Part IV of the series I am now ashamed to be calling “H2BYW”. It’s easier for Twitter, you see. Anyway – you can go back to part I to find out about whether you need a website or not, and what it should do; to part II for a quick guide to how websites actually work; or to part III to find out who’s involved in making a website and how to hire them. Today, we’ll be taking the shortlist you made last time and picking your final supplier from it.
So, by now you’ve annoyed everyone you know by grilling them all about potential web designers, developers, project managers and agencies, and you’ve got a shortlist of people who might be able to do it. It might be a long shortlist, or it might be a very very short shortlist.
If you’ve only got one name on the list, then you’re either home & dry (if it’s someone good!) or in trouble (if it’s someone you’d rather not work with). If you want to add to this list, now is the time to go beyond your circle of contacts and do some Googling. Start with a specific, local search and check out the websites you find – take time to look through portfolios, and make sure they’ve got some up-to-date examples. Go through more than just the first page of results. You could also check out design portfolio sites like CSSMania if you’re less worried about working with someone local.
Remember what we talked about before – trust your gut, and don’t assume anything about prices from the quality of work or past clients.
One more little caveat: if anyone on your reccomendation list is a friend or they have another job but offer to do your site on the side… be careful. It could mean a project which drags on for months, with no-one prepared to properly manage it. It might not even be as cheap as you think – a side project like this can mean someone working with a technology or technique they’ve not used before and taking a long time learning. Always check that portfolio. In future articles, I’ll talk about ways to protect all parties in the process using contracts and basic project management techniques.
To trim your shortlist down, we’re going to pinch some techniques from public sector procurement.
“Oh no”, I hear you say. “Public sector procurement is always expensive and gets it wrong”. Well, sometimes that’s true, but we’re not going to be as dogmatic in our process. What we are going to do is take some of the best aspects of the process and apply them in a flexible way.
The best thing about the procurement process is that the principle is to protect both buyers and sellers. It gives suppliers a chance to get the work based on their merits and not their sales patter, and it gives buyers a way to compare like with like.
In public sector procurement, the PQQ – pre-qualification questionnaire – is designed to rule out anyone who’s completely unsuited. They’re normally just checks that companies have the right insurance, policies and legal status to be able to tender for government work. You don’t have to send out forms to your shortlist, but you can do some quick checks yourself just by visiting their website and/or sending a quick email. You might want to use the below, or think of your own:
Hopefully – because everyone on your list should be recommended – you’ll not rule anyone out yet, but we can’t be too careful.
Now, in the public sector process, everyone is given a long list of questions about past experience, capabilities, size of company, response to a hypothetical brief, day rate, that kind of thing… and these each have a certain number of points awarded to them. The person with the most points gets the job. This, of course, can sometimes mean the wrong person gets appointed, because they’re cheap and tick all the boxes with regard size of company, even though someone else showed real spark in their response and just felt right.
For your site, though, you’ll not be getting any FOI requests about spending public money, so you can be a bit more flexible, but we’ll still use the same techniques.
You could get the responses back and immediately know who you want to go for from the quality of what they send. Good – that’s ideal. If not, you’ll need a scoring system.
Now you can tell the winner that you’ll be working with them. Yay! But don’t forget the others who put in a brief. Us agencies put a lot of work in to winning work. We really care about it and it sucks not to get a job. What we’d really like after this process is some honest feedback – were we too expensive? Did we miss something? What did we do right?
Make sure you thank everyone who responded. You never know when you might need someone else so every supplier you talk to – whether you hire them or not – is a really useful person to keep sweet.
And a final thought… we’re not done yet. The person you choose is probably right. But what happens if you start working with them and they come back with a ridiculous new cost for the full brief, or suddenly say some work has come in and they can’t do your project for another month? It might be time to consider number 2, so be nice…
OK – now you’ve found your supplier. Yay! Drinks all round. Next time, we’ll get in to the nitty-gritty of getting some protection and project management in place, and writing your first brief.