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Plan It! Hiring a Designer or Developer

Finding Contractors

Now, you're looking for someone who can help. Where should you look?

For starters, ask friends and colleagues who have websites that you admire whether they would recommend their designers. Probe for what they liked, didn't like and what they wished they would have done differently. Nothing beats a personal recommendation.

Second, try online freelance connection services like Elance.com. This site has thousands of freelancers and contract workers in every specialty imaginable, plus a structured bidding process, a feedback system and an escrow process for payments so you won't get taken for a ride.

Next, try placing a classified ad on Craigslist or another free listing service.

If cost is an issue, local universities might offer a good pool of web-savvy labor. If you're close to a college with a significant new media program, you might find a professor who is interested in letting his students work with you as a class project. A small ad in the student paper might also bring forth good candidates.

Vetting Contractors

After you've located some leads, you need to choose the right vendor. Many web developers, often the best ones, are self-trained. Your best guideline is to ask for a proposal in writing and for satisfied references. Anyone who has used a contractor to build an entire website should be able to attest to that designer's competence and temperament.

Still, here's a quick list of questions you should get any design candidate to answer:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. What other current or upcoming projects will you be working on?
  3. What sort of data security and backup practices do you follow?
  4. Will the work be done by you or subcontracted out to others? If subcontracted, in what country will the work be done?
  5. What is the training or experience level of the people who will work on the project?
  6. Where can one see samples of their work?
  7. What sort of warranty or guarantee do you offer?
  8. How do you handle any changes to an RFP?

J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

American University School of Communication

Knight Foundation

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