As with any technology product or service, the challenge is on the purchaser to do appropriate due diligence and separate the facts from the sales pitch. In the case of web (or mobile application) development , this can be challenging, as all the providers promise user friendly tools, low cost, fast turnaround, and excellent customer service. At the end you wish to encourage people to keep coming back to your site (or app) that takes more than trendy pages and Photoshop skills. Before you begin any kind of website (or app) work on improvement or maintenance, you need to know what the service provider is leaving out of the conversation.
1) Licensed & Insured - When you hire a contractor to work on your property you want to ensure they have a valid license & insurance, has your intellectual property no value to you? When you work with web (or application) developers risks can include but not limited to - data security, legalities, software licenses, copyright infringements, plagiarism issues, work ethics, ability to support you in your time zone and more. Think how prepared you are to protect yourself and your clients from these unforeseen contingencies.
2) Freelancer or Firm - Is (s)he one person army or has an adequate resources to complete your project? At times, hiring a freelancer is the better choice for small work, but generally speaking, the risk is greater for a project when you are in a serious business. Most freelancers decide to spend the day running errands and just work in the evening. They hardly have a team who can deal with the client in case of an emergency. Unlike a development firm with established work hours, freelancers cannot be expected to be available during the usual 9-5 workday. Furthermore, you just can’t be sure if your developer isn’t going to run off with your down payment. Reliability-wise, many freelancers do not work with written contracts, and even when they do, clients can’t be bothered to pursue legal action involving small-time projects.
3) Hidden Costs - There are many application developers that provide installment based services. It’s important you look beyond the initial monthly subscription fees. Make sure you fully understand the complete pricing model and how your cost might change based on increased number of users, capacity, features, etc. Align your costs with your expected results.
4) Real Ownership of your Website - Are you owning or leasing? Can you move your website to another web hosting company if you have to. If yes, how easy the migration and restoration process is? Migration or transition from one platform to another is never fun. Make sure you know upfront how you get your site out of the developer owned website and how easy or hard it is to move it to another hosting provider.
5) Security - Along the way as you start to collaborate with your web developers you will be sharing confidential information and data. How your data and confidential information is protected is vital. Find out how the vendor manages and secures the data\info. This is vital for all companies, but particularly more if you are in a regulated industry, such as healthcare or finance.
6) Domain Name - A domain name is your intellectual property but a lot of organizations don't even know that someone else owns their site domain(s). Many small businesses are carried out by consultants and developers who are not bothered or simply do not care to coach their clientele. The domain expires once the renewal date passes with no fee, and your site is down. Bad enough for any business! Your website a significant source to entice sales opportunities, generate sales, and preserve the marketing pipeline; and you need to preserve it.
7) Flash Intro & Popup - Today HTML5 has great capabilities and you may never have to use Flash on homepage as a quick intro ever again. Flash is not only anti-SEO but also incompatible for mobile devices. However if you have to use Flash intro anyway remember to make the option of ‘skipping it’ available to your visitors. Put a skip button\link in a way the browsers can remember the visitors preference going forward and not annoy them again and again. Likewise, nothing is worse than a popup while visiting websites. Try to avoid popup window where you can and use it where you have to - such as if you want a visitor sign up for your newsletter, take a survey or buy your e-book - do it very subtlety. Very rarely people bookmark sites with ads popping up all the time.