Arthur C. Clarke said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. And Bret R. Treasure said, “some magicians charge too much”. If you are a client, and you don’t know much about the web, you’re at risk of paying a lot more than you should.
Here are a few getting-started tips for people who need a web site but don’t know much about technology.
1. Be honest about your own capabilities
If you’ve never created a web page yourself, if you’ve never heard of ftp and if the following sends shivers up your spine,
you’re at risk of not getting good value for money. The word ‘sucker’ appears on your forehead as soon as you open your mouth and after that, your fate depends on the ethics and business model of the person/company you’re dealing with. Not to put too fine a point on it, the price you pay can be three times too high if you get it wrong. So if think Joomla is state of the art or even, a movie, use a consultant to help you through the process. Declaration of interest: that’s what I do.
2. Work out with the consultant/developer what the hell you’re doing
Because if you just walk into a web developer and say ‘I need a web site’, some will give you an off-the-shelf solution that is efficient for THEM to deliver and profitable for THEM to deliver. Some think it’s NOT in their interest to spend a lot of time with you working out your business objectives but that’s what needs to happen. If you’re already very clear on it and you are completely up to date on web technologies; different thing. Read on anyway.
3. Do things in the right order
If you’re not using a consultant I still recommend working out your business plan with an objective third party before you talk to a web developer. If you don’t know what the web can do for you, sit down with your consultant/advisor and brainstorm it.
If you want good SEO, involve that person at the planning stage, not after you’ve chosen a graphic designer or platform. Then do steps 4, 5 and 6.
4. Get your peeps together
A web developer will probably say they can do the lot – believe me; that’s not necessarily a good outcome.
Here’s what you need:
(a) Someone who can write good content (b) A good graphic designer (c) A web developer with experience on your platform of choice. By ‘platform’ I mean what software you’re using to create and maintain the web site. Many developers only use one platform; it may be over/underpowered and it may be overly complicated. Choose your platform with your consultant and your developer. (d) An SEO person. Search Engine Optimisation is only necessary if you want people to be able to find you on Google. (e) You may also need a professional photographer because, no, the ones you took yourself are not good enough. Likewise for video.
If there are people you trust with these skills, build the project around them. If you have a copywriter whose style you like, insist that the web developer use them. Same applies to the graphic artist whose style you like.
5. Do the pen and paper thing
Create a flow chart showing how you think the site should work. That way you’ll know how much content you need and people will be able to cost it properly. The consultant can drive this.
6. Get some quotes
Show your plan, your resources and your flow chart to a web developer. Crunch the numbers and make a decision not on the basis of the cheapest price but on who gives you the most confidence.
7. Be afraid
– Graphic designers and web developers will often say they do SEO. Oh really?
– Some companies do everything in-house. Often means a lack of specialists and a factory-like approach.
– Freelancers may not have adequate business systems and structures.
– Make sure you ask who in the business is doing what. Understand the process they use.
– Make sure you ask who owns the intellectual property.
– Insist on a contract and make sure it spells out a cheap dispute resolution process.
– Make sure you ask what happens to your web site, its code and its passwords when their main man goes out of business/has a mental breakdown.
8. Be very afraid
The fixed price plans offered by web development companies are designed to suck you in and spit you out. You don’t need a 10 page web site with a template and an SEO package. You need a web strategy that improves your business and pays for itself very quickly.
Using individual specialists will almost certainly cost you less than an all-in-one solution from a larger firm and you’ll get a better result.