So you’ve hired a web firm to design your new web site. Now what? Today I’m completing my Business Web Series and talking about what you can do to be a good consumer of web site developers and designers.
Just like most business owners have tales of woe from having their web sites designed, most web developers and designers have stories of their own. Educate yourself, hire the right experts to help you through this process, and hold up your end of the bargain and you may sail through without being the star of one of the web firm’s horror stories (or your own!).
1. Negotiate knowledgeably.
When you get a quote from a web firm, it just makes good sense to shop around. But when you shop around, compare apples to apples. Comparing a quote from an American firm, where you’ll most likely have an English-speaking team to work with, with a quote from a firm in a Third World country, where living expenses are a fraction of U.S. costs, just isn’t fair. You don’t want to approach your web firm with, “Why does it cost this much, when I can have a site built in India for $300?”
Also, if you’re working with that rare breed of web firm where you’ll get both web strategy advice and search engine optimization, you simply cannot compare the pricing with your standard web design firm. So make sure you’re comparing like quotes before you consider asking for a price match.
2. Hold up your end of the bargain.
One of the most frustrating things for a web developer is when the client doesn’t provide timely feedback. In many cases, when you hire a web firm, you pay for part of your web site upfront, then you have to pay the rest just before launch. If you’re not providing timely feedback, not only are you holding up the launch and jeopardizing your timeline, but you’re also keeping your team from getting paid. In this economy, that’s not good for anyone. So make sure you pay your bills on time and provide responsive, useful feedback quickly to keep things moving along.
In addition, if you haven’t hired the web firm to provide you with content or copywriting, make sure you provide them with your content in a timely manner. The last thing you want is for your web site to be held up because you haven’t delivered the materials, or worse, launch without content. Make sure you
3. Be smart and educate yourself.
I recently talked with a potential client who’d been spending hundreds of dollars each month for a firm to “do search engine optimization” on her web site. She had no idea what that meant, but kept paying them anyway. In the meantime, this firm hadn’t touched her code or her copy, two of the hallmarks of a pretty substantial scam in my book.
I’m not suggesting that every small business owner should know everything about what constitutes good or bad SEO. If you don’t have the time or the technical know-how to educate yourself in what your web site needs or to learn enough to know when you’re being scammed, then you need a trusted adviser who does know these things and can watch over your project and protect your interests.
4. Don’t be swayed by “pretty.”
This one isn’t so much about being a good web consumer for your developer’s benefit as being a good consumer for your business. Too many business owners today are persuaded that “pretty” is the most important part of their web design. It’s not.
An attractive web site certainly is important, but it’s not the most important thing. There are specific business elements and “screen real estate” issues
like what goes “above the fold” that you need to pay attention to as well. And these things may be even more important than “pretty.” Stay too focused on the appearance of your site and you’ll likely end up with a site that doesn’t meet your business needs and has poor usability. Instead, try to strike a balance between the appearance of the site and meeting your business goals. Again, if you don’t know how to do this, hire someone who does.
Having a web site designed can seem like a harrowing experience for many business owners. The investment in a strong web site can seem substantial for the micro-entrepreneur, especially considering the many potential pitfalls. That said, if you don’t have the time, inclination, or tech-savvy spirit to learn what you need to know to avoid those pitfalls and be a good consumer (for your own good, as well as the good of your design firm), hire an expert who can navigate the process for you and help you meet your business goals.