What You Need To Know When Hiring Your Website Developer

I know many coaches and practitioners who had bad experience when they work with some “web guy” to develop their websites. Most of the frustrations evolve around taking much longer than initially estimated, being charged way more than the initial quote, certain functionalities not working as expected (and not being fixed without further charges), or the developer holding the clients “hostage” by not giving them access or showing them how to use the website editing tools. I even know a person who, after sinking thousands of dollars, walked away with a half-finished website that she has to keep building on her own.

This is absolutely not to say that all website developers are bad people – there are of course awesome ones out there! I was very happy with my own experience – this website was set up for less than $200 – on time, on budget, no glitches. But you can’t just grab a web dude and hope for the best. You need to know what to ask, what to look for and also TAKE RESPONSIBILITY to educate yourself so you can ensure smooth communication.

Here are a few things you can do to increase the chances of having satisfactory experience and results when you work with someone to build your website (I worked as a web project manager for 10 years so trust that I know a thing or two… I can’t code my way out of a wet paper bag but I can sniff developer BS from miles away):

  1. Start SMALL – if possible, you can ask a few candidates to work on some small tasks and see who is on-time, on-budget and responsive. Then based on the experience (and the vibe) select “the” one to do your big project.
  2. Pay attention to the SCOPE – if your scope is “time & materials” – i.e. you are charged by the hour – you may want to set a cap on how much you want to spend before the project begins. Have the web guy do some periodic reporting and ask that you be alerted if you are likely to go over budget so you can prioritize your tasks and get the mission-critical stuff done (the very least, you have the basics to launch). If your scope is “fixed fee” – i.e. you are charged a flat fee for a fixed set of deliverables – review the scope carefully to make sure that everything you need to get the site to launch is covered, and you will get the support you need post-launch.
  3. Clarify OWNERSHIP and access – not common these days, but I have heard stories of developers retaining ownership of the site and withholding access so every time the client needs to change something they need to pay for the work. To make sure you are not held “hostage”, or have to pay another fee to “buy” your site back, it’s best to get clear on ownership.
  4. Make sure site is MOBILE RESPONSIVE – most WordPress themes are mobile responsive, but again, it pays to be sure because more and more people are using mobile devices to access content online.
  5. Know how much TESTING (or QA) support you get – ask about the extent of testing. E.g. Is he going to do cross-browser testing? Is he going to test the site on mobile devices? Is he going to test all the functionalities (e.g. newsletter sign up, shopping cart)? Although there is much less cross-browser incompatibility with the widespread use of WordPress, you do need to pay attention to any customization – e.g. I know someone who had her site redesigned – it looks gorgeous on the computer, but when it’s viewed on the iPad, the free gift sign up field is smacked right over her face on the masthead banner!
  6. Get a 30-Day GUARANTEE – glitches get uncovered when you actually use the site! Your web guy should stand by his work and guarantee to fix bugs within a reasonable amount of time.
  7. Ask for a backend WALKTHROUGH – you want to be able to make changes and edit your own website. You don’t want to be held hostage every time you need to add or change any content. It is not just a matter of money – you will feel empowered and you are more nimble in your content creation and marketing.
  8. Be ASSERTIVE, ask QUESTIONS – don’t assume you are “dumb”… a lot of tech guys use terms that we normal people don’t use and when you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation in plain English!
  9. EDUCATE yourself on the basics – you don’t have to know how to code, but understanding the basics, knowing what to ask and using the correct terminologies can help facilitate the process. There will be fewer chances of miscommunication – which can lead to your web guy building something totally different that what you think you are getting, wasting precious time and money. I also find that developers show you more respect and are less likely to give you BS if you know what you are talking about.

If you use WordPress, codeable.io is a great resource where you can find coders who are experts in WordPress. You post your task, set your budget, and they will bid on the project. I love it for small projects and quick fixes.

* here is what that asterisk by the “be assertive, ask questions” about:

Even if some people *know* they need to be assertive and thorough, they don’t do it and then later hit themselves on their heads. Why? Something is causing this self-defeating behavior and this thing is called “primary fear”:

  • The fear of INADEQUACY – if you feel like you are not good enough, you don’t have the confidence to challenge others. You may not want to ask questions because it may reaffirm your limiting belief that you don’t know enough.
  • The fear of being VULNERABLE – if you don’t want to appear vulnerable, you may “puff up” and appear that you know. You don’t want to ask questions that make you appear that you are not knowledgeable.
  • The fear of MISSING OUT – if you are afraid that if you don’t “act now” and get it now you may miss out on something – and this fear drives you to make hasty decisions before you have all the facts.

How Collaboration Works Between Marketing Department And Website Development

At this point of time, after more than twenty five years since the internet became mainstream, it is no longer a question whether a company should have a website or not. By default every company, ranging from one person companies to businesses that employ thousands of employees, has a website. The more important question marketing managers of a company should ask is how good or bad is their website. The number of customers who do not seek out more information about the company they are buying products from is a minority.

Customers And Website Communication

With a large number of customers depending on a website for information, it is important that no company ignores the importance of website to their website. In many ways, a website is almost like a salesman who is working round the clock, advising prospective, current and past customers what exactly is the company offering and why they should buy them. A website can be as interactive as one wants it to be or it can be extremely dull out of sheer ignorance.

It is not just about the appearance and presentation of a website that matters. Most customers would not know about the company web address. Of course, website address is printed and advertised on the company products, in ads and of course marketing material and business cards. However, the website address is not really something that people can remember unless it is something that they use every day like Facebook.

Inevitably, every customer turns to search engines like Bing or Google to look up the website they want to reach. Customers start by typing in search words that they think represents a particular company website. So, there must be some kind of a link between the words the customers might possibly use and the website that you have built. This is probably the most difficult part because it requires a fairly heavy dose of research. The marketing department has a tough task cut out for them because if they unable to find those keywords that will link to their website, customers may not find the company website at all.

Search Engine Optimization

This is not the only challenge that the marketing department is going to face. The words that the customers use may be fairly generic and could apply to hundreds of companies in the same industry. So the key job here is to ensure that the customers will find your company when they search for what they want, instead of a competitor company. This process of getting your name right at the top of the search engine results is called search engine optimization.

Linking the words and getting your website on top of the search results is a collaborative effort between web developer and marketing department. Marketing is something that is an integral part of any company. Except for maybe some specific tasks like advertising and content creation marketing management it is within the part of the main company system. However, enormous financial and time benefits can be derived by having a third-party company involved in web development and its maintenance.

When it comes to having your company website built, the choice comes down to freelancers and website development companies. If you are a company then it simply makes business sense that you deal with another company. The key difference is the standard difference you would find between a person and a company. With a person you are looking all the problems that you tied to working with a single person. However, when you are dealing with a company you can expect the same level of professionalism that you would extend to your customers.

Common Web Design Myths

The power of the World Wide Web to liberate people, by providing information and services in a way best suited to them, is immense. The Web can make activities like shopping, finding out the latest news, education and communication, much easier for all of us. However, there are many myths surrounding accessible and credible web design – following points aim to dispel some of them.

(1) Use of maximum colors will help in making the site beautiful

Pleasing website design is important to attract a web visitor, but a website design need not be a rainbow. Research proves that myriad of colors may spoil the outlook of a website. Also there are chances of these web visitors getting irritated with the use of too many colors. So the website designer should always use the colors that go well with the theme and purpose of the website.

(2) Adding too much graphics is helpful

It is true that graphics will make communication easier, but the over use of graphics may make it difficult. The page carrying heavy graphics takes lot of time to load. Web design which is spun around simple and easily loading graphics is always loved by the visitor.

(3) Flash is necessary to add attractiveness to the website

Flash is extensively used to create advertisement banners and animations during website design. Flash banners can serve their desired purpose only if they are used efficiently and frugally. As these flash banners may add believability to particular web design, but they have many disadvantages as well. Flash banners can be easily downloaded only if you are connected to high speed connection. Web designer should remember that not all people have flash plugging installed in their computer so people may lose their patience if they are asked to download plugging first to view your site. So web developer should provide the option of non-flash version along with the flash version, which allows the web visitor to browse through the information.

(4) Website will look same in all browsers

Even after designing some successful websites many web developers love to believe that the website will look same everywhere as it appears on their PC. However in reality, different website browsers perceive HTML pages in different manner. So website developer should always make sure that the website is optimized with web standards adopted by different browsers.

Also the web resolution varies from PC to PC. Some may prefer to view the website in 1024 X 768 resolutions whereas some may view the website in 800 X 600 resolutions. Most of the web visitors love to view the website in 800 X 600 resolutions, so the web designer should ensure that the website looks good even in that resolution.

So, breaking a few myths, it’s time to enter the real and fascinating world of Website Designing.