The web agency should have a great website but when it comes down to working on your own website or taking another paying job to work on a client's website it's hard to turn down the opportunity. So their website is not always a good indicator. We don't even try to rank well for SEO because we could not handle the extra work & our industry is uber competitive to rank high in so it's not worth the time or effort at the size we are. So the web agencies SEO rankings are not always good indicators (but if you find one that does rank well that can be a bonus).
I would look at their past work over most other things.
I would also consider team size. If it's going to be a longer-term project a team of at least 2 people may be best. Even if you found a good freelancer you have to consider their availability down the road after the project is finished, will they have time for last min requests or downed website emergencies?
Lastly, I would consider the price. The old "you get what you pay for" saying is especially true in this industry. The best developers/designers are in high demand and we charge high prices. So higher price may be a good sign you have the right team. Just make sure you're not getting a canned/prebuilt solution because I've seen a lot of clients come to me with a website build on a $100 theme which they paid $10,000 to have installed. It's sad but it happens. Good luck on your search!
Work history is important. Questions to ask include: Who are the web designer/developer's clients, what platforms do they work on, how long have they been in business? Ask for references and check them out. Not every web designer will be a good fit stylistically. I also find it matters if they have a decent understanding of your business arena and desired customers.
Also, good business relationships rely heavily on communication. I find it's extremely important to work with vendors that communicate clearly.
Another good question to ask is about who is doing the work. There are a lot of US-based firms that outsource all of the actual programming and development work overseas. This may not be a concern to you, but it would be good to know going in.
Ask yourself, what do I want from my website?
If you're like most it's not the website you want it's the results you think it can deliver..
Website devs are more artistic brained and like to build to please the eye, logic is not in their make up.
SEO requires strategy and logic to to play Googles games.. Best done by logic brained people..
Ad copy is best suited to analytical brains, the words that will compel visitors to become prospects..
It's almost impossible to find an individual that has all 3 traits.. BUT every web dev I have seen tries to sell themselves as being able to deliver on all of these things..
Most business owners get caught up in how the websites looks to them, and focus on SEO to hopefully get the site found..
Here is the rub.. What you think of your site is, well who cares as you don't buy from yourself, your site should please your prospects eye. That is who you want to be paying you money!
Then SEO, getting your site found when it has bad/weak messaging.. well you SEO may as well be a map to a garbage dump for all the good it will do..
Even when you finally get all three right, it is not a guarantee of success.. A website is only 1 small part of a marketing "system" to help deliver prospects to you..
I will say the quality of the message, the perceived 'VALUE' that a prospect 'feels' you have conveyed will go a long way indertermining the easy or difficulty of closing the sale will be..
Marketing systems don't sell... They deliver prospects, what you do and say to a prospect will determine if they become a client/customer..
Picking a web developer is much more complicated that it looks on the surface.. Buyer beware.
'Imagine if you never had to worry about if you have enough work to pay the bills, how would you feel?' Show me you can close leads, and I will 10x the effectiveness of your marketing'
Check out their own website, as well as their search results placement. If they can't do well for themselves how can they do well for you?
Also make sure they are competent with any specific certifications you might need (like HIPPA) and be sure to ask for references.
you can look their work history, and dig into some of their previous customers or maybe contact their previous customers to see what designer/developer did.
You can skim their portfolio to take a look at their skill and education, but the most important is their attitude toward the task.
It is hard to tell if a person/company isn't really qualified. I'm not talking about the skill set (if they don't have enough skill set, they can hire other or receive help from other). You should ask two questions:
what should they do if the final product doesn't satisfy what you need?
How can they satisfy your need?
Jeff, you can't prove a negative.
Yes, a web designer might be too busy to develop their own site, but they also might just not be very good.
One's own website is a great way to showcase one's work, and leaves no doubts.
Same with search results. I just signed up a real-estate group because we came up first in their search and that's what they want for their own business.
It's OK to argue hypotheticals but hard to argue with results...
Some of the best freelancer that I know don't even have a website, if they do, it's outdated. Weird, right?
It might be a good idea to start a dialog with a few potentials. Get a feel for what they can do and what they are confident with. Maybe throw them a small project to work out.
Some of my best customers came from a quick malware fix.
Saying they are the best or offering up a few selected reviews offers nothing if you are needing something specific in return.
If I were you, I would do my best to keep it local and work with a freelance person. You will get better prices and more flexibility with the service.
Are you looking to hire an agency or person, somewhat different criteria. If its an agency then you want to look at past work and "social proof." If its a person you can look at a resume and maybe kick them a project or two to test them out.
I would say to check their work, if they don't show past work on their website ask them for some to go check out. Also how long have they been in business doing this? If someone is just starting their prices may be lower but they may not be as skilled. Ask them where they got their skills from? School, self taught? Good luck! :)
Look at their portfolio. Not their site so much as a good developer is too busy to update their site. Look at their work.
I say look for one local and maybe a small team. Dont go with the one guy with a laptop in a coffee shop. A team will be able to support you as you grow.
ask them if they outsource. I can tell you horror stories like having an embassy call you after arresting the web team for doing illegal stuff under your companies name. And flash floods, delayed projects, weekly holidays, rolling blackouts, yup all these things can effect you project.
Testimonials, good old fashioned reviews. A good developer will have some.
I want to say an office to. Because for the love of everything, stop meeting in coffee shops.