How do you know which Web developer to hire when there are so many options? Do you need a marketing consultant or graphic artist who knows how to program HTML or a programmer who can do some graphic art? The first step in selecting a vendor to develop your Web site is to decide what skill sets you need your vendor to have. Three factors shape this decision: 1) the skills of the employees at your company, 2) the skills of the vendors and consultants you already use, and 3) the design and functionality requirements of your new Web site.

Here are the fundamental areas of expertise that companies typically require for developing an effective Web site. First, evaluate what skill sets are available to you within your company. Then, you can establish clear vendor selection criteria based on the supplemental skills you need.

Strategic Marketing
A strong marketing strategy should guide all other aspects of your Web development process. It does not matter how lovely the graphic design is or how many clever features the site has if it does not clearly communicate your company’s fundamental brand messages and the benefits you offer customers. For maximum effectiveness and the highest return on your Web development investment, your Web marketing program should integrate with and support your overall marketing effort.

Graphic Design
The look and feel of your Web site is important. Ideally, it should not only be professional and attractive, but also blend with your offline collateral and other corporate materials. High quality graphic design is one of the best marketing investments small and mid-size companies can make. Quality design enhances a company’s credibility and the perceived quality of its products and services.

Web Design and User Interface Planning
Great graphic design is useless if the graphics are not well-adapted to the technical requirements of the Internet and the information on the site is poorly organized. It is important to plan how visitors will experience your site. Good Web design ensures that your pages load quickly and correctly across different types of Internet connection and browser combinations. Effective user interface planning ensures that visitors find the information they need quickly and easily.

Programming
Developers’ programming skills vary widely. Some firms offer only basic HTML and CGI scripting services. Others can provide custom application development, e-commerce implementation, and complex database programming. More is not always better where programming is concerned. Developers at both ends of the programming skills spectrum can create effective Web sites. It is the complexity of the features your site requires that will determine what level of programming expertise you require.

Copy Writing
You will need content for every page on your site — someone will have to write it! You can write it yourself. You can adapt offline marketing materials for some of the copy you will need. You can hire a writer to create all the copy you need from scratch.

Customer Service
You should feel comfortable with your Web vendors. It is entirely reasonable for you to expect them to explain the major aspects of your project in terms you can understand. Make sure you understand what is to be done and why each part of the project is important. There is a lot of competition in the market. If your vendor won’t deliver excellent service, there are plenty of others who will.