Websites: You Get What You Pay For!

So you finally decided to invest in a web presence or upgrade your current site? There are many available choices in "web designers" to choose from. This decision is an important one! You may have a relative or friend of a friend who will do your web site at a very low cost from the comfort of their house. At the same time you receive a quote of a higher price from a professional design house. Who do you choose? The first instinct is to always assume the lower price is a better choice. This article will discuss why this isn't always true, and why "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!"

After 5 years of web site development, I noticed a reoccurring response when I did project estimates. That being, "My sisters' neighbors' cousins' daughter has a friend who will do it for $300!"

Lets cover a few examples of the difference between an inexpensive, inexperienced "web dude" and a professional developer.

Quoting:

Throughout my experience in estimating websites, I have learned some valuable lessons. It's easy for the customer to look at the bottom line number on an estimate. What's more important however, is that the customer knows and understands exactly what they are getting for their money. There should never be any misunderstanding between a developer and a customer in regards to what exactly the project entails. The experience of the designer affords him/her to accurately estimate and communicate every aspect of the project to the customer. This avoids the very common customer concern of, "I thought that was included in the price!".

Understanding:

The relationship between a developer and their customer is very important. The more the customer understands and knows about the technology, methodology and limitations, the more comfortable they will feel. A professional developer understands that their customers are not "techies" for the most part, and beyond "surfing" the internet, they may not be aware of their options, or understand development terminology. A professional developer will offer terminology definitions, explanations, and details. The customer should understand every aspect of the scope of work, and understand why certain programming languages or methods are used.

Planning:

The success of the project lifecycle and its implementation is a direct reflection of the planning and pre-development decisions made. A professional developer focuses on the "big picture" from the very beginning stages. A developer should never assume anything in regards to what the customer wants. Professional planning encompasses documentation, flow charts, site layouts to name a few, and most importantly, inclusion of the customer throughout the planning. Knowing what the customer wants and expects is the key factor. This can be accomplished through surveying of the customer for information, including getting to understand their business, their mission, their vision, their likes and dislikes about other sites, and who their competitors are. The time spent on this is invaluable.

Communication:

Communication between the developer and the customer is critical for the success of the project. A "web dude" will assume too much without consulting the customer, or involving them in decisions. A professional communicates and documents every aspect of the project life cycle. This gives the customer the ability to be involved as much as they want, giving them a feeling of inclusion and reassuring them they made the right decision in hiring a pro. Detailed communication and documentation of conversations and decisions, ensures that all involved are "on the same page". This helps to derail issues and misunderstandings upon completion of the project.

Design:

Every "web dude" thinks they are great designers. Professional developers prove they are! This proof comes with vast experience, successful project completions, and a history of customer satisfaction. There are many different variables to consider when designing the "look" of a web site. Consideration is given to the company branding, or visually showcasing their "vision", and most importantly, understanding what the target market is, and what that market likes. A "web dude" will generally use the same methods and design basics for all the sites he/she does. This is all good and dandy, except that they don't reflect the image of their clients. You wouldn't expect a doctor's website to have the same "look and feel" of a high-energy nightclub, would you? Great design gives character and individuality to a web site.

Behind the scenes

Ok, so the "web dudes" tell you they are done with your website. Everything looks to be in order and working. However, what happens if you type in a page name that doesn't exist? How come the website is not appearing in any search engines? How much traffic am I getting, and how did they find my site? Where is the privacy policy, what is it, and why do I need it? What about copyright issues? Why am I receiving spam all of a sudden? Is my site secure? What about standards for visually impaired or cross browser display? These are just a few of the "behind the scenes" questions that professionals address with every site. These are the factors that will make the web site a success and give the customer a truly satisfied feeling that their investment was worth while.

Choosing your developer - summary

A couple key notes to remember when decision time comes are:

  • Look beyond the estimated price before making your decision!
  • How long has the developer been in business and will they be in business when support is needed?
  • Every developer MUST have a portfolio of completed work! Take the time to view the portfolio and the success of those sites.
  • Who are/were their customers? Has this designer ever done a project similar to the size and scope of yours?
  • Is the developer easily accessible for questions, meetings, or general concerns?
  • Will the developer be available in the future for support?

Comparison:

Although the analogy may be overused, I submit a comparison between a web site development project and the construction of a house. Although two houses may look identical in many ways on the outside upon completion, the real level of quality is apparent in what lies within. Solid construction, infrastructure, and quality of material are what give the home its true value. Just like a web site requires solid programming, functionality, dependability, management, and ease of scalability.

About the Author:

How do I know so much about this? My career in web development started 6 years ago, and by all respects I was a "web dude". Through trial and error, and over 50 web sites later, I have successfully become a professional developer by following these standards.

Greg Priemer
Professional Web Developer

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