Is Your Web Developer a Cowboy

What do you think of your web developer?

Over the last few years we have quietly, but at every opportunity, been asking this question to business owners, marketing directors and executives responsible for their company website whether for commissioning, developing or maintaining their online presence. We also asked if they were happy with the website that the developer had provided, or if they thought it was bringing tangible benefit to their business. The responses were sharply divided. It seems that the businesses’ experience of Web developers is like Marmite: you either love them or hate them.

Shockingly, over 80% of respondents reported a ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ experience of working with a website developer or designer. Many made comments that were very uncomplimentary toward their web developers. Some stated that they felt they had been, “Taken for a ride,” by those who had either baffled them with technology and jargon, or had – deliberately or otherwise – raised their expectations beyond what was feasible with the investment they were making. One had invested tens of thousands with a web development company to build an online presence for their business and now has a website that not only makes no contribution to any business objective, neither has it produced a single enquiry. The overall impression that we gained from our research to date and a term used by more than one unhappy respondent was that web developers are: “A load of cowboys.”

These poor experiences have a knock-on effect, not just for those who have been unhappy with their outcomes but for the web development and internet marketing industries as a whole. It results in an increased conviction that all web developers were likely to be the same, and that there was no-one out there who could be trusted. In addition, the inclination to invest any further resources and capital on online promotion of their business was greatly reduced. “We’ve done that and it didn’t work,” was a common response.

What do the web developers have to say?

To balance the picture we also surveyed web developers and web design companies to see if we could identify what had created this tale of woe from businesses.

Many were unaware of the situation and some were quite frank in their derision of business owners. Common responses included

  • “They don’t know what they are doing,”
  • “We’re not telepathic you know!”
  • “They don’t understand what is involved.”
  • “We never get the right information.”
  • “They keep changing their minds, often before the previous changes are completed.”

Each side seemed to blame the other for what might be interpreted as a straightforward breakdown in communication.

So why does this happen? There are no doubt numerous reasons, but focusing on the communication issue, we asked the web developers if they ever asked for, or received, a web design brief from their clients. The majority response was: “Rarely!” The design briefs received mostly consisted of a single page of vague information that lacked the detail and specifics required. Although they usually included requests for things that far exceeded the budget or amount the business owner was willing to spend and were full of wish lists and ‘good’ ideas that require bespoke development or even new technology (for the words ‘bespoke’ and ‘new’, read – interchangeably – ‘difficult’ and ‘expensive’)!

So whose job is it?

Isn’t it part of the web developers’ job to write the brief? Actually, no it isn’t, it is the responsibility of the business owner to communicate their requirements, their goals, their current situation and future plans. After all, as more than one developer pointed out, “We’re are not telepathic you know!”

In addition, the pressure of trying to keep a small web development business running (let alone in profit) in this ever increasingly competitive industry means that there is no time or other resources to be teaching the business owner how to write a web design brief, even though it would create a better outcome for everyone. For the majority of situations, there is often no clear or effective communication, more a case of asking questions of the business owner – which they often don’t understand clearly, which is no-ones fault – to get some sort of outline and then on with the job of designing and building the website.

Our experience – Web developer

Our experience indicates that the majority of web developers really want to do the best job they can for their clients.

They have the skills and knowledge to build websites that could work for their clients’ businesses. They have the equipment and resources to carry out the work. We also observe however that there are web developers who mistake the functionality of the software that they use for their own creative skills. Ultimately over a period of more than a decade we have encountered very few who would deliberately, “Take their client for a ride,” as some businesses have claimed.

Our experience – Businesses

Websites for businesses create a particular quandary for the business owner, manager or similar. There seems to be a huge barrier of technology and jargon to break through to be able to even speak the same language as the web development world. In addition, it is very difficult for anyone without extended experience to make any kind of value judgement about what is good or bad. Consider a different situation: whether you eat in a restaurant often or not, because you do eat every day, if you go into a restaurant, it is possible to make some kind of judgement as to whether you had a good experience, whether the food was good, whether the service was acceptable or excellent. Of course this is subjective to your own preferences and experiences, but at least you understand what a restaurant is, what it is supposed to do or be for and so on.

In our survey we ask a further question of businesses: “What is your website for, why did you get a website?” Very few offered any kind of clear response, the most common being: “Because we needed a website,” or “Because our competitors had one.” We also hear: “To generate sales/leads/enquiries etc.” quite often, which is at least focused on business, but is nowhere near specific enough to be called an objective.

If it is not common for businesses to even understand what the website is for, or why they are getting one developed, how can it be possible for them to make a judgment on what is good or bad, other than it produces no results. Even this judgement requires something to measure the results – or lack thereof – against.

Management by abdication

In so many cases the business abdicates responsibility for the website to a web developer in the mistaken belief that ‘they know best’. While the web developer knows about websites, they are likely to know little or nothing about the client’s business and even less about the customers who will use the website. Together with the lack of communication between the web developer and the business owner it is not difficult to see why so many websites are poorly designed, deliver bad user experiences and ultimately poor or no results for the business.

Is there a solution

The first step to a solution is to address the communication problem. It is clear that there must be effective communication and the first stage of this would normally take the form of a clear and concise website design brief.

The website design brief

The last time we reported on web design briefs we had surveyed 57 web development companies, further surveying has now brought this number to nearly 100. While everyone does it slightly differently, they all had information requirements in common.

Remember that:

  • The document needs to be clear and concise,
  • The document is prepared for someone outside your business who doesn’t necessarily know anything about your business or industry. Even if they claim to have worked in your industry before, unless they are specialists, then you should assume nothing.

Its purpose is to state clearly your requirements, including:

  • A profile of your business, its existing image, brand and products or other offerings including future plans
  • The objectives of the site – stated clearly in terms that can be measured, not woolly ‘to generate enquiries’ or similar, think detail and be specific.
  • The target market – who will be the users of the site, what will be their requirements?
  • Functionality requirements – often expressed as an outline, and as a business owner you may not be able to describe this well, but for example, do you require online payments and if so are you already accepting credit cards in your business. – remember, adding functionality usually increases cost far more than increasing the number of pages in the site.
  • The scale and scope of the development project – how big, how many pages, who will provide what and so on.
  • What are the project constraints, budget, timescale etc.

This document is not a wish list (although you could include things that you would like to do as well as but not instead of the above), it is the document that the developer works to and effectively forms part of your contract with them and is therefore subject to discussion and revision before being finalised.

In conclusion

The commissioning of a website is a much bigger project than appears at the beginning. Websites are not ‘job-and-finish’ projects. You need to form a good relationship with your web developer because you will be working with them for a long time, and the first step to a successful relationship is sorting out the communication. It is your business, if you have articulated clearly what you want, why your business needs it, and provided all the information the developer requires including realistic expectations, budgets and timescales then if it isn’t delivered to the brief then you can blame the web developer. Otherwise accept that it is your problem, not their fault that they are not telepathic.

Furthermore, you need to take responsibility for the project, but also recognise that the development of a website is a team game, not something to be simply handed over and then moaned about when it was not quite what you were thinking of.

Last word

If you are serious about selling online or using the internet to promote your business it is important to recognise that you need to make a considerable investment of time and effort or you might as well take your money and simply thrown up in the air!

Improve Your Web Development Business Strategies

Competitive entities have forced many companies to embrace new ways in order to attain the success they need in web application development. Utilization of policies and business strategies has now been implemented in order to contend with other companies and achieve the progress and development they seek in this venture. If your company wants to prosper in this industry, it is important to hire a programmer and developers that can professionally execute the technical process that you need. It is essential to have a great team of experts in this field given the tightness of the competition and by having quality programmers; you are guaranteeing the eventual success of your web application development venture.

There are priorities that might not be vital to a company but prove to be very efficient to the other. So if you are planning on engaging in this business, you should be able to recognize the necessity of your company and also the demands of your clients. It also helps if you have the prior knowledge about the market you will be diving into; this will make it easier and better for you to address any problems and difficulties that you might encounter in the long run. Another thing that you should also look into is the quality of your team; always hire a programmer and developer that can provide your company the leverage of professional and on time delivery of their outputs.

There are several things that might ease up the burden of hiring programmers. You can also plan out strategies on how and where to find the best services available. Before you hire a programmer, always make sure that you have the time and financial capacity to invest in a quality team. The success of your web application development does not merely rely on your ability to manage your company but also rests on the output and end results of your programmers and developers.

How to Start a Web Development Business

Commonly, web development can be a lucrative venture that can increase your revenue if you know how to do it. First of all, it is important to get yourself a formal online education in this particular field of study in order to become a certified web developer that is provided by some online accredited colleges. When you have completed your studies, you would like to gain more experiences by working under an organization that needs your expertise. If you have qualities of an entrepreneur, you can actually start your own business. For business startups, it is reasonable to build an emergency fund so that you can have some money aside for any risks in which can possibly occur in any business.

Therefore it is wise that you keep your day job before the business is well-established and it could generate income on long term basis. Other than that, keeping your day job allows you to gain more influence over clients because you will not sound that “hard-sell” to your clients. Besides that, it helps you to lessen your burden especially when you start a new business and you are required to overcome some unforeseen problems.

By having enough relaxation, you will be able to produce excellent results. Like any entrepreneurs, you need to sketch out a business plan that includes your objectives and goals and the kind of niche market that you want to target. In terms of setting rates for your services, you can either charge your clients either by the project or the hour. You can even bring in other criteria like set pricing and sliding scale. Flat rates are good for most people and can make things easier to handle.

Web Development Outsourcing

Outsourcing is the way many industrially developed companies are doing business today. This has created a boom in the offshore web development business running into billions of dollars. Web development has been outsourced to many less developed countries at rates that are far more competitive than could be done in a developed country.

The boom has resulted in a proliferation of IT companies offering a wide range of services in outsourcing web development. Outsourcing has some distinct advantages as is evidenced with the plethora of industries which outsource as a more cost-effective alternative.

What Is Outsourcing Web Development?

Outsourcing web development is a generic term which covers a vast umbrella of activities from developing a simple, single page of static, ordinary text to highly complex web-related internet applications, social network services and electronic business applications. It also embraces e-commerce solutions, corporate websites, CMS and other web-based applications.

Companies across the spectrum of industry resort to outsourcing as a cost-effective business tool. These include IT companies, aircraft manufacturers, medical and pharmaceutical companies, banks and retail companies, to name but a few.

The way outsourcing web development works is by the developing company identifying a client’s needs and designing and developing a solution which fits. For successful development this must necessarily be a collaborative effort blending with mutual understanding in a mature environment. While there are many distinct advantages, outsourcing also has inherent disadvantages. Some of the pros and cons are elaborated below.

Advantages

– A cost effective alternative

– Possess a significant talent pool

– Generate productive results

– Quick turnaround time

– Familiarity with a wide range of scripting languages and platforms

– Customized to a client’s requirement

Disadvantages

– Possible security risk

– Creates unemployment

– Resistance from own employees and clients

– Difficulty in communication

Many overseas companies offer turnkey design and development services relying on well-established in-house research and development centers. Web development services include functions like web content development, web design, client-side/server-side scripting, client liaison, e-commerce development, network security and web server configuration.

Set Your Web Development Business

You have heard employee layoff news lately and you might be wondering whether you will be able to retain your day job during this economic downturn. Every one of us needs security in which means getting better salary, job promotion and brighter prospect. In this moment, you are feeling insecure about your future as you are required to work more than usual and you are still getting the same salary.

If you have web development skills, you are capable to prosper by setting your own business. Initially, it requires proper planning and procedures if you want to start your own business within short period of time.

Step 1: Start researching for information from related resources

You have to use your internet search engine browser to seek suitable information about setting up your new business. Therefore, you need more time to filter out irrelevant information as well as gather all the relevant information in your computer. It could probably takes few hours (perhaps less than 48 hours) to compile the important information about small business startups.

It is plausible to set up an emergency fund first so you can have some money aside for the dry spells which can occur in any business. You can also try not to leave your day job before the business is well set and brings you a regular amount of money. This will also help you gain more leverage over clients because you will not sound desperate.

Step 2: Start doing freelancing work in the beginning

Operating your business can be done at home and it is not necessary for you to rent an office. You have to reduce your startup cost as low as possible and renting a small office room can be indeed costly. In this moment, it is normal that you work at home and you will be able to have a casual working environment that can boost your productivity at work.

Step 3: Start looking for clients

You need to start searching for clients via internet marketing forums. This is how you promote or offer your service to the forum members. Other than that, you can also advertise your web development service via free classifieds website like Craiglists.