals like “I want more customers” or “I want to be #1 in search engines” might sound good on paper, but they aren’t specific enough to tell you whether your web app gives you the business results you want or not. 

#2 Prioritize value of web development agency over cost

In the early days of the internet, you could have a basic static web app with just three pages or so, and your visitors would still be amazed. But now that the internet now has over 1 billion sites, unless you can capture the eye of the website visitors, they won’t pay your page any attention.  

A visually appealing, fast-loading, and intuitive web app is what you need to ensure your new business web app becomes successful. The page should also work perfectly on a regular computer as well as on a smartphone or tablet – according to a GoodFirms survey, 73.1% of web designers believe that a non-responsive design is a top reason why visitors leave a web app.

But seeing the costs involved in building a custom web app, or redesigning your current one, you might think you are better off choosing the cheapest company you can find and hope for the best. That strategy almost never ends well, though.

Keep in mind that a web app is an investment, not an expense – and good web apps don’t come cheap. While a well-known web agency may charge more for a web app, you also receive their expertise in creating enterprise-level web apps, the latest technology, and after-launch support. Higher up-front costs typically also mean you’ll also pay less for maintenance, agency support in case of a problem, or web app updates if the up-front costs are high – ensuring your site will last much longer. So while you should never ruin your budget to have a modern web app, it is usually not worth looking for the cheapest solution either.

#3 Think about the web apps you like 

Are there any industry-related web apps that you like using? That might be a clue to how you should design your own web app, as well as with whom you should work. Usually, there’s a link at the bottom of the page that points to the website development company that created it. This is a good way to start looking for web firms. Though, if there is no such information, you might consider contacting the company to learn who designed their web app – that way, you could get the contact information and references for the web development agency.

It is often a good idea to hire a web development company that has already created web apps related to your industry which you like using, as this proves the firm’s experience in the field and also allows you to better explain your vision.

#4 Find out if your web development agency is keeping up with the times

Tech is an industry that is rapidly changing, with new tools, trends, graphic design practices, responsive design as a whole, and techniques appearing every day. If you want your web app to stay up-to-date as trends change, then you should pay special attention to whether the development agency you consider hiring knows exactly what is popular in the industry now but also keeps an eye on what’s coming next.

It is a good idea to ask a potential web app development partner how they acquire new industry knowledge and whether they encourage and support their team members’ continuing education. Offering workshops and courses as well as explaining business processes and potential marketing strategies (or other digital marketing services) to their clients is also an added benefit.

#5 Communication Is Key

If you are not in regular contact with your web development agency, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to finish your web app project or development services. Things might change suddenly as the project moves forward, and the development team might run into trouble along the way too. That’s why it’s crucial that you can rely on your web partner to keep you updated throughout the project and that there will be a person to whom you can reach out with questions you might have.

A good idea here is to research how the team typically communicates with their clients and how often – for example, by looking at the reviews and testimonials left by their clients. When speaking with the development firms, you should also ask in advance if you will get a dedicated person who will act as your “first point of contact” for any project-related needs and how frequently you can expect to hear from them.

If you are outsourcing your project to a company with whom you will be in only online contact, be careful not to fall into the micromanagement trap. Lack of communication with the agency could result in a product you aren’t satisfied with, but insisting on a progress call or meeting every day is just as damaging. A short weekly check-in followed by a more detailed meeting at each project milestone completed should be more than enough for your ultimate business growth.

#6 Does a web development firm understand your needs?

You might not know all the details of how the web development process works, but you approach the web development company with more or less specific objectives in mind. The agency’s job, meanwhile is to understand your main goals, make suggestions about how the project should be handled, and connect you with the right developers. However, unless they listen carefully to what you say about your project and try to understand your goals, it might be difficult to get the project to work. Their job shouldn’t be just to listen to what you say, note down what features you want on the web app, and then say you’ll get everything as you want.     

Quite the opposite – development firms should closely listen to your needs so that they can recommend solutions (e.g. for project management, application development, and digital presence) that will best serve your objectives, even if they are different from what you initially wanted. 

#7 Check who will own the code once the web app is finished

You might be surprised to hear that your web app might not be completely “yours” after the project is finished, as it all depends on who is the owner of the web app’s code. Why does it matter? If a web development company keeps the code of your website or custom web application, you’ll have to contact them every time you want to change something on it. And what if you wanted someone else to redesign content management systems or update your web app for online presence later on? Unless the web developers agree to transfer the code rights to you, your options are pretty limited.

That’s why it’s important to check whether the software company or you will own the code once your web app is launched. In the case that you and your web partner separate, open-source code keeps your options open and allows you to find someone else (even among dedicated teams) without having to start over.

#8 Do their offer an integration with your used tech-stack

The following point is particularly important for those of you who are researching the options for web redesign – but it may also prove helpful to those who want to build a web app from scratch. You surely have a couple of tools that you are using on a daily basis – a CRM, analytics platform, or any other software that is (or should be) connected to your web app. If you wish to use them on your new web app, you should tell the development team about those and ask them to add the integrations to the web app.

Otherwise, it might happen that as your prospective web partner for a development project likes different applications than you do, he might want to implement those on your new site rather than add support for the tools you are currently using. Of course, being open to any suggestions coming from the web developers is a good thing. But if you don’t make it clear what integrations you might need on your web app, you and your team might have to learn how to use a completely different system from you – or ask the development team to add the integrations later, at additional cost.

#9 Potential additional services of web development agencies?

Giving you a ready and launched web app doesn’t mean the work is done. To keep things running smoothly, regular maintenance and sometimes troubleshooting services are a must. Therefore, when you hire a web development agency, you should look for someone who is willing to work with you long-term rather than just for one project. But it’s not only about having someone who can help with technical support. Rather, you should hire someone who will keep an eye on the industry trends (e.g. graphic design, other design services, or even mobile applications if needed) and developments and give you suggestions on how to keep your web ap up-to-date.

Make sure to ask prospective web firms or a design company whether they have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and/or Maintenance/Support Plan in place and what it includes. However, you should also ask them what their vision is for your ongoing relationship after the site launches. With questions like these, you can discover what kind of long-term commitment a web firm is willing to make, as well as what kind of support you can expect from them in the future.

Conclusion

Choosing the right web development agency to partner with is definitely not an easy task on any development stage. To choose wisely, you should start from detailed research on the web development companies and then carefully evaluate all your options. You should pick a web development agency or that is both able to develop a quality website and web application for your business but also understands why you even need those applications. 

Now, more than ever, quality matters – with how fierce the competition of design agencies is, you cannot afford to put a half-finished web app online. However, if you carry out solid research that includes all the factors we mentioned, it should be easier for you to find the right digital marketing agency or a partner for fulfilling custom software solutions and successful projects for any industry of your choice.

Start working with your new web development agency right away!

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