How to choose your web development team
Hiring a web development team is an important step and finding the right people to meet specific needs can make or break the success of your website.
Tips, questions and references
It is crucial to ensure your chosen web development team understands your creative vision, as well as your technical and accessibility requirements, and is able to build a website that meets them. A great team should demonstrate excitement towards your project and your organization, should collaborate every step of the way and should offer proactive solutions. Go into the hiring discussions with an outline of your product, goals and expectations and be able to communicate these points clearly to potential teams. Following are some things to consider when hiring.
Core team breakdown
You want to hire a well-balanced team with skilled members who can meet all of your expectations and needs. A good team will be able to collaborate effectively, communicate with you, and deliver a fully developed website using their combined skills. Following are the key roles you want on your team.
Managers meet with you to understand your project and then work with their team of developers and designers to ensure your needs are met. They facilitate the project so it is important you feel you have a good relationship and connection with them.
They will implement your design vision, or create a design if you do not have one, making a mock-up of the layout, developing a colour palette, typography and overall style, to make an appealing and functional website. A website designer should prioritize user-centred design and have a good knowledge of UX principles.
They focus on creating images for your website (ads, icons, banners, buttons, logos, etc.). Sometimes the website designer and graphic designer roles can be fulfilled by the same person but ensure if this is the case that the single person has all the skills and experience needed to complete your project.
Developers are the technical coders who will create the back-end framework and intricate structure of the website to support the visuals created by the website and graphic designers. They could also be considered the “back-end developers,” concerned solely with the technical aspects of the site.
The QA analyst tests the website to uncover any flaws that might have been overlooked during design and development with a specific focus on validating pages for accessibility using WCAG 2.1 guidelines.
Additional digital specialists
In addition to the core team, your project may require the work of other digital specialists to create some of the immersive experiences such as creating 3D environments and models, taking high resolution and 360 panoramic photos, creating videos or animations. These specialist roles can be fulfilled by members of the core team or can be subcontracted for specific tasks.
A web development team should collectively have:
- organization and communication skills to implement the planning and development of your website clearly and on time
- effective problem-solving skills, individually and as a team, to address any hurdles that appear throughout the process
- the ability to be a true partner in the website building process, contribute ideas and creative input, provide leadership on the design and effectively integrate feedback
- proficiency in using design software, like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator
- experience in meeting WCAG 2.1 accessibility requirements
- ability to use a screen reader
- familiarity with web-accessibility validation tools
- ability to manually assess accessibility of a website
- knowledge of cross-browser accessibility considerations
- experience and understanding of digital marketing strategies and methods to improve your SEO
- a focus on usability and knowledge of good UX design principles
Statement of work
A critical element in finding the right web development team for your project is creating a clear statement of work. Following is a list of suggested information you might want to include.
- State the level of experience (minimum two years recommended) and team members you wish to have working/consulting on your project (minimum of four recommended including project manager, web developer, web designer and graphic designer)
- Outline your target audience. How should the website cater to this specific audience?
- Clearly state the scope of your project. Do you have an estimated number of pages or words? How in depth will the content be? What will the different elements be?
- i.e. videos, images, connections to other platforms like social media
- Explain your expectations for user experience of the site. What will their engagement look like?
- A preliminary mood board– giving an idea of the design you would like help achieving. Even if your final design turns out differently, this will provide a sense of your goals.
- You could include samples of other designs or elements you like.
- Alternatively, include designs you do not like, things you would like to avoid.
- Include colours you are considering, like the central and background colours.
- A list of “must-haves” – what are the elements your website absolutely needs? Make sure to include accessibility guidelines and quality assurance testing in your mandatory requirements.
- Set a realistic time frame now so applicants know they can meet your deadlines
- State your existing assets – what you’ll provide like designs, logos, wireframes etc.
Ask the team to submit a proposal. Does this clearly reflect your needs and expectations?
At minimum, a proposal should include:
- a project plan, which outlines key deliverables, timeline, communication protocols and accessibility requirements;
- preliminary identification of technology and software proposed;
- explanation of how the technology or software chosen will meet DMC technical specifications and accessibility requirements;
- brief outline of the proposed site including plan for design, navigation, and content;
- outline of how the site will be maintained – either through their company or training you and your staff to continue maintaining the website as functioning and accessible;
- a fee breakdown based on the above deliverables and team members’ roles;
- references – including organization, name, position, contact information, project description and URL for final developed site.
Interviewing your team
- What experience do they have?
- Do they have the technical skills and experience to handle your project?
- Request a portfolio including examples of projects that match the scope of your project and examples of websites they previously designed.
- Go through their portfolio and pinpoint if they have any previous projects similar to your needs.
- Check the accessibility of their previously designed websites. Use online testing tools (see toolkit for resources). Identify current clients of yours with disabilities and ask them to try the sites.
- Ask for an explanation of the importance of accessibility. This will prompt the web developer to explain their position on website accessibility. In their response they should: reference WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), Level AA, outline need for alt-text, screen readers, clear navigation, responsiveness, and clarity, be able to discuss and communicate technical concepts clearly in plain language,
Some questions to ask
- How large is their team? A minimum of four people is recommended to handle the workload but depending on your scope and timelines, the project team can be smaller and one individual can take on more than one role. If you are working with a smaller team, ensure they identify back-ups for the key roles.
- How long has the team been working together/company been in business?
- Do they have awards, certifications or other skills that increase their experience and credibility?
- Are there any additional skills they have which would benefit their work on your website?
- For any holes in the web developer’s skill set, is there someone on their team who can step in?
- Ask to see their contract terms. Do they provide a warranty on their work? If so, what does it include and cover?
- Can they handle producing the website bilingually?
- Set expectations and ensure good communication
- Are you on the same page in terms of clear communication throughout the project?
- Ensure that you communicate your expectations clearly and specifically.
- Be as specific as possible in your expectations, job outline and requirements in order to remove any uncertainties or mismatched expectations
- Do they understand the scope of your project?
- Are deadlines clearly outlined and agreed to?
- Are they able to propose exciting and innovative solutions that are compatible with your vision and goals for the project?
- Are they able to communicate their ideas clearly in layperson terms and explain any tech jargon or definitions?
- Make sure you understand the role of the team members, their individual skills, and the elements of your website they will develop (both individually and collaboratively).
Require candidates to submit client references (a minimum of three suggested)
Questions for references:
- Did the team clearly communicate what they needed from you to complete the product?
- Did they provide a clear schedule and keep to it?
- Were they flexible and solution-oriented?
- Was the final product delivered on time and on budget?
- Did they understand what you were looking for and were they able to follow through?
- Did they respond well to feedback?
- Did the team work well together, dividing work appropriately and effectively?
- Did they understand your company’s accessibility requirements for the website?
- Are you aware of clients with disabilities using your website? What kind of feedback have you received about their experiences?