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How to Be A Good Web Firm Consumer

How to Be A Good Web Firm Consumer

lifehack-web

    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 April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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