Want a website? Not sure who to trust?
22 Jul 2013
Recently I was reading an article written in Perth, Western Australia, in regards to business owners not trusting web developers. To begin with I thought it was a legit dig at the less than honourable types of the web design industry, until I realized it was actually a dig at the web development industry.
In the article, the author had me, he really did. I totally agree that there are web developers out there that overcharge for services, try to sell you more than you need, and many just steer you up the garden path. But he lost me when he sugar coated the marketing industry. Do any of us really believe that the marketing industry has clean hands where selling is concerned?
So after reading that article I thought it was time to get down to the nitty gritty of having a web presence, and if you should have one at all.
1. Should you have a website?
Websites are needed for all kinds of things. Some feed our fantasies, some feed our nurturing qualities, some feed our emotional requirements, some feed our thirst for knowledge or our need for up-to-date news on events, sports, weather, etc. Some websites are clearing houses for resources, others are directories, databanks, etc. Then there is also eCommerce & service industries. So should you have one of these websites online? The answer is yes, of course. Information has become one of the most valuable commodities of our time. We can actually crave for it at times! Can you make your website a viable website? That, my friends, is up to you & how much work or cash you want to throw at it.
2. What kind of budget should you look at?
If you have done your homework & know ‘exactly’ what you want, you will still need to sit down with a consultant or developer to get to the stage of pricing up your website. So when you ring up & ask for a ball park figure, you are actually getting more of a Grand Canyon type of figure. There are SO many things you can have on your website. You may have decided you want it to do all kinds of things, but is it what you need? Or is it what you can budget for? Or, where do your priorities lie in regards to your budget? Are you allocating enough funds to the various stages of your website project? How much is going towards the build of the website? How much is going towards marketing? If you are branding or re-branding, have you taken into account the cost of that? It’s also important to look at what your recurring costs are. Web hosting, maintenance, management,domain renewals, ongoing SEO or marketing. You need to allocate what proportion of your budget should go towards each. Otherwise, you could be left with a fantastic website that you have no idea how to market. Or you could have a crappy website that breaks on everything & nothing quite works as it should, then spend the lion share of your budget on marketing only to find that your users aren’t returning because parts of your website irritate them or leave them feeling frustrated at not being able to use it properly. No point finding that perfect vase, if the user can’t navigate to the shopping cart to buy it, or they get lost in the checkout process.
3. Will your website do well on the web?
How long is a piece of string? If you can answer that, then you have answered your own question. The benefits of having a website are relative. Relative to a lot of things. I’ve been building for the web for nearly 20 years, and not even I can keep up with web advancements. The web is dynamic. The people using it are dynamic. But people also bore easily. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at marketing, if someone sees your ad & has been to your website on numerous occasions & nothing changes, then they will yawn at your ad & be distracted by the next shiny website to come along.
4. What kind of website do you need?
I find this a pretty obvious reply, you want one that works. Not one that almost works. Not one that works sometimes. Not one that works on some pages. Not one that works on some browsers or machines. Not one that doesn’t work on mobile devices. You simply want one that works on pretty much everything! What is the point of having a website that ‘kind of’ works? Ask some marketters & they’ll say it’s web developers trying to push the latest trend on you. Not so. There are plenty of "trends” that we could push on you, and you would be none the wiser. Having a website that works is NOT a trend. It’s just good common sense. But you do get what you pay for in some respects. It is easier & cheaper to throw your website in a pre-built generic template, but where do you go from there? It may be a responsive template, which is good, but has the template allowed room for you to grow? If you haven’t left room to grow you can be in for costly rebuilds sooner than you want, and with the constant changes of software there is already enough reason for that to happen. Our advise is to do it right the first time, or as right as you can do it.
5. Once you have the website, what next?
The web industry these days are full of "web professionals”. Some evolved from technical backgrounds, others evolved from sales backgrounds. So once you have a well built website, that has been optimised in the actual build process and been built to web standards and search engine friendly, you are already half way there & saving yourself a LOT of money in otherwise redundant services of professionals. Now you just need them to take your website & fly with it. As ‘web developers’ we’re no different. We don’t know all the ins & outs of making our website the most visited on the web. If we don’t have in-house marketing teams, we hire them in to do that for us. It goes back to that old saying "the right tool for the right job”, or in this case, "the right professional for the right job”. Your carpenter doesn’t put in your plumbing does he? But tread carefully. They may offer the moon & only be able to deliver pasta. Check with you developer if they have any recommendations. Ask to see their client base. Do searches for their clients on search engines, and see how they rank. Do searches on others in the same industry as their clients & see where they rank in comparison. Are their clients competitors ranking better? Ask why. Dig around in social networks & most importantly do your research about said marketers. People will always talk about a raw deal they get before a good deal. So if they have screwed someone before, it will most probably be on the net somewhere! I also include the SEO industry in with the above cautions. Always check to see if they are worth the investment.
6. After sales service & support?
Before you go into any contract, check the small print! Does the developer bail out of responsibility bail out at the end with no support offered to the client? Does a marketer just do "their thing” & then leave you floundering? Or are they offering support services that take days to happen, if they happen at all? One of the indications I use for deciding who to engage, is how fast they answer their email. If it takes 3 days, I consider them too busy to give me the personal touch I want. I have questions and don’t have time for a 3 day turn around. If they take 5 days, then in my opinion they just aren’t interested in my business. If you are still keen on them, follow it up with another email, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting around weeks for an answer because you can pretty well expect it to take that long between emails once they have the project. Support & Service IS important. Any industry will tell you that.
We don’t presume to have the answers to how you won’t get ripped off when getting your website. The best we can suggest is RESEARCH. Ask around. There are no magic "lists”, anyone can pay to be on a "list”, a beer at the local bar can buy some inclusions on some lists I have seen. Make your own list up. Then once you have narrowed it down, call them. Then narrow the list down further. Then spend the little extra & have a good consultation with those who will be responsible for the web build/marketing/SEO. By now you probably have a good idea of what you want, what they can deliver, and how they will deliver it. Now it’s cross your fingers & hope you have made the right decision!
However, if by chance you have made the wrong decision and you have to retain the services of another designer/developer/marketer/SEO, don’t expect them to pay for your previous mistake. Many hate that someone previous in their industry has done you over, and they feel bad for you. But ultimately it wasn’t their decision who you went with previously, so you shouldn’t expect them to pay for it financially by charging those "I got screwed before, do this cheap for me” rates. You’re getting off on the wrong foot by disrespecting that professionals (better) work by wanting them to do it cheaper than you paid the first contractor who screwed up. New professional, new project.
But it also pays to take into consideration the client that doesn’t listen. We can advise you on all the best practices and recommend courses of action, but if you aren’t listening, don’t have the time, or think you are being mislead, then you can’t hold the professional responsible for failures that involves your participation. Too many times I have been told how terrible a web business had handled their web build & release, only to find out that the client had been given the right course of action, but chose to ignore the professional.
Web Producer, Creative Director, Content Creator & Distributor at clearFusion Digital, & specializes in helping businesses plan & grow their website.