Choosing a website development firm is tough. Perhaps you have a referral or some case studies for reference. You may be navigating in the dark a bit and find the process to be nebulous. There is a lot to consider: strategy, design aesthetic, ease of updating, platform or CMS, hosting, security, feature set, and how it meshes with your business goals (to name just a few). Given the broad and opaque nature of the task, the actuality is that you’re hiring a consultant as much as you are web development team (hopefully they are one-in-the-same).

Many clients and managers cling to “what they know”, which generally involves taking bids from prospective firms and choosing one that can commit to delivering on time for the least amount of money. This isn’t as logical as it may seem. After all, what the buyer has likely ensured in a competitive bid situation is that they’ve selected the firm that is the most desperate or pays their employees the least. Plan B might be to attend a few presentations from a sales team. Surely then you’ll have a good feel for which firm is best for your needs. Thinking critically, though, it’s possible that you’ll simply find out which firm has the best presentation-layer (and hired the best salespeople). Perhaps a necessary cost of doing business, but those are hidden costs ultimately paid by you. If this hire is a big step for your business you’ll want to be prudent.

So how can you use your business savvy to make the right hire? Here are two simple tips on separating good firms from average firms that will take you about half an hour:
1. Don’t just look for companies the firm has worked with in the past (logo scanning). Ask if it’s ok to email or call someone at a company of your choosing—a team leader that they’ve worked with directly. Ask the client what it’s like working with the firm. Are they competent? How do they help save your company money, drive incremental revenue, or otherwise do brilliant work that no one else can?
2. Do you have a firm you can trust? State something inherently false, technologically ill-advised, or unsound from a business perspective. Do they steer you away?

Be savvy, people.