If you're finding it difficult to choose the best web development company for your next project, you’re not alone. In fact, 49% of IT sourcing managers struggle with the same thing! It’s not easy to sort through the over 46,000 companies offering web development services to find the one that will meet your project needs best.
But don’t worry. In this article, we'll walk you through 10 steps to help you find the best company for your project, including what questions to ask development companies and even how to save on costs along the way.
Let's get started!
- What is web development?
- Common web development services
- Why it is important to choose the best development company
- 10 Steps to Choose the Best Web Development Company
- 1. Define project objectives
- 2. Find web development companies
- 3. Check out their portfolio
- 4. Review customer feedback
- 5. Ask questions and assess communication
- 6. Ensure they specialize in what you need
- 7. Check their development methodology
- 8. Examine technical expertise
- 9. Compare development quo
- 10. Sign a contract
- Web development cost factors
- 4 strategies to cut costs
What is web development?
Web development is the process of creating, maintaining, and updating websites and web applications. It involves a range of activities including coding, designing, deploying, and managing websites and web applications.
Web developers utilize a variety of web technologies to create visually appealing and functional websites and web applications. They use tools, such as content management systems and web development frameworks, to create the most efficient and secure solutions.
You may have web developers or engineers within your company who can perform web development. Or, you may find that you need to work with a freelance web developer or full-service web development agency to perform professional web development services that you need.
Web apps vs websites
Web development is inclusive of both web application and website development. While web apps and websites share many similarities, such as both being accessed from and operating without the need to install additional software and both requiring keen attention to graphic design and UX, they are in fact different.
Web apps and websites have different uses, user needs, as well as different implementation strategies and technical requirements. Because of this, you’ll find that some web developers specialize in only web application development or only website design and development, rather than both. Before you can find the best web development team for your project, you need to know which category your project falls into.
Let’s take a look at the key differences:
|Allow users to perform actions
|Display or gather information
|Predefined user flows, guides user step-by step through distinct processes
|Open user flow
|Responsive site elements, performance across multiple devices, and a streamlined user journey
|Planning the structure and content to look clear and visually attractive
|Depends on the complexity of the functionality but typically higher than website development costs
|Depends on the UI design work needed but typically lower than web app development costs
Common web development services
Web development encompasses work related to both websites and web applications, from design and planning to full stack web development. Typical services you’ll find web development companies offer include:
- Web development planning: If you’re unsure exactly what you want to build or how you want to build it, a web app or website development agency can help by assessing your business needs, creating a scope of work, and developing a detailed requirements document. This will help set you up for a streamlined development process.
- UX/UI web design: Web design is critical for all web development projects. Without a well designed user interface and thoughtful user experience, your application or website will remain unused. You’ll find many web designers, UI/UX designers, as well as agencies who can develop cohesive design elements, create wireframes and user flows, and build a UX that aligns with your users’ needs and expectations.
- Custom web app development: This is the most obvious web development service. It includes coding the web application to meet the customer's business needs, testing and debugging, and deploying the app or website.
- Data architecture planning: This service involves designing the architecture of the data that will be used in the web app. This includes creating data models, databases, and designing the relationships between different data sources.
- Third-party integrations: This service involves integrating third-party services into the web application. This includes integrating APIs, payment gateways, and other services to ensure the app has all the necessary functionality.
Some companies may also offer other services such as web development and SEO optimization, full-service digital marketing strategy, or mobile app development. Be sure to check directly with each company you are interested in to see if they offer the services you need.
Why it is important to choose the best development company
Choosing the right development company is essential to the success of any project. Experienced and reliable web developers can provide the tools and expertise necessary to create a successful product.
On the other hand, the wrong team can leave you frustrated, over budget, missing deadlines, and with a poor quality end product. Taking the time to find the right web development team can help you:
- Stay on budget. The right team will help provide an accurate web development cost estimate from the start as well as help manage costs throughout the project.
- Meet deadlines. There’s nothing worse than a poorly managed project. A professional team will be experienced at sticking to a schedule, managing changes in project scope, and keeping you informed along the way.
- Reduce project stress. You don’t just need experienced web developers. You need a team that can provide project management that keeps you in the loop adequately, but also helps you stay removed from the project enough so that you can focus on other things.
- Deliver a quality product. Arguably the most critical. A well designed product that has been through code reviews and proper testing will be easy to maintain and not require expensive reworks down the line.
10 Steps to Choose the Best Web Development Company
Choosing the right web development company can be a daunting task. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start. This section will provide a step-by-step guide to help you make the best decision for your business.
We will outline 10 steps to make the process of choosing a web development company easier. From researching potential companies to understanding their services and pricing, you’ll be able to find the perfect fit for your project. Let's get started!
Define project objectives
Before you hit send on an email to a web development agency, define your project objectives and timeframe requirements. You need to have a clear idea of what you want to build. Without this, you risk a lot of wasted time on both sides.
Now, don’t think you need to have everything defined at this stage, but you should have a decent plan laid out before you get any further. We recommend you:
- Clearly understand the scope and goals of the project. Map out the details of the project in terms of timeline, budget, and resources needed to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page. Break it down by phases such as planning, web design, development, digital marketing, and more.
- Develop a comprehensive user experience plan that outlines the user journey and the tasks they will need to complete on the site or application. Ideally you have some basic mockups at this stage that you can share with web development agencies.
- Develop a detailed technical plan that outlines the technologies and frameworks that will be used to create the website or app, as well as the hosting and maintenance requirements. A basic block diagram of any integrations or other technical requirements can be helpful.
- Align on a budget and timeline. Make sure you are aligned with your internal stakeholders on any specific timeline and budget requirements. This will help you filter out some web development agencies early on.
Find web development companies
You have defined your project objectives, timeline and the skills required to complete your project. Now it’s time to build a list of potential web development companies.
We recommend you begin your search by:
- Using Google to search for the best development companies in a particular geographical area or that specialize in a particular technology. From individual company websites you can get information on their software development services, the skillsets of their web developers, industries they work with, their previous clients and their work processes.
- Browsing software development review and rankings websites. One of the most popular of them is Clutch. You can view the search results by location, minimum project size, average hourly rate, industry focus, and more.
- Asking for recommendations from friends and colleagues. Reach out to your contacts to see if anyone has any web development companies they would recommend. This can be a great jumping off point for finding potential options for your own project!
While surfing company websites, gather as much information as possible. Some things you’ll want to look for include:
- Company size and structure
- Company focus and strategy
- Experience with similar projects
- Average hourly rate + any overhead required
- Workflows and business practices
- Technology expertise
- Services available
Check out their portfolio
This is where you start the comparison of software development companies on your long-list by taking a look at the companies’ portfolios of past work. Oftentimes past work can be found directly on the company website, but if it isn’t, reach out at request past work samples. You should be looking for:
- The level of experience. Do they have just a couple projects to share or do they have dozens of projects that date back years?
- Experience working in your industry or building products for people within your user group.
- Projects that the company has completed that are similar to yours. The more similar, the better!
As you begin your comparison of different companies, we recommend that you build a comparison matrix to help you organize the information and communicate it to stakeholders. As you work through the next steps, you can add more detailed information to your comparison matrix.
Review customer feedback
When looking for the best web development companies, it’s important to review customer reviews and feedback. In fact, this is one of the most important steps in the list! Hearing from real past clients helps to build trust and reduce the risk of getting poor quality service. To begin this process you can:
- Read reviews and customer testimonials directly on the company’s website. Any legitimate development agency will have this kind of information available on their website.
- Look for reviews on third-party websites such as Clutch. This will give you a perspective directly from customers, rather than just from the development company itself.
- Reach out to past clients directly. Either request client contact information from the web development agency or find past clients yourself through sites like LinkedIn.
By doing your research and reading customer reviews and feedback, you can make an informed decision when looking for the top web development companies.
Ask questions and assess communication
Software development is a complex process. Communication challenges will make it difficult every step of the way, from defining requirements to working out stakeholder and user feedback.
Good communication skills are key to a good working relationship and a satisfactory end product. The best web development companies will prioritize strong communication and will go out of their way to ensure you are aligned, all questions are answered, and nothing is left ambiguous.
Be very aware of how the team communicates over email as well as during the first phone or video calls. Try asking detailed questions and assess the quality of the team’s responses. You can ask questions such as:
- Do you have experience working on similar projects?
- What web development process do you follow?
- Who handles project management during the project?
- What technologies do you use for web development?
- What web design services do you offer?
- How long do you expect my web app or website development project to take?
Sure, they may not be able to answer everything, but they should be doing their best to provide you thorough, thoughtful answers to any concerns or questions you have. This will likely give you a sense of if their communication style fits with your expectations.
Ensure they specialize in what you need
Oftentimes, a web development company will be comfortable using certain technologies and specialize in creating web solutions with them. Because of this, it’s important that you find a web development company who specializes in the technologies that your solution requires. To do this, we recommend you:
- Choose a web development company that keeps up with the latest technological advancements. New ideas and innovations are a must. The web development firm you select should have a strong desire to stay in front of any new updates and changes to their technology stack.
- Pay attention to their software developers’ expertise. As you ask technical questions, you’ll get a sense for their technical knowledge and competency.
- Find a company that specializes in what you need. This also means avoiding companies that have a multitude of specializations because no one is an expert on everything. If you need your solution built on Django, then review companies that focus on Django.
Check their development methodology
Does the company use Scrum or another Agile approach? Do they use a totally different development methodology? Having a well-documented and well-executed project development process in place will improve efficiency and help the team tackle challenges that pop up along the way.
A few things to look for in a development methodology include:
- Adaptive planning. This refers to the ability to adjust the project plan or timeline in response to changes in the scope of work or other external factors. Ask potential partners how they will handle changes to project scope or missed deadlines to get a sense for their adaptive planning skills.
- Frequent project updates. Did we mention how important communication is? Top web development companies will have a standard process for providing regular updates to the team and stakeholders about the progress of the project.
- Modern communication tools. Most likely you’ll be working with a company remotely, so make sure they use up-to-date communication technologies such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and collaboration tools to facilitate communication among the team and stakeholders.
Examine technical expertise
Having a partnership with a right web development company means there will be a transfer of sensitive information. You will need to know how the company handles this and what measures are in place to make sure your idea, product, solutions and confidential materials are not handled inappropriately.
You should also consider how to secure the solution being developed. Does the development team have appropriate security practices in place? What security level needs to be adopted? Not all development agencies will handle security concerns equally, so make sure you ask detailed questions.
Compare development quo
This is really where all of your work from the previous steps comes together! Make sure you’re considering all of the information you’ve gathered as you look at the numbers. You may be willing to pay more for better communication or for a company with glowing reviews.
What to look for when reviewing development quotes:
- Is the quote itemized, clearly outlining the cost of each element of the project?
- Does the quote include a timeline/estimated completion date?
- What is the company’s experience and portfolio?
- Does the company provide post-launch support and maintenance?
- Are the quoted fees fixed or subject to change?
Sign a contract
You’ve selected the web development company you want to work with and now it’s time to sign a contact, so you can get to work! When signing a software development contract with a web development agency, it's important to understand the terms of the contract and to make sure the contract is tailored to your needs. Here are three key things to make sure to do:
- Read the contract thoroughly. Make sure to read the entire contract and ask questions if there's anything you don't understand. Make sure all management levels and your procurement team also review the contract.
- Negotiate. Don't be afraid to negotiate the terms of the contract if you're not satisfied with the initial offer.
- Have an attorney review it. It's a good idea to have a lawyer review the contract before signing it to make sure all of your rights are protected. You also may be able to consult an in-house legal team instead.
By taking the time to make sure the contract is fair and meets your needs, you can ensure that you have a successful web development project. Now the exciting part comes - you get to kickoff your development project!
Web development cost factors
Finding web development vendors can be hard, but putting together an accurate web development costs estimate is arguably even more difficult. By taking into account all of the factors discussed here, you can ensure you have a well thought through web development cost estimate and can make an informed decision on which vendor to work with.
Research and planning
This is one of those cost categories that can sneak up on teams during the web application development process. Regardless of the complexity of your web app, you will need to do some level of research to help you define exactly what it is you want to build and how you want to build it.
While every web development project will require some level of research and planning, the scope of work can vary significantly. The more in-depth and comprehensive the research and planning phase is, the more expensive it will be.
Tips to get an accurate cost estimate:
Technology choices can certainly affect your web development cost. When considering various technologies, web app developers must take into account the long-term costs associated with maintaining the technology, as well as the cost of training staff to use the technology.
Choosing an open-source technology can be an effective way to reduce upfront costs, but the cost of maintenance must be taken into consideration as well. Similarly, choosing an off-the-shelf technology can reduce development time, but the license costs should be taken into account.
Technology costs are affected by:
- Technology stack. The selection of a tech stack is an important factor in the cost of a development project, as the technologies chosen should be able to satisfy the requirements of the web app and provide the most cost-effective, long-term solution.
- Deployment requirements. The deployment requirements also play an important role in the cost of web development, as hosting costs can vary greatly depending on the infrastructure, bandwidth, and other requirements.
- Level of customization of 3rd party tools. Customizing existing tools can be expensive, as the web developers will need to invest time and energy into making the tools fit the specific needs of the project.
- Scope of automated test coverage. Automated testing can be expensive to develop, but the cost of developing automated tests is often much lower than the cost of debugging and fixing bugs in a system.
Ultimately, technology choices should be made based on the long-term costs associated with the web app project, as well as the specific needs of the project. Top web development companies will be able to assist you in making the most appropriate technology choices.
Complexity of the project
It may seem obvious, but the cost of web development is closely related to the project’s complexity. Complex web apps and websites require more time and resources to develop, as they involve more intricate coding, more complicated testing, more robust security, and more complex user interface design. This can result in a significantly longer development cycle and higher costs.
Complexity is affected by:
- Number of screens. The more screens a web app or website has, the more time is needed to design and develop the layout of each page, as well as the functionality of each page.
- Complexity of screens. Web apps that require screens with large data tables will have increased UI design costs.
- Functional requirements. Web developers rely on these specifications to detail how a system or product should work, and what functions the system should be able to perform. The more requirements, the more complex the end product will be.
- Non-functional requirements. In addition to functional requirements, specifications for things such as regulatory compliance, security, reliability, and performance can also affect the costs of web development services.
UI/UX requirements can have a significant impact on the web development cost. The amount of work and resources that go into web design - both the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) - can be significant. You should ensure you are properly scoping these web design costs out if you want to have an accurate web development cost estimate.
UI/UX costs are affected by:
- User research. An essential step to understanding the target users and their needs, user research can provide the web development team insights into user behavior, preferences, and requirements.
- User personas, journey maps, and user stories. Tools like these can help teams get a deeper understanding of their users’ needs, experiences, and how they will interact with the app.
- Wireframes. Building wireframes can be costly, depending on the complexity of the product, who you hire to build them, and the tools that are used to build them.
- Clickable prototypes. Creating a clickable prototype is often necessary in order to check for usability and user experience issues. Prototypes can be expensive to create, as they require specialized software and expertise.
Consider who will be supporting the development of your web application. Will you be working with an in-house team, freelance developers you hire and manage, or perhaps a full-service web development team hired through an outsourcing company? The hiring model you choose will affect the web application cost.
Hiring model options:
- In-house software developers. Web applications developed by in-house teams will require a larger initial investment in the form of salaries and benefits for developers and your project manager, as well as other overhead costs such as office space and equipment. However, the advantage is that the developers are directly managed and monitored by you, ensuring that the project is completed to your specific standards. Additionally, the web application developers can be easily integrated into the existing organizational structure and culture.
- Freelance software developers. Hiring freelancers has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it offers growing companies a cost-effective, flexible option for web application development. You won’t have to worry about salaries and benefits or other overhead. However, it can be difficult to predict the quality of work you will receive, and you will be responsible for project management.
- Outsourcing development company. Especially for large-scale or complex projects, working with a full-service development company is a good option, as it allows you to tap into a larger pool of developers, which can often result in cost savings. Additionally, web development companies can bring experience in the specific technologies and platforms used in the project, which can result in greater efficiency and a higher quality web app.
If you’re outsourcing your development project, you should consider the location of the web development firm or freelancers you hire. The location of your developers can dramatically impact the rates you pay.
Vendor location options:
Asia/India: Hiring from Asia or India tends to be the cheapest option for finding web development agencies. However, you may find the cultural differences, time zones, and development quality may not meet your needs.
Eastern Europe: Eastern Europe has become a popular region for web development services due to its relatively low labor costs and access to a large pool of highly-skilled frontend and backend developers. Countries such as Poland, Ukraine, and Romania are becoming increasingly popular for technology companies looking to reduce their software development cost.
Western Europe: Generally, Western Europe is more expensive than Eastern Europe due to higher labor costs. However, countries such as the UK, Germany, and France have access to a large pool of highly-skilled developers, which may be the right option for some.
US: The United States is one of the most expensive places in the world for web development due to high labor costs. However, the US has access to a wide range of development tools and a large pool of highly-skilled web developers.
Support and maintenance
Support and maintenance can significantly impact the cost of web development. Without proper monitoring, on-call support, and technical improvements, web apps can quickly become outdated and expensive to maintain. When comparing quotes from vendors, don’t forget to consider costs that may be necessary post-launch, including:
Support and maintenance costs are affected by:
- Performance monitoring. Web apps should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are running as expected. This could include things like checking system logs, tracking application usage, and identifying potential areas of improvement.
- On-call support. Since web apps are ever-evolving, issues may arise as time passes post-launch. Having a team of technicians ready to respond to customer inquiries and provide technical assistance can help reduce the amount of time required to resolve issues.
- Technical improvements. As your business grows and new technologies become available, you’ll find you want to enhance your web app. Technical improvements could also be required for things like bug fixes, security patches, or feature upgrades.
4 strategies to cut costs
There’s no doubt about it: web development can be expensive. If you’re leading your own development project, you should be looking for ways to reduce costs and improve your bottom line.
By reducing your web development costs, you can free up resources to invest in digital marketing or future feature enhancements to benefit your users. This can help to increase your profits long-term. After 15 years in the industry, we’ve seen these 4 methods help companies of all sizes reduce their web development costs, all while not sacrificing quality:
- Start with an MVP: Starting with a minimum viable product allows you to focus on the core features of your product and help you save money on the web development cost. By focusing on the essential features, you can avoid spending money on unnecessary development costs while still having a useful product.
- Lock the UI before development: Locking the UI before development helps ensure that all stakeholders are in agreement on the design and functionality of the website before any code is written. This reduces the amount of back-and-forth revisions and eliminates the need for costly changes down the line. It’s always cheaper and faster to make changes during the design stage!
- Outsource to Eastern Europe: Outsourcing to Eastern Europe is an affordable way to hire web developers who are highly skilled and experienced, while still keeping costs low. It also allows you to access a larger talent pool and access to resources that would usually be too expensive to hire locally.
- Limit change requests: Limiting change requests from stakeholders throughout development can help save money by reducing the amount of time and resources needed to accommodate them. It also helps focus development efforts on the original goal, ensuring that the web app is completed on time and within budget.
Selecting the best development company for your project can be a daunting task. With so many companies to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. By following our 10 steps, you can find the perfect fit for your project.
Start by defining your project objectives, researching potential companies, and asking questions. Then, review customer feedback, ensure they specialize in what you need, and assess their development methodology. Examine their technical expertise, compare development quotes, and sign a contract before finally kicking off the project. With these tips, you’ll be able to find the best company for your project. Good luck!