The internet has the changed the world in many ways. Websites today allow for greater communication, increased access to information, and the globalization of business. It’s a beautiful thing, really, but it has its valleys as well as its peaks. Business owners know this all too well.
It’s 2017, and no one would argue the effect that a strong web presence has on developing brands and growing businesses. That said, the internet can be a scary place for these people.
Much like the mechanic, the lawyer, the surgeon and the accountant, web developers are looked to as trusted advisors with specialized expertise. Many business owners either have no desire or no time to devote to learning the ins and outs of the World Wide Web, just like most people don’t know the specifics of how their car works or the details on tax code. This makes for great business opportunities for us developers, but it also adds the potential for a nervous breakdown for these business owners.
When you go to a lawyer, chances are it’s because you need some sort of legal counsel or representation; you never went to law school, so you trust that your lawyer has knowledge that you need but don’t possess. This leaves you at their mercy, and allows them to charge premium prices for services that may or may not be worth the price of admission.
It’s a similar situation when dealing with web development firms: you don’t know how to build a website, you never studied coding and web design and conversions, so you rely on the professionals to do so. We appreciate your business, but at the same time, you have to know what you’re looking for to make sure you don’t get burned by the wrong company.
Hiring a web development firm can be an amazing experience (just ask Lexco’s customers): you get a trusted professional that can advise you, you get a long-term partner that can act as an extension of your business, and you build a relationship and expand your network at the same time. All win-wins, right?
That’s why I’m writing this post: I’m going to outline the 5 biggest headaches brands face when they hire professionals to build or design their websites. That way, you know what to look for (and what to avoid), ensuring a smooth experience and preserving your affirmation for web professionals.
Here are the 5 biggest headaches to make sure you avoid when evaluating web development firms:
1. Lack of Clear Expectations.
I’m a firm believer that no matter what you do in life, you need to set clear expectations.
It’s common knowledge that humans act based-on their own rational self-interest. That is, they care more about themselves and their loved ones than strangers. Whenever you are dealing with another party, whether it’s your significant other, your co-worker, your basketball coach, etc.- they’re looking to get what’s best for them out of the interaction. Keeping that in mind, you’re going to be looking to get what’s best for you in that interaction as well. Naturally, there’s a disconnect here! It’s important that you agree on terms and expectations beforehand to avoid misunderstandings and potential disappointment.
When businesses hire web development firms, they often struggle to articulate what exactly they need. After all, there’s tons of internet jargon out there that’s confusing enough to make a grown man cry. Imagine finding out that your car’s catalytic converter went bad; what’s the next move?
As developers, we need to do our part in educating clients, letting them know what’s possible, and informing them if we don’t believe that what they are asking is what’s actually best for their business/brand.
When you hire professional developers to build your website, be sure to articulate exactly what you are looking for. Be sure to ask questions, be open to alternative suggestions, and ask them to help educate you on the details of your site. A website is one of the most important investments that you will make, so leave no stone unturned when setting expectations to get the job done properly.
2. Lack of Communication.
Once you hire the website developers and have established clear and concise expectations, it’s important to maintain consistent communication with the firm. Our firm sends daily email updates on the progress of the project, and we require our clients to speak with us directly atleast once-a-week.
Why do we do this? Because communication is the foundation of a productive relationship.
Most developers enjoy interacting with machines rather than computers, so they may not be the best communicators. But as a business, do you really want to just hire a developer and only speak to them when the project is done? Didn’t think so. You must hire a firm that believes in constant, productive communication so that you are always informed about the project’s progress.
Another issue with communication, as mentioned earlier, is the website jargon. Developers literally speak a different language than non-developers, and this can make it tough for both parties to articulate details of the project. That is why I believe that education is a vital part of the process. When you are hiring a professional, you’re not only paying them to do something for you; you’re paying for access to their knowledge and expertise. Be sure to use it!
3. Lack of Budget.
Lack of proper budgeting for a web development project is understandable, as most businesses don’t understand the amount of time and effort that goes in to creating an amazing website. This does, however, go back to communication. If you set clear expecations on your budget up-front, it eliminates any disappointment upon completion of the project.
Communicate to your firm that you want a breakdown of all fees and the payment schedule BEFORE you sign a contract. Some firms are more transparent than others, but if you ask for a “full and complete breakdown of all fees and payment schedules”, then you’re getting out in front of potential miscommuncations. If your firm dances around this wuestion, or refuses to provide a thorough breakdown, then skip ’em- there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.
A word to the wise: web development is not cheapquestionts routinely cost in the thousands of USD, and potentially more. Have realistic expectations about what you need for your website, how much value you expect to derive from your website, and understand that this is an investment, not an expense. Your website is the face of your brand, promoting you 24/7 for years to come, so be sure to invest accordingly.
In web development, just like anything, you get what you pay for. Remember, you’re not just paying someone to build a website; you’re investing in a potential long-term partner and consultant that can guide you through the confusing world of the internet. Invest wisely!
4. Lack of Client Knowledge.
Web development is a tough field because oftentimes, the client DOESN’T know best. That’s not to say they’re ignorant or that they think they know best; it’s that they haven’t invested the time to learn about websites. We expect that, which is why us developers have a job in the first place. This can, however, be a struggle for developers, because, in service-based businesses, your job is to give your clients what they want.
When you’re hiring a web development firm, you have to make sure you are open to suggestions. You may think you know what’s best for your website because of a Google search or because a friend did it, but that’s not always the case. You need to work with a firm that you trust so that they can give you recommendations and explain alternative options. This way, you combine your knowledge of your industry and business with the firm’s knowledge of websites and the internet. This allows for maximum idea penetration and a wider range of possibilities.
5. Lack of Education.
I’m a big fan of consulting. I love the fact that I’m able to leverage my experience and knowledge to help people that need it. That’s why Lexco is different than many other web development firms: we’re not just order-takers, we’re consultants and advisors.
When you hire a web development firm, try to find a group that will educate you, not just do everything for you. If you allow them to educate you, then you’re empowering yourself to make any updates or edits without being at their beck and call. While I believe it’s best to hire a long-term web developer, I also think it’s important to be able to drive the car yourself so you’re not held up if the developers are unavailable or tending to other clients.
As stated earlier, hiring a web development firm is simlar to hiring any number of specialized services (accountants, lawyers, mechanics, etc.). Granted these specialists often charge premium prices, but that means that you get more than just a project completed; you get their time, their expertise, their suggestions. Make sure you use them.