Why would you decide on website development outsourcing? It may be that you’re running out of time and need a hand completing a major project. It may be that your technological skills are next to nothing and you simply have to relegate a task to someone else.
Or perhaps you’ve learnt that outsourcing web development project to another company may save you money.
Whatever the reason, there are 5 major steps to follow while outsourcing website development, not only when looking for the contractor and negotiating the deal, but also throughout the project completion:
Define your needs
Before looking for a partner to outsource web development services, you have to figure out your needs.
What is the purpose of the website? Is it information-oriented, playing the role of an online business card, perhaps displaying the portfolio of your own business? Or maybe it is task-oriented, collecting some sort of data from your visitors or engaging them with its interactive features?
A modern website is the perfect marriage of information architecture and interaction design, displaying all the text and graphic elements in an intuitive and easy-to-follow way.
Ready-made websites, just like pret-a-porter clothes available in chain shops, rarely fit anyone. The more sophisticated and well-thought the design of a website, the more time- and cost-consuming is its conception. So be wise and cut your coat according to your cloth – first focus on the bare essentials you absolutely know you can and have to afford.
Deciding on the objectives of the website is also crucial for figuring out the technologies required for your project.
You aren’t expected to pinpoint the exact languages or frameworks to be used for development – after all, that’s why you’re outsourcing website development to someone else.
However, bear in mind that, for instance, a website collecting data from its users will require the work of both a backend and a frontend developer. And why would you need that kind of information?
By setting the objectives, that is, what the website has to accomplish, you make it easier for yourself to sieve through the potential outsourcing partners. Learn how to write a project brief and collect meaningful proposals from software vendors.
Pick the right partner
Once you’ve decided on your needs, you have to find yourself a suitable partner. Based on the size of your project, will a sole freelancer do the job, or should you work with a whole team?
You may be tempted to hand the task to a freelancer – it may seem like a less expensive option. Bear in mind, though, that a freelancer is a one-man band. When juggling the roles of a full-stack developer, project manager and a salesperson, it’s easy to lose the sense of time, become disorganised or give obscure explanations.
Sooner or later, multitasking starts taking its toll – and, as a client, you don’t want for your project to suffer because of that.
Of course, it may be argued that, being unable to properly assess the scope of a given project, you could potentially overestimate the amount of work needed to complete it. This, in turn, could potentially mean that you’d pay a bunch of people for a one man’s job.
However, you can expect any professional company to delegate the task to the right number of employees. This takes the problem of estimating the workload off your shoulders.
Whether you settle for a freelancer or a team, the key is to never compromise on quality. Evaluate your potential partners on the basis of their references and previous work.
There are at least 5 key issues to touch upon when assessing your future outsourcee:
- How do you like their website – does it speak to you in terms of visual design, technological proficiency, and creative solutions?
- Do you appreciate their earlier products? Do you feel these products fulfill their potential?
- Have they done a similar project before? Or would yours be their “experiment”?
- Look them up on social media: do they have a Facebook fanpage, a Twitter profile, a GitHub account? What kind of content do they post? Do they share their expertise on a company blog?
- Can you find any reviews of their work outside their website? Do you know any of their reviewees and can ask them about their impressions?
Researching to answer all these questions may take some time, but it will save you effort (and money) in the long run.
Finally, in the case of outsourcing to a company from another country, the crucial issues one must face are the time and cultural differences. What are the working hours of your chosen partner? Do they more or less overlap with yours?
Although it may seem not that important when you’re “leaving” the job to a third party, being in a completely different time zone has a huge impact on communication. This may lead to a situation in which you have to get up in the middle of the night to contact your partner.
If you’re not willing to make that kind of sacrifice, you have to focus on the companies from your neighbouring countries only.
Similarly, you want to take into account any cultural differences, be it in terms of work customs and etiquette or ideology and hierarchy.
Set your expectations for the “obvious” issues…
Settled for a particular company? Now comes the time for negotations. Before signing off the deal, you and your partner should discuss the “obvious” points: who, for whom, when, how much and for how much.
Who will be working on your project?
If you choose a freelancer, there will be just one person responsible for not only hard-skill tasks but also graphic design, project management, and so on.
If you choose a company, there will likely be more people involved, and you will be informed who’s working on your project.
2. Target audience
For whom is the project done?
A website with games for children will embrace different aesthetics than an online pharmeceutical shop or a translator’s portfolio. The target viewers of each of these subconsciously expect them to follow specific user experience patterns.
Giving the website a personalised feel but also making it comply with user expectations is crucial for the project’s success.
3. Timeline and deadline
When will (parts of) the project be delivered?
For a project of a considerable size, you’d want to establish a more exact timeline rather than just the final deadline; this will give you some time to put the functionalities to more of a layman’s test, just to name one of the reasons.
How much work will precisely be done by the outsourcee?
By now, you should have already decided on the functionalities and elements of user experience to be delivered by your partner. However, as some projects are not completely over after their launch, you have to decide when your partnership comes to an end. Is it a “hit’n’run” project that counts as finished once all the elements have been implemented, or will your outsourcer take care of maintenance tasks in the future as well?
Even with a content management system installed to easily add new material, you may need to implement new functions every now and then. Redesigning the whole website from a scratch just to add new content may not be the best option, so consider integrating the maintenance services as part of the whole project.
For how much will the outsourcee work?
Now comes the time to set on a specific sum. Taking into account all your expectations, the outsourcee should be able to give you a ballpark figure for this kind of a project, outlining the costs for each step. Bear in mind, however, that the total cost may change if you keep on fiddling with the functionalities.
…and the less “obvious” ones
At this stage, you could leave the project to the outsourcee and assume that your crystal-clear instructions will lead to a happy ending. However, I strongly recommend not following this path.
For your project’s safety, I encourage you to be specific about your contact and feedback expectations:
- What will be your primary channel of communication?
- How often will you hold meet-up calls or receive update emails?
- What is your requested follow-up time, that is, how fast should both sides respond to any questions that may arise?
Deciding on such issues early will streamline the workflow.
Likewise, for a good outsourcing partner it is obvious that they should at least introduce you to the tools they use for their work, especially when it comes to project management:
- What is their preferred system for assigning and tracking tickets (specific tasks to be accomplished in the course of the project)?
- Do you have a detailed insight into their work process, or do you have to reach out to the project manager every time?
Watch out for red flags
Even with all the extensive research and a detailed cooperation agreement, there are still certain risks involved into working with a third-party team. That’s why you should never hesitate to step in and take action if your spot any of the following:
1. Lack of response or follow-up
There is a reason for setting a timely follow-up (namely, saving your nerves) and not sticking to that period not only counts as a breach of agreement, but also shows poor customer service. Any external factors that may influence the follow-up time should be accounted for, preferably before it happens.
2. Lack of professionalism
This covers not only the shortcomings in expertise (these should have been eliminated by that point) but also any problems with soft skills, motivation, and attitude. Is the oursourcee eager to work on the project? Do they display enthusiasm and show initiative by introducing their own suggestions and hints that would improve the project? Are they patient when discussing the project’s course? A professional outsourcing company will show they’re motivated to fulfill their tasks and the workers will not lose their temper in front of the client.
3. Lack of understanding
If you’ve discussed the project thoroughly, then the precise direction of work should be clear. Of course, it is entirely possible that you may want to introduce some changes while the project is at work, and it’s best to suggest these as early as possible. The outsourcee has to take them into account and adjust the course accordingly, getting back to you on the way and discussing the visual and technological validity of your concepts. With open communication, there is no place for any recurring misunderstandings – if your partner repeatedly misses your ideas, then they may not be the best choice.
Steps to outsourcing your project safely
While at first outsourcing may seem to be a complicated or even perilous task, it can be made easier if you approach it with caution and reason.
- Know what you need before choosing the outsourcee to sieve through the offers and find the one that fits you best.
- Do your research thoroughly and verify the portfolio. Base your decision on the already delivered projects, not the promises the outsourcee makes.
- Decide on both key and minor issues when discussing the deal. Remember that a good outsourcee will have questions: don’t settle for someone who’s only vigorously nodding.
- Don’t be afraid to step in and express doubt if your not satisfied with their performance, not only in terms of code or design, but also communication and transparency.
- All the way throughout the process remember that both you and your partner should be focused on the common goal: delivering the best project possible.
Whatever’s the reason for outsourcing, following these steps is a surefire way to help you succeed.