You might just be starting out you web presence and need a new site. Or perhaps you are an existing site owner wishing your website could be better. There are many situations through which I’m certain you’ve toyed with the idea of outsourcing your web development, either entirely or in parts.
Before you read further, I must let you know that I am of the school of thought that business should always focus on their core capabilities. This means that if your main income comes from activities other than web development, then outsource your web development!
Just keep in mind that outsourcing web development isn’t exactly going to take all the strain off your shoulders, just the necessary parts.
How Outsourcing Works
In general here's how outsourcing web development works –
Introduction: Web Design vs Web Development
While many people might say it’s just nit-picking over terminology, web design and development aren’t really the same thing. Design pertains to the aesthetics of the site – how nice it looks.
Development may cover site design but includes the building of the engine that runs the site.
PSD to HTML / PSD to WordPress no longer works
Quite some time ago, business owners used to describe to a designer how they wanted their website to look like.
The designer would draft up the look and feel of the site using something like Photoshop and then hand it to a developer who would turn the PSD file into HTML code.
This is mostly outdated now, thanks to the massive influx of devices with varying screen sizes. A ‘one size fits all’ design is no longer feasible, and unless you’re willing to spend the time and money doing separate design and development for each device type – PSD to HTML isn’t realistic anymore.
Just look at WordPress for example and consider this fact. Using templates can ease a lot of the design burdens and many of them are responsive, meaning the templates adapt themselves to various screen formats.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still do so, in fact you can even turn your PSD files into WordPress templates, but is it worth the trouble?
How Outsourcing Web Development Works
The first thing you need to know is that even with outsourcing your web development, as a future site owner you are still going to be very much involved in the development process.
From choosing the right partner to defining the exact scope of your online activities, your input is vital if you expect not to be disappointed by what your web developers turn out.
Remember: Web developers are the same as other business owners – they are experts in their own field. What you need is to be able to pass on your expertise in your domain to them and allow them to transfer that knowledge into their technical design.
Make sure that things are spelled out in as simple terms as possible so there isn’t any room for misinterpretation.
What to Expect
- Delays to the project timeline
- Suggested alterations to your designs
- Internal staff will need to be assigned time to liaise with the developer
- At least minor cost overruns
What not to expect to be included:
- Content for the website
- Any special images/videos
- Search engine optimization & social media marketing
- Web hosting and domain name
1. Choose a right outsourcing partner
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how can you tell if a web developer is a right fit for you? It’s not as easy as it seems.
Aside from the usual spam from Nigerian Princes and the IRS asking me to reclaim millions attributed to me somehow, over the past years I have started getting spam from web developers as well. These are usually individuals and the spam has even evolved to cold calls trying to sell their services.
There are literally thousands of web development companies around today and an even greater number of freelance web developers. The problem is finding the right one to work with you on your website.
Here are a couple of tips for choosing one:
- Ask them for references – All web development companies can come up with a decent site of their own and tout it, but the proof is in having happy customers. Check up on those references and take note of their comments.
- Evaluate communication flow – Ask how the work communication flow is like. I once worked with a developer who had a very siloed approach – I communicated with their support staff, who communicated with their technical staff and separate other people handled billing, complaints and so on. The process was painfully slow and many times confusing.
- Fit your budget – It will often be tempting to go with a smaller developer who promises you the moon and the stars for a pittance. Comparatively, a bigger, more reputable company might be leery of some of the things you require – listen to both sides realistically and impartially before deciding on the level of risk you’re willing to assume.
Great Options for Outsourcing Work
Outsource platform #1- Codable
Founded in 2012, Codeable began by taking on talented individuals then hiring them out to those who needed ad-hoc website support. Today they have morphed into one of the best resources available for those in need of WordPress skills.
They have simplified the freelancing system to reduce the time and effort needed to find the right skills. All you need to do is tell them what you want and they will help you find the right talents and quote a single price – backed with a guarantee.
- Reasonable hourly rates of between $70 to $120
- Single price estimate helps take the focus off cost
- Expert freelancers in over 60 countries
- 28-day bug fix warranty
- 17.5% service fee is tacked on top of hourly rates
- Service fees are non-refundable
- Only WordPress specific skills available
Outsource platform #2- Stack Overflow
As a freelancing network specialized in code gurus, Stack Overflow started way back in 2008. They have been growing to the extent of having gone through four rounds of funding to the tune of $70 million. Today, they boast a network of more than 50,000 developers.
What makes them unique in the freelancing network space is their Q&A model which allows you to simply ask questions and participate in knowledge sharing. The site is a congregation point for skilled developers who willingly participate in Q&A sessions.
- No extra fees – pay only what the freelancer charges
- Large community-drive Q&A database
- Allows job postings
- Traditional job list structure to find freelancers
Outsource platform #3- Fiverr
Fiverr is yet another resource that lets you browse through pools of freelancers for anything from content creation to social media support. They allow freelancers to create offers which can then be chosen by you. Alternatively, you can create a job (post a ‘request’) that you specifically need and allow Fiverr freelancers to bid on it.
For every transaction, Fiverr will take its cut in the form of a fee that’s tacked on to the final price. The fee varies depending on value of transaction. Because of a reputation system, Fiverr freelancers can be aggressive in trying to meet job requirements.
- Wide range of skill types and levels available
- Job browsing can be a source of ideas for what you need
- Fiverr holds payments until you say you’re satisfied with the work done
- Existence of some out of date postings
- Wide range of unregulated prices
- Some sellers may be unskilled
Outsource platform #4- Toptal
This network’s claim to fame is that it helps you outsource work to the cream of the freelance web developer crop. They have managed to pool together talents covering every skill that could possibly be need for a website, even designers.
Whether you’re looking for general developers or those who have specific skill areas like Node.js or the Unity engine, it is likely you will find help here.
- Big source of highly talented developers and designers
- Caters to all sizes of businesses
- Pre-screens freelancers on multiple levels – Skills, language, work ethics, and more
- Free trial period with all freelancers
- Can get expensive with hourly rates between $60 to $210
- Sign-up needed to browse talents
Outsource platform #5- Gun.io
Gun.io is trying to break the traditional painful skills onboarding process by contributing its skills to the freelance hiring process. They pool highly experienced talents (no newbies here) that are willing to work on a contract basis and vets them then helps find the right fits for both the freelancers and you.
They don’t have lists of freelancers that you can browse through but work with those who want to hire directly. One call to help them on a fact-finding mission will result in them finding the exact right person for the job.
- Highly experienced freelancers only
- Pre-vetted and assessed candidates
- No need to browse through lists to find what you want
- Talent match within 48 hours
- Cost scaled to length of hire – short hires can be expensive
Outsource platform #6- Upwork
Upwork is more of a multi-mix freelancing network site rather than a specialist in web development gurus. They offer everything from web development to accounting, specializing in remote workers who are available from anywhere around the globe.
The way it works is much like the traditional job board listing format, where talents of all kinds are pooled and then categorized for you to find. Aside from freelancers, agencies are also listed here and that gives talent seekers an extra option as well.
- Multi-skill levels available
- Wide range of skillsets available
- Sign-up needed to browse freelancers
- What you can see is limited by signup package (price ranging from free to $499 a month)
- Up to 13% overhead in processing fees
2. Know what you want (and state clearly)
What I mean here is that you need to have a vision for your website. What are your intentions? Do you want your website to simply be informational and support your primary place of business, or are you looking to use it as a virtual extension of your business?
There are key differences in scope here that the web developer needs to know.
Once you’ve decided what needs to be on your site, make sure to convey his information clearly to your web developer. While looks are important, don’t get carried away and focus overly much on your site design.
3. Establish project milestones
Work with your developer to come up with a timeline that is acceptable to both of you. At each stage, there should be an evaluation point to make sure you can call a time out in case you feel something is not going the way it should.
The timeline also gives you a better feel of when your final product (the website) will be available, so that you can plan supporting activities such as a soft launch, some promotions or other marketing activities around the launch date.
4. Draw up a contract
By now you probably realize that your website can be an invaluable tool you can build even more business activities around. Because of that, you are going to be committed to it in many ways. Having a contract protects both your investment as well as the web developer’s interests.
Be aware, however, that should you decide to outsource to a third party in, say, India, then you need to also learn how enforceable any contract you might have with them is.
5. Build a good relationship with your developer
Once you have your website, it is usually the norm that occasionally, some things might go wrong. Keeping a good relationship with your developer will help ensure that any bugs or other problems you have will be resolved quickly.
It also further builds on trust and gives you a good option in case you ever decide to add a ‘Phase 2’ to your website. The guys who built it will usually be able to develop it further on a shorter timeline and with less resources.
Success Story: Credo
There were limits to how much he could achieve each day on his own and decided to outsource to a WordPress developer.
Through a working relationship, John reached a point where he no longer felt stressed by developmental issues in his consulting work and is able to focus on his core business goals.
Avoid these 5 Mistakes When Outsourcing
- Choosing the wrong partner
- Establish an unrealistic budget
- Not having key goals clearly defined
- Being too ‘hands off’ in the development process
- Not building a marketing plan around your website
Conclusion: Is Outsourcing Right for YOU?
Every business is different, both in what they do and what point there are at in it. If you’re wondering if outsourcing is the right choice for you, it likely is. What you should be looking at is much of what I’ve covered in this article.
Don’t get me wrong – the outsourcing path isn’t lined with roses and contains more than its fair share of thorns. However, at the end of the day, if it is done right then you’ll have gained an extremely professional asset to your core business activities.
The key difference between outsourcing or not lies in a few fundamentals. If you outsource, rather than focusing on technical competencies that you’ll never need again, you instead build on other good management qualities – communication and project planning.
These will work well to your advantage no matter what business line you’re in, even after the web development project is done.