Having been involved in web design and development for years, there are a few horror stories I hear over and over and they fall into these categories:
I’m doing this until I find a “real” job. Anyone can now build a site without having to know HTML or CSS, but an internet connection and Photoshop do not a web developer make! It doesn’t mean (s)he understands design, understands your business needs, or knows what goes into creating an effective user experience. And, what happens when (s)he gets that “real” job? You can end up suffering from “disappearing developer” disease.
I do this at night, but by day I’m an admin assistant. Same results as above, except now you can’t even reach your developer during the business day. Work you request to be done on your site will take longer to do because the real job will always take priority over your project.
I know a little about websites, but you know even less, so I hope you won’t find out. As the saying goes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You are an expert at your business, but not about web design or development, SEO, site security, and so on. So, you rely on the designer to know their stuff! Trouble is, there are designers out there who know little more than you do – perhaps enough to get started with your web site. Problems arise when you need a little more that falls outside of your developer’s skill set. Suddenly, (s)he stops returning your calls and emails.
I can host your site (and make extra $$) on a server I set up myself on top of my refrigerator (true story). If even the best and biggest hosting providers have security and down-time issues from time to time, what hope is there for this arrangement? Connectivity speed, security, down time due to power outages are all at risk. What happens if the frig-top hard drive fails – are there mirror back-ups of your site? The real question is, why would you ever trust your businesses’ online presence to such an arrangement?
I don’t need you to sign a contract. Be suspicious if a designer/developer won’t commit to deliverables in writing. Be protected when (s)he decides to take a “real” job, runs away to study with a yogi, or otherwise fails to deliver what you paid for.
I will give you a low cost estimate which will please you no end, then decide the project is larger than first thought and demand more money to continue. Seriously, there are people out there for whom this is their business model. But a lot is also due to inexperience. It’s not unreasonable to ask for more money for a larger project (and scope creep is pretty common) but it’s not a happy turn of events. The antidote? A web designer who scopes the project out up front, asks about your business goals and objectives, your budget, and offers suggestions and alternatives so that you know exactly what to expect for your money. Any work changes will be addressed promptly and priced so you can decide if you want to proceed.
I know Flash and Photoshop, so that’s what you need. There’s another saying, “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” A web designer may have competence in a limited range of programs, so you won’t probably learn of options or alternatives that might better suit your needs. You can still end up with a site that looks great, but doesn’t fulfill your business needs. Maybe it’s not search optimized, maybe it’s not mobile friendly, maybe you can’t manage the content of your website yourself – issues that will actually hurt your business.
How can you avoid these scenarios? Educate yourself a little bit now to save yourself headaches later.
Always register your domain in your name. NEVER let a developer register your URL in their name. If the developer vanishes, so too does your domain name, and your control over it.
Know where your site is hosted. Ask the developer, then Google the company to make sure it is reputable. I always put hosting plans in my clients’ control, even if I do the set-up for them. If something happens to me, I want them to have to ability to transition to somewhere else with a minimum of hassle.
DON’T talk first about how the site will look. The conversation should ALWAYS start with, and revolve around, the goals and objectives of your business. When that is top of mind, good design will naturally follow.
DON’T decide on price alone. There’s always someone who will do the work for you cheap. Before choosing a website designer, consider the likely quality of the finished product and the quality of the service and support you’ll receive during the project and beyond.
Sign that contract. The contract will define the scope, limitations, payment schedule and timeframe of your project.
If you’ve had any of the experiences above, you have my sympathy! But, know that there are many reputable, reliable and talented web designers and developers out there, so don’t give up – just do a little homework first.
Have a you had a bad experience like any of these? Tell us about it by leaving a comment.