It’s time for a Website solution, but why does it have to be so frustrating! It seems every time I work on having a Website built it’s an expensive catastrophe. Experiences working with Web developers and designers are challenging, and my vision never becomes realized. What should I do?
Does the above paragraph describe your experience? If so, I wrote this article to help you be successful with your current or next Website solution. I want to share some ideas that have shaped how I realize the best possible service for my clients and self. It’s time you have the best experience possible. Grab a tea, coffee, or other tasty beverage and let’s dive in!
In a Website solution, what’s the difference between design and development?
There are many misconceptions regarding the duties of a Web developer and designer. My goal here is not to dive into the technical details of Websites. It’s focusing on the functional aspects to ensure the best outcome.
Web developers work predominately on your site’s code base or back end. Many small business owners do not need a Web developer. The back end systems to meet your business goals are often widely available and need only tweaking for your application. Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you have an unusual or highly-specific need, Web developers can customize an appropriate solution. Before making such an investment, ensure that a viable solution does not already exist.
Web designers concentrate on a site’s layout, look and feel, and how your audience interacts with your Website. In today’s market, many WordPress and similar platform solutions include the overwhelming majority of the coding that is required. However, these boxed solutions seldom feature the particular design required to engage visitors. The role of a Web designer is to ensure this engagement and to create an experience that converts a percentage of your visitors into clients or customers.
Quick Fact: Did you know that WordPress alone accounts for 25% of all Websites! It’s another reason why I recommend it for almost any small business application. A viable solution likely exists for your needs, and you’ll always be able to find outstanding WordPress professionals.
Website solution design and development are equally important.
Ultimately, your goal is getting visitors to care about your Website and bring them into your marketing funnel. It’s also worth noting that many consultants and owner-operators execute both Website development and design. More often than not, this is the case unless you are contracting a mid to large-sized agency.
Don’t fall for the technology strawman.
Unfortunately, many otherwise well-intentioned professionals are obsessed with doing things the most difficult way or utilizing bleeding edge technology instead of solving your business need. Avoid this thinking at all costs.
The requirements for a successful Website solution include a scalable platform, repeatability, and the ability to handle your functionality with the easiest possible path of execution. Anything else is unnecessary fluff. If your developer or designer cannot clearly explain why technology is needed, don’t work with them.
If you are not entirely sure what the person’s or organization’s focus is, always ask. Be confident that your business or project goals will be realized.
Due diligence is your friend.
Eliminate complications by focusing on your due diligence before signing off on a project. As a business, if you are not clear about the solution you need, it will be impossible for any Web developer or designer to accomplish it. Make sure that you spend the time and energy upfront to delineate your vision.
While we all have the best intentions, ask yourself whether you have clearly defined your needs, goals, and expectations before viewing proposals. One way to address this is to compose an accurate checklist of questions for all projects.
Most Website projects that fail are due to a lack of communication of the goals or a misunderstanding of the aims of the business and the developer or designer.
Don’t have a communication breakdown.
Web developers and designers have a tendency to be vague about concrete details, and many businesses do not know the right questions to ask. Answers to these issues can be unnecessarily complicated which leads to misunderstandings. This communication gap, in my opinion, is most often the culprit in a failed Website solution.
I have developed a list of issues that I use for my Website creation needs in addition to managing solutions for my clients. It is my sincere hope this will provide guidelines, and areas of consideration, for a Website solution project.
What expenses are necessary to pay upfront? Building a Website solution takes time, energy, a lot of work, and money. Most Web developers and designers I know, including myself, ask for half of the proposal cost upfront plus any project specific technology costs like plug-in subscriptions, hosting fees, licenses, and related expenses.
Make sure that all prices are transparent in the proposal and that you understand precisely why they are needed before you choose to move forward.
Are the goals clear and is a budget established before work begins? This point I cannot emphasize enough, all parties involved in the Website solution should know the specific goals and budget before any work begins. If anything is unclear, discuss it. If it’s still unclear, consider working with another party.
Does the Web designer or developer write the content for the Website solution? No, you are responsible for all the copy on your Website. Content is not the job of a developer or designer unless you have specifically discussed this, and documented it in the proposal. Have a detailed plan as to who is creating the content and be prepared to have them work in close collaboration with the designer or developer.
What happens if I change my mind during a project? You will likely lose your developer or designer if you ask for too many changes. It’s no different than if a client or customer asks you to make alterations multiple times during an agreed project. It’s critical that you understand what you want and agree to it before your begin. Once a project is underway, expect to pay for requested changes before the project resumes.
What if the scope of the project changes for business reasons? Life happens. In most cases, it will be possible to pivot a project assuming your Web developer or designer can accommodate your time-frame. However, this may not always be possible. You are still responsible for the completed work. Address circumstances like this in a contract.
Should I have a contract with the Web designer or developer? I will admit to not using a contract in a few cases where the size and scope of a project were small, and I knew the businessperson well. Regardless, I highly recommend having a contract. This Mashable article has an excellent listing of standard Website design contracts. This article shares examples of a failing project while in the process.
A contract is not about trust; it’s about risk management to protect the business interests of all involved.
What should I do if the project takes longer than planned? As businesspeople, we like to believe that we have accounted for all possible outcomes. We cannot account for illnesses of children, pets, or potential subcontractors like graphic designers involved. Have an upfront conversation about your concerns. If multiple offenses have taken place or you feel the designer or developer is lying, you may need to stop the project and take action.
How can I track the work done and where can I find it? It is my belief that clients should always be in possession of all related code, graphics, design documents, copy, and relevant materials. I put all information in a Dropbox folder that can be accessed by all involved parties. I strongly urge you to have a continuous, current, copy of all work performed.
I’m not happy with the result. What do I do? Hopefully, this realization is before your final payment. Does the Website solution meet the goals, needs, and budget to which you have agreed? If it has, then it’s reasonable to expect to pay for changes. If the solution does not meet the agreement, have a conversation with the developer or designer. If you cannot come to a mutually fair outcome, you may need to contact arbitration or an attorney. The more you’re involved in the process, within reason, the less likely this is to happen.
The goal of this article is to understand the level of commitment necessary as a business owner and from the developers and designers building your Website solution.
Website Solution Bonus Lightning Round?!
Who is responsible for maintenance and updates to my Website solution? You are after delivery has taken place. Many designers and developers offer packages to keep your site working properly and securely.
My best friend is a Web designer and has ideas to improve the design. I’m sure your friend has the best intentions however you chose to hire other professionals for this project. I would not allow any third-party to touch the project. It can become a mess.
My Website solution exceeded my expectations! What should I do? Contact your developer or designer and tell them how happy you are with the outcome. Ask them what is the best way to provide a reference for their work and don’t keep them a secret.
Thank you for reading this guide! It’s likely obvious that this topic is of great importance to me. I firmly believe that communication is the key to successful projects, coupled with a high dose of due diligence during vetting.