Choosing a Website Development Partner
Larry Yost | June 1, 2023 | Blog Post
Medical device startups are not typically known for their cutting edge websites. There is an odd disconnect between the innovative nature of new medical technologies and one’s experience when interacting with their brands online.
We can attribute much of this common shortcoming to limited resources, pre-market technologies and the regulatory landscape in which we operate, but when it’s time to commercialize your product, it’s time to pay close attention to your presence on the web. Today I’d like to offer some tips for choosing the right web development partner to take your company to the next level.
Using other medical device websites as benchmarks is both instructive and misleading – instructive for tasks related to product positioning, but misleading because of the aforementioned poor quality of many device websites. Even the big players (especially the big players) in the device space do a poor job of presenting new technologies.
The trouble is, because of the way the internet is constructed, your website lives immediately next door to consumer and other sites that have been rigorously developed with millions of dollars spent refining every aspect of the experience. These websites set the expectations of your audience, less so your competitors.
So, while experience in the medical device realm is an important qualification when evaluating web developers, the strength and breadth of their portfolio, including work on non-medical websites, should be considered as well.
A well-defined Request for Proposal (RFP)will go a long way toward helping you separate the professional wheat from the amateur chaff. A boilerplate RFP will net you boilerplate proposals, so be careful to describe the market into which you are launching your product. Define your audiences and the actions that you wish them to take, and describe the challenges that you anticipate encountering. Avoid presenting solutions – your task is to present the problem and then evaluate how well your potential web partners engage with it.
Since you have researched your potential vendors carefully, you know that any one of the candidates you have chosen can build a website. The RFP is a test to see how well they will interact with your company and its challenges. If you receive a pure boilerplate proposal that ignores the carefully defined audiences, actions and situational analysis that you provided in your RFP, consider it a sign of what a relationship with that vendor will look like. Likewise, when you receive proposals that contain a thoughtful examination of your situation along with the boilerplate, it’s a strong sign that you will receive individual treatment if you award them the project.
Here are some criteria to use when evaluating proposals from multiple web developers:
- Does their proposal tell their story visually?
- Did they exhibit an ability to coax good decisions from their clients?
- How well did they interpret the RFP?
- Have they developed a systematic way to engage their clients?
- How transparent is their pricing?
- Did they do actual research to produce the RFP?
- Is there evidence of content strategy in their process?
- How much help with copy are they proposing?
- Are they client-focused?
- Do their portfolio sites emphasize the visitor experience?
- Do they have experience creating community?
- Do they have experience creating community around health issues?
- Do they have a solid understanding of SEO?
- Do they have insight into online consumer behavior?
- Do they exhibit a contemporary understanding of content strategy, user experience and the semantic web?
- Do they have relevant medical device experience?
- Do they have unique experience outside the device space that could drive innovation?
- Do they have a discernible design philosophy?
- Does their design philosophy set them at the forefront of their profession?
- How active are they in the social sphere?
- How responsive were they during the exploratory and RFP phases?
- How strong is their reputation in the industry?
- Are they proposing open-source Content Management System? Most of the world uses WordPress? If they are not recommending the use of WordPress, why not?
Once you have used the RFP process to winnow down your candidates to two or three strong contenders, it’s important to get them in front of your team in person. Below are some attributes to evaluate during their presentations. These are not intended as direct questions for the participants, but rather as general guidelines for evaluating and comparing each group’s presentation and approach to the project.
- How well do they understand your product’s opportunity?
- Are they anticipating future events/problems/opportunities?
- Are they posing interesting questions?
- Do they have well-established communication strategies and tools that they use to keep projects on track?
- What extra efforts have they made to prepare for this meeting?
- What personnel have they committed to this meeting?
- Is their focus on making sites attractive or on making them engaging?
- Do they have a process for aligning customer needs with your company’s business goals?
- What is their approach to SEO (search engine optimization)?
- Do they explain the benefits of the particular CMS (Content Management System) they have chosen for your project?
- Will they commit to teaching you how to do minor edits to content or add content without the need for you to pay them to do this going forward?
- Will they place Google Analytics code on your site, give you access, and teach you how to leverage insights from Google Analytics?
- What other marketing tools that you use have plugins or add-ons that can be integrated into your website (e.g., Salesforce, Hubspot, Mailchimp)?
- What security features will they add to your site to fend off brute force attacks and hacking attempts?
In the end, what you’re looking for is a partner who can help you make the right decisions about your online presence. There are thousands of web developers out there who can build you a pretty website, but the best among them will have a well-defined system for engaging their clients and bringing out the best in them.