When it comes to web development; buyer beware. Few experiences as a business owner are more frustrating than sorting out the purchase of a web site. You enter into a different world where developers speak a different language than you, and you are unarmed to navigate this complex form of business. When you buy a web site, understand first that you are buying a person and everything that person knows about building a web site. You are buying their skill-set . All web developers are not created equally. There are many different programming languages and they give you different features, and advantages or disadvantages. You need to do your homework! Before I get to all of that, let’s focus on bare basics.
What not to do:
Don’t go for the inexperienced web developer who is going to build your web site for $500. The price may be right but unless you need a simple web page with minimal features, they will not produce a professional page for you.
Don’t do it yourself. The Internet is not there yet. You cannot build a web site yet, by yourself, without hours of lost sleep and frustration. The day is coming, but no—not yet.
Don’t feel like you have to exceed $10,000 for a site either. Many times what you buy for that hefty price is an agency fee of 20% and a talented graphic designer. If you need a graphic designer to do a layout for you, you can still hire one, but certainly not at a price tag like $10,000. Pay them by the hour. That will cost you between $150-$1000.
What to do:
Buy a domain name. If you have your web developer do this for you, he’s going to charge you for it. Go to http://networksolutions.com. Arrow down to the web address box and start searching domain names. You can buy this yourself right online.
Create a site map of everything you would like include in your web site. This will give you an idea of how many pages you will need on your site. 10-12 pages is generally a standard web site. Common site elements include (but are not limited to):
• Welcome Page
• Frequently Asked Questions
• About the company page
• Product page
• Careers (open jobs)
• Privacy Statement/general legal
• Contact us page
There are unlimited possibilities! Look around!!!
The fraud rate is VERY HIGH in web development; some estimates are as high as 20%. You have a lot of people with the best of intentions who swear they can deliver what you need. Many don’t mean to be fraudulent; they simply lack the skills to complete the job. So, instead of saying “I can’t do it” they panic, take your money and run. They don’t intend to rip you off, but sure as day, they do. Experience counts. If your web developer has 100 sites, and has been in business 4 or more years, you will benefit from that experience. Even if a web developer has only have 2-5 years of experience, in the lifespan of the Internet, that’s a sufficient amount of time to be in business. An experienced web developer won’t waste your time figuring out what to do—they will KNOW.
All web developers are essentially in business for themselves. They are self employed. This means they require timely payment for services. This also means, they hold your online business fully in their hands. (I used a different body part at first but decided to tone my article down.). They can shut down your web site in the blink of an eye if you do not produce payment on a timely basis. It happens every day. By all means, keep current with your web developer.
Understand the purpose for your web site before you ever go shopping. Are you trying to do online sales of your product? Are you trying to generate sales leads? Are you trying to educate the public about what your product does? Are you trying to brand your product online? Choose a focus and stick to it. You can always do more, later. Don’t try to do everything all at once. You’ll end up with a very confusing web site.
Ways to protect yourself:
Always review an online portfolio of customers before you buy. Make sure you contact past customers to get a reference for your web developer. Find out what they did well, what they did poorly, and how they feel about doing business with this person in the future.
Always get it in writing. If you have a written signed contract establishing terms, then if something goes wrong, you have a legal document protecting you instead of your word versus their word.
Here is an online resource for a web site contract: http://www.findlegalforms.com/forms/website-design-agreement/
Many cities have resources for finding reputable web developers who have a proven record of doing business successfully in that market. Stick with someone who has a good, honest reputation. Start with your local chamber of commerce. They may be able to direct you to a professional technology group that can provide solid credentials.
Web sites are expensive. Mistakes cost you dearly. Go in with your eyes wide OPEN!