Web developers can’t be one trick ponies that “only” toss together a WordPress page and leave their clients in a lurch when it comes to search engine optimization, social media integration or logo designs. As a “web developer“, these professionals must encompass a variety of skills and tools not just to stay competitive, but also to offer holistic services to their clients.
Many people in need of a website don’t know all the intricacies or why LSEO is important—it’s the job of a good web developer to educate, inform and offer one stop shopping.
If that sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is. It’s impossible for even the techiest of geeks to have solid skills in every realm of web development from graphic design to coding. That’s why many web developers end up starting their own businesses or working in tandem with skilled, complementary professionals—it’s the only way to offer genuine “full service” to clients.
Here are a few of the skills web developers should know (or at least offer as an outsourced possibility by working with fellow techies):
1. Search engine optimization (SEO) and local SEO
There’s a reason there are so many SEO firms and agencies: It’s a very complex and constantly evolving field. It can also easily be a full-time job to consistently boost search engine rankings for a website. A web developer that creates a website without SEO integration is basically signing up for double work or ensuring their client will need to hire an SEO guru to “fix” a shaky foundation.
2. Social media integration
A website is part of a total “web presence” and needs to complement social media campaigns. This includes having appropriate buttons for sharing on certain landing pages, guiding clients towards the best social media platforms for them (not necessarily the most popular) and if hired on retainer, perhaps taking over part of the social media management, too.
Communication skills are crucial in any service industry, including web development. While tech geeks aren’t always known for their social skills, being able to stay professional on the phone, email, live chat, etc. (especially when clients might be frustrated) is critical. Without basic (and preferably advanced) communication skills, clients won’t be happy and business will suffer.
4. Graphic design
You can get a degree in graphic design, so of course this isn’t something every web developer can be highly skilled at. However, a good web developer should at least be able to put together a lovely montage of images using stock photography or whip up a simple logo in a pinch. Most clients who have a serious business will outsource their most important graphic design needs, but a savvy developer can hone these skills to scoop up a little extra revenue.
5. Web content writing
You’ve been hired to create a website, and then your client starts asking about homepage content, “About Us” sections and basic writing for the “Contact” page. Writing flawlessly is challenging enough, and web content writing is a very special niche. Chances are, you’re not a fantastic web developer and web content writer (and if you are, you’re an incredible rarity). However, a developer should have strong enough writing chops for basic content—at least until the client secures a professional writer.
6. A knack for mobile readiness and responsive design
Who cares if the website is gorgeous if it only displays quickly and perfectly on a few browsers and gadgets? It’s now a mobile ready world, and you need to respect that shift. Knowing how to implement responsive design and mobile readiness, as well as test for it, is critical for any web developer worth their salt.
Pay per click and other forms of advertising can fall within the realm of web development—at the very least, your web developer should know the basics like the best placement and formatting for advertising. While there are programs such as Googles that let you automatically incorporate PPC, banner ads and the like into your website, it’s impossible to automize optimization. Choose a web developer who has a foundation in marketing and advertising.
8. Logo creation
While this might technically fall into the realm of graphic design, it’s a niche type of graphic design that’s incredibly convenient for clients. Your logo is part of your branding and ideally it’s classic and will last you a lifetime. Having a web developer who can create logos and complementary, mini logos to pepper throughout your website will save you time, hassle and money to outsource this single task. If a web developer has graphic design chops, make sure that includes logo creation.
9. Web hosting mediation
In most cases, your web developer won’t double as a web host but they should at least have recommendations for the best web hosts and options for you. Chances are you’re going to go with a shared server managed by a reputable company, but how can you get the least amount of shared customers and the best service? Instead of having to research this yourself, your web developer should serve as a fountain of information to save you time.
10. Gallery creation
Whether you’re a retailer, artist or restaurant, having a gallery on your website is a great way to give consumers a sneak peek at what to expect. It’s nearly a requirement for some industries, such as a hair salon, and a functional, attractive, fast loading gallery can make the difference between a new customer making an appointment or not. Creating galleries that work with responsive design isn’t easy, and continuously testing them is incredibly time consuming. Rely on a web developer who specializes in this type of formatting.
11. Meta tags with SEO elements
This falls under SEO in general, but unfortunately meta tagging often gets pushed to the back burner with overarching SEO campaigns. Meta tags, those snippets of information that pops up in search engine results, are a great opportunity for SEO and to reel in customers who have just landed on search results. It’s the underdog of SEO and regularly overlooked but a web developer who’s detail oriented takes are of it and explains the function of meta tags to the client.
12. Blog management
You can’t expect a web developer to also double as a blogger (although if they do, that can be a great boon for you). However, you should expect them to be able to set up and manage a blog for you so that all you have to do is enter information into a field. They should be able to make this easy, intuitive, and maybe even possible for you to manage basic functions. Blogs are an integral part of many marketing campaigns, and if a web developer can’t hook you up then that’s a huge red flag.
13. Product description creation
This will likely be an additional task on top of general web development, but what happens when a retailer has scores, hundreds or even thousands of products that need descriptions? It’s often best to hire a professional writer, but if the information is very straightforward and fill in the blank, a good web developer will be able to offer this service, too. However, just be prepared: You might be paying a premium for a service that, albeit tedious, isn’t very challenging.
14. WordPress manager
Yes, WordPress is supposed to be the platform that allows just about anyone to create a website, and it it—but it can have a steep learning curve. If you’d rather have someone else set up the basic skeleton and then walk you through how to update it, that’s exactly what a skilled web developer can do. All you should be required to do is give them ideas of your style, the information you want, and let them roll with it. A great web developer is a great listening and can intuit your preferences.
15. Online payment manager
If you accept payments online, it’s crucial that you make it as easy as possible for consumers to give you money. This means offering every possible means from all type of credit cards to PayPal, electronic check/debit or even a cashier’s check. A web developer worth his salt can create an easy form that’s secure, fast and easy for your customers. Otherwise, payment requirements that are too complex can drive customers away before they hit “send”.
16. Live chat host
Just like accepting money, it should also be incredibly easy for your customers to reach you. This often means offering live chat, video chat or other digitally-focused forms of communication on top of phone and email. If this is the case, you need to have a web developer in your corner who can set up this kind of arrangement without it being obnoxious. It’s all about balance, and your customers deserve serious service.
17. A clean back end
What your customers don’t see when they visit your website is just as important as what they do see. This means no invisible text that’s really SEO black hat tricks, quality and authority links, and clean coding that won’t leave a mess for future web developers to clean up. How can you know that your back end is clean and in control? Talk to your web developer about it and let them walk you through how they organize things behind the scenes.
18. The ability to test, test, test
Getting a gorgeous website up and running is one thing, but what about maintenance? A great web developer will offer ongoing maintenance and support that includes constant testing for analytics, SEO, responsive design, mobile readiness, link quality and a myriad of other things. Without regular testing, what’s a killer website one month can be a dud the next. It’s impossible for the average website owner to keep up with QA, which is why a professional needs to be on top of things.
19. Creating easy to read analytics reports
There are numerous options for running analytics—many of them free—and you need to stay on top of your numbers for your website, social media and any other type of online presence. While many of these reports are designed to be easy to create and read, if you’d rather your web developer take care of it then that should be an option. You should be able to tell them the type of formatting you want, the numbers you want, and they should let you know of any disparities they notice. Whether you want reports weekly or monthly (or every third day if that’s how you roll), a solid web developer should meet your desires.
20. Image/video curation
Sometimes you need something more than graphic design—you want an actual photograph or video that already exists, but is available for you to use. Maybe you have a budget for these types of curations or maybe you need stock or other free products. Either way, a web developer needs to be an impressive image and video curator who already has connections and networks so they’re not starting from scratch. Some clients might need scores or even hundreds of images curated and a web developer needs to be up for the task.
This means literal networking with others in the industry, not setting up IT networks. A web developer is in the thick of the fastest growing industry and can’t be a Lone Wolf. You can’t expect your web developer to be an expert at everything you need, but you should expect them to be able to refer you to a trusted colleague when you have a special request. You’re not just paying for a web developer’s services, but also her connections, and she should be happy to share. A true professional knows that success comes from mutual benefits.
22. Listening skills
Genuine, active listening is a rarity, but your web developer should at least be on the right track. This means truly digesting what the client is saying and not just getting ready for their turn to speak. You’ll be able to tell right away whether your web developer is a listener or not, and if they’re more interested in hearing themselves speak then think twice before hiring them. If a web developer isn’t listening to you before you hire them, what makes you think they’ll listen to you when a problem strikes?
23. Empathy and compassion
These are both innate traits as well as learned skills—and you need them in a web developer. This professional should be able to put themselves in your shoes, which means that they’ll always have your best interests at heart. When they treat your website like they would their own, you know they’re going to do the best they can to make it successful. It’s kind of like hiring a babysitter: You want someone who truly treats your children like they do their own, including the love and discipline.
24. A little Type-A, overachiever, dedicated spirit
You know the type: They never miss a deadline, are always looking for the next big thing, love learning and are probably a morning person. You’ll be able to tell if your web developer falls into this category during the first conversation. It’s a great perk since you know there’s no worry over them putting you on the back burner, forgetting a task, or that you’ll have to “stay on them” to get the job done. It shouldn’t be up to you to micro manage your web developer, so why start out with a personality that clashes with what you need?
25. Typography skills
Your web developer doesn’t need to double as a font creator in his spare time, but he should have a respect and taste for typography, fonts, and spacing. It’s what sets each website apart, what makes it look professional, and what lends it to a more classic, modern or quirky flair. If your web developer doesn’t have a favorite font, steer clear—this means he’s not interested in style and design.
The more diverse and complex your web developer is, the better. Jack of all trades, master of none? That’s a red flag—but master of a few things while jack of all trades? That’s the golden ticket that’s going to make your website the best it can be. Don’t rely on price alone or word of mouth when choosing a web developer. Do your homework, ask questions, see portfolios and most importantly trust your gut. This is going to be the creator of “your baby,” so choose wisely.
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