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.

How Including Signposts In Your Web Design Helps With Navigation

When users are forced to navigate an unfamiliar website, they often look for visual aids and cues that are designed to help steer them on the right path for their quest for information. Signposts are one of the more common visual aids included during the web design process, as they are highly effective at getting users to make their own decisions. In order to create a user friendly and successful website, designers need to take signposts into account from the very beginning.

  • Hyperlinks
    In the eyes of many people, hyperlinks do not lie in the realm of web design – instead, they are something that the web development and content writing team must deal with. What these people haven’t taken into consideration, however, is that the designer is the person who settles on all of the colours for a website and where each colour should be used – it is important that they choose a colour for any hyperlinks included in the content that is readable yet still stands out as being something that is clickable.
  • Design
    If the web development and content writing teams are not careful, however, they may find it increasingly easy to overwhelm visitors with excessive information in their links. Instead, some icons should be created during the web design process that give users an idea about where a particular link is going to take them, as this lessens the need for excessive link content. A square with an arrow pointing out of the top right hand corner, for example, is often used in a design to indicate that a link will take you to a whole new website.
  • Navigation Bar
    This is the most important section when it comes to enabling users to easily navigate your site, and it is the job of the web design team to create a bar that is attractive yet easy to understand. They are often located along the top of the left-hand side of the page and are used to give visitors a sense of the purpose of the site. During the design process, however, it is important to note that a number of problems can arise, including: generic links that could be found on any website (such as “Home” or “Contact”) and links that don’t exist.

At the end of the day, it is important for all who work in the web design industry to remember that signposts are vital tools for ensuring that visitors to their websites can find their way around easily. Instead of looking at signposts as problem features that must be included on every page, look at them as being creative little design elements that really set your site apart from the rest and vastly improve the user experience.