I know many coaches and practitioners who had bad experience when they work with some “web guy” to develop their websites. Most of the frustrations evolve around taking much longer than initially estimated, being charged way more than the initial quote, certain functionalities not working as expected (and not being fixed without further charges), or the developer holding the clients “hostage” by not giving them access or showing them how to use the website editing tools. I even know a person who, after sinking thousands of dollars, walked away with a half-finished website that she has to keep building on her own.
This is absolutely not to say that all website developers are bad people – there are of course awesome ones out there! I was very happy with my own experience – this website was set up for less than $200 – on time, on budget, no glitches. But you can’t just grab a web dude and hope for the best. You need to know what to ask, what to look for and also TAKE RESPONSIBILITY to educate yourself so you can ensure smooth communication.
Here are a few things you can do to increase the chances of having satisfactory experience and results when you work with someone to build your website (I worked as a web project manager for 10 years so trust that I know a thing or two… I can’t code my way out of a wet paper bag but I can sniff developer BS from miles away):
- Start SMALL – if possible, you can ask a few candidates to work on some small tasks and see who is on-time, on-budget and responsive. Then based on the experience (and the vibe) select “the” one to do your big project.
- Pay attention to the SCOPE – if your scope is “time & materials” – i.e. you are charged by the hour – you may want to set a cap on how much you want to spend before the project begins. Have the web guy do some periodic reporting and ask that you be alerted if you are likely to go over budget so you can prioritize your tasks and get the mission-critical stuff done (the very least, you have the basics to launch). If your scope is “fixed fee” – i.e. you are charged a flat fee for a fixed set of deliverables – review the scope carefully to make sure that everything you need to get the site to launch is covered, and you will get the support you need post-launch.
- Clarify OWNERSHIP and access – not common these days, but I have heard stories of developers retaining ownership of the site and withholding access so every time the client needs to change something they need to pay for the work. To make sure you are not held “hostage”, or have to pay another fee to “buy” your site back, it’s best to get clear on ownership.
- Make sure site is MOBILE RESPONSIVE – most wordpress themes are mobile responsive, but again, it pays to be sure because more and more people are using mobile devices to access content online.
- Know how much TESTING (or QA) support you get – ask about the extent of testing. E.g. Is he going to do cross-browser testing? Is he going to test the site on mobile devices? Is he going to test all the functionalities (e.g. newsletter sign up, shopping cart)? Although there is much less cross-browser incompatibility with the widespread use of wordpress, you do need to pay attention to any customization – e.g. I know someone who had her site redesigned – it looks gorgeous on the computer, but when it’s viewed on the iPad, the free gift sign up field is smacked right over her face on the masthead banner!
- Get a 30-Day WARRANTY – glitches get uncovered when you actually use the site! Your web guy should stand by his work and guarantee to fix bugs within a reasonable amount of time after delivery.
- Ask for a backend WALKTHROUGH – you want to be able to make changes and edit your own website. You don’t want to be held hostage every time you need to add or change any content. It is not just a matter of money – you will feel empowered and you are more nimble in your content creation and marketing.
- Be ASSERTIVE, ask QUESTIONS* – don’t assume you are “dumb”… a lot of tech guys use terms that we normal people don’t use and when you don’t understand something, ask for an explanation in plain English!
- EDUCATE yourself on the basics – you don’t have to know how to code, but understanding the basics, knowing what to ask and using the correct terminologies can help facilitate the process. There will be fewer chances of miscommunication – which can lead to your web guy building something totally different that what you *think* you are getting, wasting precious time and money. I also find that developers show you more respect and are less likely to give you BS if you take the initiative to know your part.
- Know your RESPONSIBILITY – what is the deadline to provide content and images so the project can stay on track? When do you need to review the site on staging and provide feedback? When do you need to participate in testing? Mark these dates on your calendar and make sure you set aside time to do your job.
Do you have to purchase hosting at your end? What other log-in information do you need to provide? Any information you need to provide, consolidate them in one document or one email as much as possible so your developer can find them easily. Be cooperative – it will make your web guy’s job easier and he will be more likely to get back to you in a timely manner (who wants to deal with client-from-hell?)
If you use wordpress, codeable.io is a great resource where you can find coders who are experts in wordpress. You post your task, set your budget, and they will bid on the project. I love it for small projects and quick fixes.
* what that asterisk by the “be assertive, ask questions” is about:
Even if some people *know* they need to be assertive and thorough, they don’t do it and then later hit themselves on their heads. Why? Something is causing this self-defeating behavior and this thing is called “primary fear”:
- The fear of INADEQUACY – if you feel like you are not good enough, you don’t have the confidence to challenge others. You may not want to ask questions because it may reaffirm your limiting belief that you don’t know enough.
- The fear of being VULNERABLE – if you don’t want to appear vulnerable, you may “puff up” and appear that you know. You don’t want to ask questions that make you appear that you are not knowledgable.
- The fear of MISSING OUT – if you are afraid that if you don’t “act now” and get it now you may miss out on something – and this fear drives you to make hasty decisions before you have all the facts.
Want to overcome these fears? Check out this self-guided program to help you release your fears.