Why you SHOULDN’T sack your web designer

Web developers have copped some flak lately. But often businesses that ask the wrong questions only get wrong answers. Here’s how to get the best from your web developer. By CRAIG REARDON

By Craig Reardon

Don't sack your web developer

Web developers have copped some unnecessary flak lately – unnecessary because businesses that ask the wrong questions only get wrong answers. Here’s how to get the best from your web developer.

The vitriol was flying thick and fast around SmartCompany HQ last week, and not just because the coffee machine was on the blink.

My article on why you should sack your web designer (see below for handy definitions of these words) drew a strong chorus of protest from members of our web design industry. Some even threatened to stop reading SmartCompany, which I found odd coming from one person purporting to be from a chamber of commerce – who I thought would be grateful for someone trying to save their members some money.

I actually felt I was doing them a favour. Better to be prepared for the influx of competition than be confronted by a furious client rightly wondering why they were charged five or more times what they should have. As a former website project manager and writer, this is a position I was once in till I decided to join the “off-the-shelf” invaders rather than try and beat them.

But before you designers decide to throw a brick through my Windows, there are still some very good reasons to use a “traditional” web designer. Here are just a few.


You are in an image-conscious industry

While in many cases there is nothing worse than an over-animated, noisy and poorly navigated website, there are some industries that can reasonably justify a site that is big on creative and low on basic functionality and navigation.

These industries are usually those that are high on passion and image, where their visitors are highly impressed by expensive design and movement and appreciate an artistic interpretation of the product, artist or celebrity.

But that is often no excuse for good usability or reasonable charges.


You require an unusual piece of technology

The magic that good designers and developers can create can be astonishing. To see your idea come to life and often exceed your expectations is as exciting as business communications can get.

One local developer and self confessed techno-geek (also now a fellow SmartCompany blogger) once created a fantastic multimedia console that allowed you to watch a live webcast feed from a concert, chat with fellow viewers and view a slideshow of the proceedings in one purpose-built console. Nothing new today of course, but in 1998 was absolute cutting edge.

So if you want a functionality that is “just so”, developers will be your best friends. Just don’t expect to pay chicken feed.


Your site is very complex

Sometimes a website requirement is so complex that no off-the-shelf solution can do the job. Or so much time is spent trying to find a “workaround” that a good developer will be more affordable.

But I stand by my claim that given the sophistication of today’s off-the-shelf websites or eMarketing solutions, the vast bulk of SME requirements do not require custom development.


Your website designer is cheap

Several years ago I referred a friend to a very good, affordable web designer. Only recently I was astonished to find that he was still hiring her services despite the influx of great off-the-shelf solutions since then.

When I quizzed him on this, he told me that this was the only change he had made in five years and she was charging him $45 an hour.

For once I had to concede that in his case it would be difficult to do better.


Your website will hardly ever require changing

As per the last point, if you already have a good website that rarely needs changing, you may not recover the cost of switching to a good off-shelf solution.

But if your site requires an overhaul, it’s definitely worth getting a price to switch to an off-the-shelf solution that will save you thousands in the long run.

Again, if in doubt with any of the above points, get independent advice.

Can you think of any other reasons an hourly rate designer is preferable to a professional off-the-shelf solution? Then let’s hear them. Just hit the following feedback link and let me know.


Useful terms

Web designer

Anyone from a graduate of the CAE Dreamweaver class to a seriously clever computer programmer. This title has been claimed by them all!

Off-the-shelf solution

Also known as “software as a service” (SaaS), application service provider (ASP), pre-built. Essentially software solutions where the functionality has already been built and requires only graphic design and content to operate.


A live “streaming” video feed requiring a PC and internet connection.


Alternative technical means of achieving desired result – often utilised with off-the-shelf solutions.


Promoting your business via any online method.

Independent advice

Either independent consultants or webmasters independent of any one technology, platform or supplier.


Read more web secrets


Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built’ website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond. www.theeteam.com.au


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