How to Choose the Perfect Technology Partner to Build a Winning Online Platform

Marius Vetrici PhD
CEO wpriders
April 15, 2020

How to Choose the Perfect Technology Partner to Build a Winning Online Platform

A trip to the city of Rome

Remember the first trip you ever planned for yourself? 

I sure remember mine. Ever since I was a kid, I knew that one of the first things I was going to do once I started making my own money would be to visit Rome – a city that had been home to some of the most extraordinary figures that have ever lived.

My first job paid poorly, but after months of saving, I could finally afford the said trip. I decided I was going to be frugal: I would find a budget hostel, wake up at dawn, go sightseeing all day, and go to bed early. No partying, no local cuisine, nothing extra – I just wanted a place to rest. So I just went for the cheapest hostel I could find, and that was it.

But when I got there, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I found out this was a youth hostel, so everyone was up and partying all night. Also, it was overcrowded, the beds were small and uncomfortable, and I could barely get any rest. I hadn’t asked for much, yet here I was – tired and frustrated. 

Had I spent a few bucks more and known to ask the right questions, I would have been able to stay closer to the city center, in a quieter place, and sleep in a larger and more comfortable bed. But because I had no experience, I didn’t know what to look for, and my only selection criterion was the nightly rate, I ended up with a bad deal.

The same goes for choosing a technical partner: people often think of the price as the only selection criterion. They don’t know what else to watch out for, and they end up disappointed with the final product, just like I did.

But what else should you pay attention to?

If you’re anything like the majority of the non-technical entrepreneurs we’ve talked to, you probably feel that searching for a suitable technical partner is like searching for the needle in the haystack. 

There is a sea of developers and agencies out there, and determining who’s qualified and who isn’t, or who’s trustworthy and who isn’t can be a pain when you’re not sure where to look.

Where should you begin searching for someone qualified and trustworthy?

Most likely, the very first place you go to search for anything nowadays is Google. But every Google search returns millions of results. So, you quickly decide that this is not the most efficient way to go about it. 

Instead, you turn your attention to listing websites like Clutch or GoodFirms, ask around on social media groups, or reach out to your friends in real life to find out whether there’s anyone out there who knows someone who knows someone who can help you.

One of your acquaintances suggests trying to list your project on a freelancing platform. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea, so you give it a go, but you soon discover that there’s no one out there who can deliver your MVP for $300.

Finally, you find a freelancer willing to take on your project for $500, and you shake hands. But it doesn’t take longer than a few weeks for you to discover that no developer out there can deliver a project that’s worth about $5000 for only $500.

You know what they say, if it sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is. But the worst part is that even after waiting weeks upon weeks, your project is still incomplete, slow, unstable, and buggy. You have to face it: you won’t be able to launch your platform.

We know you are probably feeling confused and overwhelmed at the idea of finding a reliable technical partner. But don’t despair; there are a few simple steps that, once followed, will help you avoid getting into a bad partnership.

Here are a few considerations to make your search easier 👇

When we asked our non-technical friends to tell us what’s the most crucial aspect they would look at before hiring someone to work on their online projects, many of them said that qualifications trump everything else.

If you, too, agree with our friends, you’re not wrong, but you’re also only half right. You definitely want to hire someone qualified, but it’s equally as important to find someone trustworthy. You don’t want a partner who bails out on you mid-project.

To be absolutely sure that you’re making the right choice, forget the facts, and do a Tarot reading instead.

Now you are probably asking yourself: are you telling me to pull out the cards and start dealing, or reach out to a fortune-teller?

Of course, I’m joking. However, every joke has a tiny seed of truth in it. I don’t believe that the Tarot can actually reveal the future. But that being said, you need a way to bridge the gap between your reason and intuition, because here’s the deal – you can always find out if the people you’re hiring know what they’re doing or not. But reliability isn’t something that you can verify. You’re going to have to trust your intuition with this one.

One-man show versus teamwork

You’ve been saving the money to get this project going for ages, and, let’s be real, hiring an agency and having an entire team work on your project means spending a big chunk of that money in one go. 

Why would you go that way when, as we all know, freelancers work for far less?

And if you’re also looking to save time aside from money, it’s nice to know that a freelancer would actually be willing to pull in those extra hours for you.

Not to mention communication: let’s say you want to send a quick message. If you’re working with a freelancer, all you need to do is make one quick phone call and done! Message delivered. 

Now, with an agency, you’ll have to set up a meeting, to talk to your Project Manager, to ask them to reach out to the software engineer to see if they can move one of those buttons on the Homepage a bit to the left. 

Is it worth the trouble? Well, actually, sometimes it is.

Like with most things in life, you won’t find a perfect one-size-fits-all solution. Some projects would better lend themselves to working with a freelancer, while other projects would require the collaborative effort of several individuals, and are more suitable for an agency.

When you work with an agency, no matter what, there’s always someone else to take over in case the person responsible for your project can’t complete their tasks for whatever reason. The agency will reassign the job to somebody else without you having to intervene. Whereas with a freelancer, it will be your responsibility to:

✔retrieve the unfinished source code from your freelancer (if you can actually get a hold of him);

✔find another freelancer;

✔train them;

✔ensure they are following the original plan.

This is easier said than done. Therefore, when it comes to choosing between a freelancer and an agency, if you want to develop a complex project that implies building a platform from scratch, or implementing an extensive set of new features on an existing platform, then you definitely need to work with an agency.

Working with a freelancer can be great if all you need are a few simple tweaks and some light troubleshooting. Similarly, if you’re developing easy to medium websites, or if you want to modify an existing plugin, a freelancer is probably the best way to go.

Complex projects require the collaboration of several individuals, each with their own particular set of skills. Finding just one person who has all the necessary skills you need to develop a complicated platform is very hard. And hiring several people to work on the same project is not only expensive but also wildly inconvenient because you’ll have to manage them yourself.

Hiring an agency means hiring a team. The individuals who work on your project can easily communicate, collaborate, and bounce ideas off one another. Having a group of people coming from diverse technical backgrounds in the same room translates to having a better chance of finding original solutions to every problem that may occur.

Quantity over quality

How to Choose the Perfect Technology Partner to Build a Winning Online Platform

If you visit the site of the agency you’re considering and see a couple of excellent-looking projects, don’t be too impressed!

Anyone can get it right a few times. What you need to do is make sure that your potential new partner can deliver those outstanding results all the time. Consistency is key!

That’s why, before you examine their products in terms of quality, observe the quantity. 

An extensive collection of successful past projects shows that your potential partner has probably dealt with all sorts of situations and that they’re good at what they do. A long history of projects also indicates that they’re reliable (since many others before you have trusted them to work on their platforms).

Once you’ve established how much work they did in the past, it’s time to start paying more attention to quality.

Browse through their portfolio to find out whether they’ve completed any projects that look similar to yours.

When you do come across a project that resembles your own, contact the WordPress agency that created it, and ask them for more details regarding the development process.

To begin with, find out whether the agency created every part of the website from the beginning to the end, or whether they only handled a specific portion or a particular set of tasks.

For instance, some agencies only handle the coding part of a project while others only plan the website design. Even the agencies that can deliver every part of the product sometimes outsource some of their tasks. See if that’s the case with your possible future partner, and find out how their decision to outsource may affect the trajectory of your project as a whole.

If, however, the agency did handle every part of the project in-house, find out how many people worked on it, how long it took them to complete each part of the job, and what their overall strategy was.

Know that everybody lies

How to Choose the Perfect Technology Partner to Build a Winning Online Platform

Listen, I have a business, you have a business, we both know how this goes. We know our companies’ strengths and weaknesses. We know what we’re good at and what we still need to work on; there’s no such thing as being great at everything.

But we wouldn’t tell each other what we thought our real weaknesses were without trying to sugarcoat things to a certain extent. Everyone’s a bit guarded, and that’s normal. That’s why I’m going to tell you right now, if you want an unbiased opinion about my agency’s performance, don’t reach out to me first. Instead, find out what my other clients have to say!

Reputable agencies usually display client reviews in plain sight. But, even if they do, remember Dr. House’s wise words: “everybody lies.” So how can you tell whether the reviews you’re reading are real or not? There are a few tricks to keep in mind to make sure that the feedback you’re seeing is legit.

For instance, beware of generic names, poor grammar, or authors who use too many details just to set the scene. Instead, look for well-thought-out reviewers who offer arguments and present specific facts, not just generic yada yada.

If you want to go the extra mile, reach out to some of the companies that your potential technical partner named among former clients, and interview them. Find out what they liked and what they didn’t like about working with the WordPress agency you’re considering.

✔Was everything delivered on time? 

✔Did every part of the project come out as expected? 

✔How easily did the team respond and adjust when asked to change a feature or fix a bug?

Take it for a test drive

You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a spin, would you? Your money and your safety are at stake. 

Then, why would you sign a contract with a new WordPress agency without knowing whether they can take up the challenge or not, and risk losing both your money and your time?

Before you trust the agency you’ve set your mind on with your grand project, perhaps it’s best to assign them a smaller, less essential job, only to see how they approach it and how well the two of you work together. 

Tell your agency what you need for that initial project and ask for a quote. If all they come back with is the total amount, that’s not a good sign. Such an approach may indicate that your agency either didn’t really understand what you want or doesn’t exactly have a plan.

Ideally, before coming back to you with a quote, your agency should create a Scope of Work breaking down your project into smaller parts, each with its separate price.

When it’s all done, think about it: once they started working, did the agency make sure to keep you in the loop? Did you receive frequent updates? Were you invited to participate in regular meetings? Ideally, the answer to all these questions should be “yes.”

Additionally, evaluate your technical partner’s overall conduct. Was the project delivered on time? Did the agency exceed the budget you had agreed upon or was their initial estimation on point?

Most importantly, examine the product they delivered. Are all the buttons on the website functional and well-aligned? Are there any text spill-outs? Is there anything on there that looks sloppy? Does it look good on mobile devices?

Finally, to make sure that the agency followed best practices and that every part of your website is functional and stable, hire an independent third party to review the code.

Trust your gut

You’ll find plenty of agencies out there that look good on paper. But then you meet up with their guy, and something seems off. 

You can’t put your finger on it, but there’s a subtle something that you don’t like about them. It’s either that you have to explain everything twice, or it’s just that the person in front of you is straight up disagreeable. Should you stick around for the sake of their credentials? No, move on!

I’ve touched upon this previously. You could be looking at the most renowned WordPress agency, one that has had excellent results and world-famous clients, but if you can’t establish a good relationship with them for whatever reason, it’s all in vain. 

If you’re considering a particular agency, first, find out how well you can communicate and understand each other’s expectations. Schedule a short meeting with one of their representatives and evaluate the success of that meeting.

✔Did the representative arrive on time? 

✔Were they eager to know more about you? 

✔Did they come in with a set of pre-prepared questions? 

✔Did they practice active listening? 

✔Did they take notes during the meeting? 

✔Did they show interest in understanding your wants and needs? 

✔Did they make an effort to reflect back on your ideas? 

✔Lastly, did you “click”?

Evaluating your WordPress developer’s technical skills won’t be extremely difficult. The evidence will speak for itself. The types of projects they worked on before, the total number of clients they had in the past – these are verifiable facts.

However, figuring out how reliable your potential partner actually is won’t be as easy. When it comes to deciding whether your future WordPress developer is trustworthy or not, you’re going to have to rely on your instinct. 

If you’re looking to establish a solid partnership and build the platform you’ve envisioned, we’re here to help.

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