Web and Ecommerce 7.2 Web Design and Development: Marketplaces and Job Boards

Web Design and Development: Marketplaces and Job Boards

We have structured this book as a reference book. On more than one occasion―hiring back office help or technology help―we’ve included a section on marketplaces and job boards. Those resources apply to Web development, as well: your best solution to your Web development needs is to turn to online resources that connect you with a universe of Web designers, copywriters, and developers.

Of all the needs your business may have, you will find that Web services offers the largest number of resources available to you through the Web. In part, that’s because everybody and their dog is in Web development in some way. But there are a number of highly talented folks out there waiting to be found.

Because any request for service that you may put on one of these job boards or marketplaces will result in tons and tons of responses, we’ve provided Ten Rules for hiring Web developers and creatives.

Rule 1: Look for specialists rather than generalists.

Never advertise for someone to “do” or “make” your Web site. If you need copy, advertise for an experienced Web copywriter. If you need design, advertise for an experienced Web designer. If you need coding, ask for a Web developer with experience in the coding languages you need, usually HTML and CSS.

Rule 2: Provide detailed specifications before asking for a proposal.

If you cannot do specifications, hire someone to do them for you. Specifications should include an inventory of every page, the functionality and content on every page, the design for those pages, and the navigation. And exactly what you want your contractor to do.

Rule 3: Don’t hire cheap.

You should not be shopping for the lowest price, but the greatest value relative to your specifications. Here’s a general rule of thumb: the lowest bids are almost always the most clueless.

Rule 4: Know what your contractor is doing.

If you hire a copywriter that will be optimizing your site for search engines, you should be familiar with the basic principles and processes of search engine optimization (sections 7.7 and 7.8). If your site needs server-side scripting, you should know the difference between ASP, PHP, or .Net and, in general, what your contract will have to do.

Rule 5: Don’t hire anyone until you’ve seen a portfolio, references, and a client list.

The portfolio should include Web sites that are up and running right now and can be visited by you. At least one person on the references list should be the owner of one of these Web sites so that you can verify the extent and quality of the work the bidder has done. You need all three before making a decision―it’s very easy for a bidder to fake a portfolio or client list.

Rule 6: Always take a project bid price.

Never pay someone by the hour―that only motivates them to work slowly. And if you’re paying by the hour, you pay for their mistakes, not them.

Rule 7: Do not pay in full until the work is done.

Ideally, you want to pay the bulk of the balance at completion. You should never pay more than one-half of the bid amount at the beginning of the project and no more than two-thirds before the completion of the project.

Rule 8: Demand a production schedule and “exit” option.

Tie your contractors down to a schedule. If something happens to delay that schedule (for instance, if you ask your contractor to do extra work), then the contractor needs to supply you with a new schedule. You should also have an exit strategy already negotiated with the contractor―if the contractor is falling behind on the work, then you are entitled to all work done to that point without paying anything more.

Rule 9: Contract for deliverables at every milestone in the project.

Contractors will sometimes hold you hostage with unfinished work―especially if you’ve made partial payments―and not give you the work they’ve done if you do not make a final payment. So your contractor may be months behind and 90% finished, but you literally have nothing. You also have no choice but to pay the contractor in full to get the 90% that is finished.

Rule 10: Consider hiring an experienced project manager.

Yes, yes, we know, “consider” does not sound much like a rule. However, our final rule is a pretty good rule of thumb if you personally haven’t successfully managed the development of a Web site. A project manager increases your costs (which may be ultimately recovered in cost savings elsewhere), but it will certainly reduce your headaches and stress. Find someone experienced in the entire process of developing a site―from concepts, to engineering user interaction, to guiding creative cowboys like designers and copywriters, to managing the tech dudes who put the final product together. This person can help you make the right decisions, put together complete specifications and documentation for the contractors, and, most importantly, keep the contractors doing what they should be doing on time and on budget.

7.2.1. Guru.com


Guru.com (previously discussed in section 5.2.1) is a marketplace that connects buyers looking for outsource Web design and development services with contractors willing to provide those services. You place a request for proposal (RFP) for services. Contractors on the Guru network then bid for those services. These bidders range from people working in their garage to full-out Web development firms (mainly in India). You’re definitely getting a mixed bag―some vendors are at the top of the industry and others are pretty mediocre. Since Guru.com includes reviews by other people who have hired these vendors, make sure you read them carefully―a high-priced vendor with excellent reviews will probably save―and make―more money for you than their low-balling brethren.

Web design and development categories include:

Web e-commerce site development and Web databases

Web standard HTML/CSS site development


Web graphics

Email newsletters

Search engine optimization

Internet marketplace development

Web content/copywriting

7.2.2. Elance


Elance, like Guru.com, is an online RFP marketplace connecting businesses with freelancers, although a few outsourcing firms mix it up with the freelancers in responding to RFPs. The vast majority of freelancers using Elance are Web professionals across several specialties. Like Guru.com, you’re getting a mixed bag of top professionals with some undependable freelancers here, so carefully read the reviews that clients leave for each of the freelancers.

Elance connects you with freelancers in the following areas:

  • Web design
  • Web programming
    • Databases
    • Web forms
    • Scripts
    • Web 2.0 applications
  • E-commerce Web sites
    • Total e-commerce Web sites
    • Shopping carts
    • Payment processing
    • Storefronts (product databases and online catalogs)
    • Order management
  • Flash animation
  • Search engine optimization
    • Directory submissions
    • Keyword research
    • Link building
    • Campaign management
  • Usability
  • Video and audio
  • Banner ads
  • Instant messaging applications
  • Blogs
  • HTML emails
  • Web content copywriting
  • Editing and proofreading

7.2.3. Contracted Work


Like Guru.com and Elance, Contracted Work is an RFP-based freelancer marketplace that allows you to place projects for contractors and freelancers to bid on. Contracted Work is dominated by outsource firms and vendors rather than actual freelancers; the bulk of those companies specialize in Web development. In terms of overall usage, however, Contracted Work is a distant third to these other two, highly popular RFP marketplaces. Contracted Work offers vendor profiles, portfolios, and reviews.

Contracted Work vendors specialize in the following Web design and development areas:

  • Web site development
  • Web design
  • Web programming
  • Flash animation
  • Hosting
  • Testing
  • HTML emails
  • Web content writing

7.2.4. Craig’s List


If you’re seriously in the business of outsourcing your Web development, then Craig’s List, the world’s largest and highest-trafficked classified ads site, should be one of your primary venues for tracking down freelancers and outsource firms.

Craig’s List allows you to post two kinds of jobs: regular jobs-for-hire and gigs, or temporary, one-off jobs. You can post gigs for free, but a jobs ad requires an account and costs $25 if posted in the New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles Craig’s Lists.

The usefulness of the site depends on the size of the city you live in (you can only post in one city) and what you’re looking for. If you’re located in a large metropolitan area such as New York or Los Angeles, your ad will attract a large number of high-quality applicants. And more than your fair share of mediocrity. Follow this rule of thumb when hiring off Craig’s List: ask for a portfolio, client list, resume, and references. And contact those references. Seriously, if you don’t, you deserve what you get. The tagline for Craig’s List should be, “Buyer Beware.”

Because Craig’s List limits you to one city and does not allow you to repeat ads across cities (its posting engine checks the wording of your ad against all the other ads that are posted―if it matches another ad pretty closely, the service will reject it), you should consider outsourcing your work to Web professionals in major cities like New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. You may not live in those cities, but you may be willing to have someone do the work virtually. Posting an ad in one of those three cities will garner you far more qualified vendors than, say, posting your ad in Ames, Iowa.

For Web development contractors, you will post your ad in the “Gigs” section under:

  • Computer: if you’re looking for Web coding, programming, Flash animators, database development, or any other technical issue.
  • Creative: if you’re looking for Web design (graphic design), banner ads, Flash animators, or audio/video creators or editors.
  • Writing: if you’re looking for Web content writers, SEO specialists, or editors/proofreaders.

7.2.5. RentACoder


Rent-A-Coder is an RFP marketplace specifically for software developers and programmers with over 156,000 registered freelancers, contractors, and programming outsource firms, most of who are located in faraway places like India, Russia, or Eastern Europe. The site allows you to review the contractor’s resume and provides a bidder feedback mechanism. As with other RFP marketplaces, Rent-A-Coder offers vendor profiles, reviews, portfolios, arbitration in case of dispute, and the ability to pay through an escrow account. The site, however, is mainly set up for software programmers and not Web developers. You would turn to RentACoder only if you’re building a complicated piece of Web software, like a Web-based software program, a social networking site, or any other site primarily geared around custom, complicated software.

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2 Responses to “Web and Ecommerce 7.2 Web Design and Development: Marketplaces and Job Boards”

  1. davidkutcher says:

    Rule #3 says “don’t hire cheap”, but then you go ahead and list sites (elance, guru, craig’s list, etc.) that are known for cheap projects and even cheaper freelancers. You can’t put a project listing on any of those services without being swarmed with “I’ll do your project for $50” quotes.

    Give the RFP Database a try at http://www.rfpdb.com

    If you put together a respectable Request for Proposals, a document outlining your project needs and requirements, and asking for a real proposal, you’ll get back highly qualified bidders on your project. Give it a shot!

  2. Steve Monas says:

    Most sites have a rating, feedback, and 3rd party confirmed tests on a particular skill. They are not known as cheap sites, and I always get quality work, as long as I do the research correctly on a particular bidder. If you are not clear, and you don’t do research, yes, there are bidders, who are just trying to get ratings and offer you deals, but I stay away from them. The website that you have looks interesting, we will give it a try. Thanks for the comment.


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