How to Choose a Web Developer for your Website

When considering how to choose a web developer for your website, the first thing you should decide is whether to engage the services of a web designer or a web developer – the two have quite different roles.

The Web Designer

The web designer works on the customer-facing part of the website (the frontend) and may only be concerned with the look of the website, not necessarily the functionality.  A good web designer knows about the principles of web design and not only creates a website that looks good, but also understands the usability of how visitors use the website.  A great web designer knows how to write the code and builds the frontend of the website using HTML, CSS and Javascript.  They are known as Unicorns in the design world.

Pro Tip: Great web designers don’t just paint pretty pictures using Photoshop, they code the site for browser/device compatibility and optimise it.

The Web Developer

The web developer is the person who programmes the backend of the website and creates the functionality that makes the website work.  That’s a short sentence, but make no mistake, the web developer is the key to making your website work how you want it to.  The web developer is the problem solver behind the project and at very least should have extensive knowledge of database driven applications.

Pro Tip:  Talk to the developer who writes the code.  A good developer knows their code inside out and can tell you just how flexible their software is.

Building a Great Real Estate Website

To build a website that looks good and with all the functionality required, you need a great web designer and developer who work in unison blending together their expertise in technologies such as PHP, MySQL, AJAX, JSON, HTML, CSS, JQuery etc.

Pro Tip: Ask what technologies are used and what experience they have in those technologies.

Consider Your budget

Bespoke websites are not cheap and you shouldn’t expect them to be.  If you budget is limited, consider using open source software.  Also, check you have the price for completing the task.  Advertising websites costing 400€ is great but is that the true cost and what is included?  If there are extras to take into consideration, that 400€ website might actually cost you closer to 900€.  Is the IVA included?  Establish not only what you will be getting for your money, but what your ongoing costs will be.

Pro Tip:  Price is what you pay, but value is what you get!

Should I Use WordPress?

If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful website, going down the WordPress route is your best option and you don’t need a web developer to build this for you.  WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world with a great Content Management System and is very easy to learn.  If you’re a serial blogger, there isn’t a better platform and dynamic content will help drive more traffic to your website.

There are some great low-cost Premium Themes available with many designed specifically for Real Estate websites.  Make sure your WordPress theme is responsive and preferably multilingual ready.  Custom layouts can be a bit tricky so if you don’t want your website to look like everyone else’s, asking your friends cousin, although cheap, may not be your best option.

WordPress has a reputation for security flaws and attacks so one of the downsides is that you must maintain the website and ensure that patches, the theme and all plugins are up to date in order to maintain the highest level of security possible.  Quantum23’s own website runs on WordPress and typically, we come under attack around 1000 times a month from potential hackers.

Pro Tip: Consider using a professional WordPress developer who does not use purchased themes, knows how to build a child theme and installs the most reliable plugins.

Bespoke Websites

If you want your website to look different to all the other Real Estate website out there, having a custom built website is your best option.  This not only allows you to stand out from the crowd, bespoke functionality can also be created giving you the website functionality that you want.  But don’t expect it to be done in a week and on a budget of two and sixpence.

Standalone or MLS feeds?

If at a later date you want to import and/or export your properties via an MLS feed, ask at the beginning of the project and not after it has begun.  Can your web designer do this or do you need to engage the services of a web developer who does?

Flexibility – Does your Website Have Room for Growth?

So you’ve got a small budget but you need a website that will grow with you.  What do you do?  You’ve chosen a cheap and cheerful WordPress website, added 30 of your own properties, but 6 months later you now have the potential for growth.  Did you ask before the project started whether you could import and/or export via an MLS feed?  If you didn’t and your web designer doesn’t have the technical knowledge to do this, it’s time to start looking for a new designer or developer.

Pro Tip:  Consider your growth potential because choosing the right product now could save you money in the long term.

Are They an Established Company?

Of course they should be, shouldn’t they?  Well, this is a tricky one for us to answer.  Define established.  Andrew is the web developer at Quantum23 with more than 15 years working as an IT consultant and contractor who, by their nature, work short term and long term contracts.  He worked for IBM on a 3-month contract.   Three years later he walked away with an award and a great testimonial from the Worldwide IT Co-ordinator at the IBM Corporation in Bethesda.  Does that make him established?  No, it doesn’t, it makes him good at what he does.

We have developed Real Estate software in both New Zealand and Spain.  Software authored by us is marketed under different company and brand names.  If you want to know more about a software product – ask for the name of the person who wrote it and speak directly with them.  Experience doesn’t always mean they are established.  But experience can be measured by the number of years, clients and the quality of their online portfolio.

Pro Tip: Established doesn’t necessarily mean they are experienced. People grow and evolve – 10 years ago they might have been a brick layer!

Do They Have Offices?

If it is important to you, choose a company who has an office you can visit.  Is it their own office, or do they use a co-working space?  Again, there are pros and cons – with an office you know where they are if you need to go knocking, but it’s no guarantee they are good at what they do.  Offices also mean overheads which are often reflected in the price list.  Many of our own clients don’t have offices but are some of the most successful Real Estate agents on the Costa del Sol.

Pro Tip:  Web designers and developers can work from anywhere with a good internet connection but be wary of anybody with a PO Box, no fixed landline or are vague about where they are based.

Do They Have an Online Portfolio?

What does their online portfolio say about them?  A portfolio that links through to real websites shows more credibility than relying on screenshots.  Look and the types of clients they have worked with and find out if they still have ongoing working relationships with them.  Do you like their design style and are their website designs responsive?

Are They Legal?

In our humble opinion, a resounding yes.  If they are not legally registered to work in Spain, then you have no comeback should things go awry.

Pro Tip:  Spain isn’t as lax with their laws as people like to imagine so think twice about using somebody working illegally.

Do They Outsource Work

You might not be worried who builds your website as long as it’s done and it works.  Is it important for you to be able to speak with your web designer or developer when you need to?  If the work has been outsourced, for example, to developers on another continent, in another time zone, what happens when you need to speak to them?  Who will pay for the call to another country?  If you are paying several hundred euros, if not several thousand euros, for a website, are you happy that the work is being outsourced to somebody who may earn a fraction of that amount – do you think it’s ethical?

Pro Tip: Ask who will be building your website, if any of the work is outsourced and if it is, where they are based and how much are they will be paid for it.

Do You Want One Point of Contact?

Having everything ‘inhouse’ is without doubt convenient.  Especially when each professional is an expert in their field.  Imagine having at your disposal a person with in-depth knowledge of web design, usability, accessibility, software development, information architecture, client-side/server-side scripting, network security, web servers, hosting and domain name registration, technical support, graphic design, CGI graphics, videography, SEO, SMO, SEM, copywriting, online marketing. AdWords, analytics and ROI etc.  That’s a big office with lots of people, right?  Technology and marketing are constantly evolving so when somebody tells you they are experts in the full range of services relating to your website, they may be being economical with the truth.

Still Confused?

A Real Estate website is an investment and many factors will determine who and how you choose to build it.

Ask yourself – what does your Real Estate website say about your business?  Are you cheap and cheerful, or are you a ‘stand out from the crowd’ type of business.

Make sure you have a list of potential developers and do some background research.  Talk to them – the answers they give to your questions should give you a gut feeling on whether they know what they are talking about.  Ask for Testimonials, look at their online portfolio, contact their previous clients.  Talk to other agents and ask for recommendations.  Ask MLS providers for contacts, check their knowledge bases for suggestions.  Ask, ask, ask!  Whether they have a good or bad reputation will soon come to light and those with consistently poor reputations should be avoided.

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