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How to Be A Good Web Firm Consumer

How to Be A Good Web Firm Consumer

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    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!).

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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