Let’s be honest: you’re here because something’s not working.
Perhaps you’ve tried staffing in-house developers, only to find yourself in one of two scenarios:
- You have too much work for them to handle (risking burnout for them and missed deadlines for you)
- You don’t have enough work to keep them busy (meaning they don’t come close to covering what it costs you to pay their salary)
Or maybe you’ve tried outsourcing offshore. But there was a language barrier, or a time zone issue. Or perhaps the results just weren’t up to snuff.
So now you’re looking for something new: a web development partner you can trust. But how do you find a partner you can rely on, and more importantly, how do you set them (and by extension, you and your clients) up for success?
We’ve been partnering with design agencies for years and we’ve built hundreds of highly-designed, complicated websites. We know where the potential pitfalls lie because we’ve encountered all of them before.
Through our experience working as web development partners for dozens of design agencies, we’ve developed some tried and true methods for delivering sites on time, on budget, and exactly as designed and scoped. (If you just want to schedule a call to chat with me about partnering together and get right to it, click here.)
Below, we’ve laid out the recipe for our secret sauce. If you want to know how to get the most out of your web development partnership and ensure you have a healthy, collaborative relationship, read on my friend.
1. Get them involved from day one
It’s easy for scope or timeline to go off the rails early if you make the mistake of not treating your development partner as part of your core team.
Don’t wait until you have every page and component fully designed to start talking. Instead, get on the phone with your development partner immediately after meeting with the client for the first time. This way, the scoping process can be collaborative and the developers can ideate with you.
Now, you’re able to come to the client with an initial ballpark scope that you know is feasible to build.
2. Ask them for design feedback
As you move through the formal scoping process and work on getting your client a final fixed bid, make sure your development partner has eyes on the designs every step of the way.
This approach has multiple benefits:
- It keeps the developers in the loop and prevents any unwelcome surprises for them when they start building. This can also help you avoid showing the client a design that’s not easily achievable.
- It allows the developers to suggest alternative approaches that can help simplify the design. And they can also pitch ideas for interesting interactions and animations.
Any development partner worth their salt — and mutually interested in your success and your client’s happiness — will be very invested in this process and ask lots of questions. If your partner doesn’t seem interested and engaged while reviewing designs, now is the time to walk away! Give us a call instead.
3. Walk through functional requirements with them
Similar to the design review phase, it’s crucial to review any and all functional requirements with your development partner. This is especially important for projects with a lot of interactive functionality like web applications, e-commerce sites, etc.
Ideally, you’ll outline all of these requirements in a document that can serve as the single source of truth for all parties: you, your client, and the development partner.
Unclear about what is and isn’t a functional requirement? Think about anything the website needs to do for the user. Below are some examples:
- The system must send a confirmation email every time a customer places an order.
- Users must be able to subscribe to a newsletter by providing their email addresses.
- The system must ingest an external API and store data to display on the website.
- Users must be able to use an interactive calculator to generate a ballpark cost estimate for a product.
There’s no worse feeling than getting to the home stretch of a project only to realize a key requirement has been overlooked and will impact cost or timeline, so make sure to be extra thorough in defining all of these from the beginning.
4. Share design references for interactions and animation with them
This tip really builds on both #3 and #4. Really, it all boils down to this: the more your development partner knows about what you and the client want the site to look and feel like, the better.
To help the developers understand your design intentions, you can provide real-world examples for them to use as inspiration. Do you like how a certain product carousel transitions, or how a contact form confirmation message reveals itself? Send those links to your development partner!
5. Be clear about the allowed rounds of revision
Many well-scoped and on-timeline projects can hit a snag at the very end due to a picky and indecisive client. We’ve all been there, right?
It’s crucial that you scope and specifically define the number of revisions you’ll allow to the final product before going live. Think about the kind of client you’re working with (e.g., hands-off, laissez-faire, or micro-managers), and set your allowed revisions based on that.
Then, clearly communicate that information to your development partner so they know what to expect at the tail end of the development process.
6. Be honest about budget and timeline
If you (or, more likely, your client) have a budget or timeline in mind, tell your development partner upfront. This way, they can make an informed decision about whether or not to take the project on. Scope and timeline can always be modified to a degree, but if your client needs a $30,000 website built for $3,000, it’s reasonable to let your development partner know and allow them to pass on the project graciously.
7. Clarify their access to the client
Will your development partner have direct communication with the client? Or, have you chosen to white labeling the arrangement?
Ideally, you should be open and straightforward about this relationship with your client. They rely on you because they trust your experience and expertise. If you intend to allow developers access to your client, they should trust that you picked the right development team for the job.
However, if you intend to white label or take the web development credit for yourself, ensure the developer team knows this early on so they don’t accidentally ruffle any feathers by misrepresenting themselves.
8. Ask for project access to their project management software
Clear, contextual, real-time communication with the client is key throughout the course of the development process.
So, it can be invaluable to have access to your development partner’s project management tool of choice — whether it’s Trello, Jira, Basecamp, Asana, Monday, or some other app.
This allows for a constant flow of information among all parties and prevents any surprises from popping up at the last minute.
9. Use Slack Connect for team communication
In addition to having visibility into task management, you can further enhance communication by using Slack Connect — or a similar tool — to create a bridge between you and your development partner. By ensuring you have a quick, simple, and convenient means of talking to each other, questions and concerns can be addressed faster.
10. Schedule weekly check-ins
Your development partner should have an internal project manager tasked with overseeing or monitoring project progress and completion.
With an internal project manager, you’ll have someone who can address questions or issues that may arise, as well as provide details about the project’s progress.
We love having weekly check-in meetings throughout the course of the development process to keep all parties on the same page. It also provides a scheduled time and place to talk about tough-to-solve issues, scope creep, content needs, etc.
If your development partner doesn’t have a project manager, it may be a sign that they’re not the right fit for you. Give us a shout if you want to chat.
11. Use a sprint-based or agile approach and QA as you go
By sprint planning using an agile development approach, a potentially massive development scope can be broken up into manageable chunks of work.
This also allows you (and the client, if desired) to do QA as you go and get bugs addressed by developers right away.
This approach is more efficient and won’t require you to wait until the developers finish the project, and it also prevents bugs from spreading system-wide through a project.
12. Protect them from scope creep
The purpose of scoping is to set the parameters of the project and define precisely what needs to be built. With proper scoping, you, the client, and your development partner know exactly what benchmarks to look out for to know that the project is complete.
It’s your job as the facilitating agency to shield your development partner from scope creep. If extra work needs to be done to get the project across the finish line, it needs to be clearly communicated to the client that it will cost more (and potentially take longer). Asking your development partner to work beyond the scope without compensating them for doing so is a quick and easy way to ruin a good relationship.
13. Sit it on the training
Any good, professional development partner will agree to provide a training session for you and/or your client.
It’s immensely helpful for you to be present during that training. It allows you to be an advocate for your client and gives you the opportunity to ask questions and assess just how user-friendly the CMS is.
14. Host a post-mortem
After finishing and delivering the project, schedule a meeting with your development partner to discuss what went well and what didn’t.
By conducting an honest assessment of the project work and outcome, and providing feedback about the quality of your collaboration, you’ll know whether you have a chance at continuing what could be a fruitful partnership.
Well, that’s it! That’s our secret sauce for getting the most out of your web development partnership.
If you’re in the market for a web development partner that can help you meet your goals and deliver more websites for your clients, please get in touch!