Mobile Responsive Website Experience
One would think that just about every web developer or designer would have experience in building mobile-friendly websites at this day in age, but it just isn’t the case. Some people are just old school and haven’t evolved with the times. It’s amazing how many web developers and designers are selling services on building mobile friendly or responsive websites, but they don’t even have one themselves. This should be your first indication to keep looking elsewhere. Just to clarify, mobile responsive and mobile friendly mean the same thing.
When smartphones and tablets really made ground in 2008, it was common practice to see 2 versions of a website. One for mobile and one for laptop/desktop. This is no longer an accepted practice and really hasn’t been since 2010. If your web designer or developer is pitching you on building a website with 2 different versions to support mobile devices, there is your second sign to keep looking elsewhere.
Having experience in building a mobile-friendly website isn’t just about it passing a mobile responsive test. It’s about enabling the best possible user experience possible. Your visitors need to be able to navigate and interact with your website in the easiest, and most intuitive way possible, across any device. This means that everything from the font size, to the images, to the navigation functionality, to the interaction of buttons on touchscreens, must perform flawlessly no matter what the device. A properly implemented mobile friendly website should be able to scale and display all necessary information as a screens dimensions get smaller and smaller. One website for all devices.
Having a properly built mobile friendly website not only increases your chances of better SEO, but it also ensures that you are not losing viewers operating from mobile devices. This is crucial since over 60% of all searches across Google and Bing/Yahoo in 2016 were from mobile devices.
Taking matters a bit further, your website needs to not only be mobile friendly, but it also needs to be fast on mobile devices. Mobile devices tend to have slower internet speeds when not connected to a decent wifi connection, so the ability to load your website quickly on mobile devices also plays a huge factor. Mobile Page Speed is now a factor in Google’s Search Engine Ranking algorithm. While it’s been proven that it isn’t necessary to get a 100% score to rank well, the test does lay some foundational groundwork that should be followed for optimizing your websites mobile speed. The test does have its caveats, but that is another discussion entirely.
So to summarize the importance of mobile friendly websites and the fact that your web developer or designer needs to be experienced in this practice. It is fairly obvious that a well built mobile friendly website is not only going to increase your chances of ranking higher in search results, but it’s also going to provide a much better user experience for all your visitors, thus increasing the chances of a positive action from a visit to your website. Take a look at your prospects portfolio of websites and see if what they are building works on your mobile devices.
Error Free Markup Skills
There are a lot of web developers that go both ways on this. Some will tell you that 100% validation isn’t needed and that most modern browsers will render the code properly. Then there are others that insist the code must be completely valid and pass without errors. There are arguments to be made from both sides, but here is why it is a good idea to settle for nothing less than 100% error free validation.
Validating HTML markup is easy, and can be done with tools like W3C Validator. Just enter a URL and it will validate the code that generates the web page you just entered.
Valid Code Eliminates Cross Browser Discrepancies
The biggest reason that HTML markup should have zero errors is so that you don’t leave the web browser guessing how it should handle displaying invalid code. Sure, maybe it will render just fine on one browser, but what if another browser handles that discrepancy differently? Now your page may render with unintended results to the viewer.
Code Validation Can Be A Great Way To Debug Issues
If something is rendering incorrectly, running a validation can be an easy way to show you where the issue may be coming from. Maybe there is a missing end tag for a div or span and items aren’t lining up correctly when viewing the page. It’s just another way to make sure that your work is right, just like checking a paper for spelling errors before distributing it out to others. Will others know what you meant if you have a spelling error, probably, but it still isn’t correct?
Validation Can Future Proof Your Work
Browsers are built to render code with standards in mind. As standards change over time, having valid markup can ensure that your site will still render correctly years after standards have changed. On the other hand, if your website was built using invalid code or hacks, they may render unexpected results when standards change and handle those errors differently.
Validation Makes Maintenance Easier
Over time, your website may have different developers that work on it. If it was built with valid code that is easy to understand, it makes the transitions between developers go much more smoothly and can save you money in the long run.
100% Code Validation Is A Sign Of Professionalism
Generating valid code isn’t hard, but it takes a certain level of professionalism and attention to detail to obtain. A lot can be said for a person that wants to deliver perfect service to its clients, and getting a website with valid markup is just one more reason to be assured that the person who built it cared about the work you paid them to do. If your developer isn't validating their code, they're either lazy, or dumb.
Working Knowledge of Modern SEO
SEO strategies change from year to year, and so do search engines ranking algorithms. Ongoing knowledge of trending tactics and implementation strategies is the key to staying ahead of the competition. Every day keywords become more and more competitive as new businesses enter the market and attempt to gain ground in their respective industries.
SEO as a whole is a very iterative process, meaning it needs constant attention and evolution. A well-planned SEO strategy will eventually fail if it can’t be maintained.
When hiring a professional web designer or developer, they should not only have the working knowledge of how to research and implement an SEO strategy but also maintain one. The more basic skills that your web development prospect should know include the following:
- Knowledge of meta title and description lengths
- Proper H1 and H2 usage
- Keyword Research and Analysis
- Google/Bing Webmaster Tools knowledge
- Google Analytics Reporting and Views Setup
- Optimal web page content length
- Content Keyword Density
- Adwords Experience
While all web developers or designers are not going to be SEO experts, it’s not unreasonable to expect these basic skills from them. Most likely whoever you’re looking to hire will have a person that will specialize in only SEO and can work directly with your developer to implement your strategy effectively. However, if they don’t have a specialist, then it would be wise to make sure they are at least proficient with the above skills.
Ability to work across multiple platforms and languages
Finding a web developer that can work across multiple platforms can be a difficult task. Sometimes even finding one that can work on your specific platform can be difficult. Wordpress is by far and away the most popular content management system (CMS) on the web. With over half of all CMS based websites being on the Wordpress platform, this makes up about 28% of all websites on the web. Great news if you need a Wordpress developer. But what if Wordpress isn’t right for you? What if you already have a website built on a different platform?
It seems more common that most web developers or designers specialize in one platform. While many website platforms share the same language stack or similar architecture, they can vary greatly. Before hiring a web designer or developer for your next job, you will want to make sure that they have experience working with the platform that your website is built on. Then you can sleep with confidence that things will get done in a correct and efficient manner.
What happens if you don’t have a website already? How do you know what platform is best? Most web design and development firms will usually pitch you a website built on the platform they are most comfortable building. However, this may not what would serve your needs best, and can sometimes be more expensive. It is usually a great idea to get a couple of options from the same firm, if they even offer that, or from multiple firms. Get the spiel on a few different platforms and decide what meets your needs, and your pocketbook best, not the developers.
So why is having experience with multiple platforms important in choosing a developer?
- Allows for more robust, custom architecture and functionality
- Gives you the flexibility to choose what’s right for you***
- Builds confidence in knowing the developer can handle issues in different situations
- Keeps website updates turn-around time quick.
- Keeps all your work in one place if you own multiple websites on different platforms
Finally, the last quality in a good web developer or designer that you should care about is how well they performed with past clients. This is important because it gives you some insight as to how they work, and how you can expect to be treated. Here are a few ways you can find out if your prospect is meeting the needs of its clients.
- How many negative reviews does the company have?
- What are people saying about their experience in the reviews?
- View past clients websites and contact them to ask them about their experience directly.
- Do they have an ongoing relationship with past clients?
- Will they give you referrals upon request?
It is all too common to see web design firms with great public reviews, but in reality, they don’t retain customers, and their customer service horrible. I know this because I get a lot of my business from clients that either had a horrible experience with their developer, can’t get a hold of anyone, feel like they are paying way too much and can’t get changes or updates done correctly or in a timely manner.
Are these 5 things to know when hiring a developer all encompassing? Of course not. They just happen to be 5 very important traits that you should pay attention to when considering to hire a web developer or designer for your next website project. A website is a significant investment, especially if you have it done correctly. Like any financial investment, do your research! You can’t base your choice to use a web firm solely on price. Sometimes the best web development firm for you won’t be the cheapest, but that also doesn’t mean that the best will be the most expensive. Use this guide and SHOP SMART for your next website designer or developer.
Get a free consultation today, and start maximizing your websites potential!