So your nephew/daughter/mate/neighbour wants to build your new website – there is a chance that this well-meaning person is a digital guru, but it’s awfully slim.
The other day I got an email that every digital professional dreads getting, but one they are equally accustomed to receiving anyway.
It went something like this:
I really appreciate the time and effort you invested in coming out to see me and then quoting on our new website.
But my nephew is very handy with computers and I really think I owe it to him to have a shot at it.
His work is really quite impressive but he isn’t so strong on search optimisation so I’m hoping you might be available to assist with this later on.
I will be back in touch then….
When you specialise in the smaller business market, this is not an uncommon response.
And you can understand the basic rationale.
Why should I pay four or five times the price that my nephew/daughter/mate/neighbour is charging me to build the same website?
Many of you will know the answer to this without reading on.
But unless your well meaning friend or relative is a truly qualified and/or experienced digital professional, here are some of the reasons why.
Comparing apples to apples
My quote was to custom design, content develop and optimise and otherwise ‘build’ a 10-page website. But with it came its ‘technology infrastructure’ or platform – a professional, integrated and affordable content management system, image gallery tool, eCommerce system, email marketing system and a range of other capabilities, all with due training and support – all of which will create considerable savings later as the customer can manage the website themselves and enjoy free upgrades, technical support and so on.
It also came with (in our case) 20+ years in professional corporate communications, 15 of which have been in digital.
However, many people new to websites tend to focus on the former ‘deliverable’ – the 10-page custom-designed website and not the now critical underlying technology platform and related benefits.
What this means is that the customer has to return to the web developer every time they want to make an alteration. And over time this can mount up to some serious expenditure.
There is a good chance that this is what the nephew might have been proposing – leaving the customer completely exposed to the time, cost and inconvenience of future alterations.
Another tendency of those new to websites is to place too much emphasis on the design of the website at the expense of pretty much everything else. This is usually because as a web user, that’s the most visible component to them – not all the content development, optimisation and technology etc that is not obvious until you have been through the process of building a professional website.
There is no question that the design should be as professional as possible. But it’s just one of myriad factors that need to be considered when choosing a website provider, including, but not restricted to: usability; maintainability; technology features; extensibility; assurance; support; search engine friendliness; integration between features and so on.
When it comes to the choice of technology platform, my business works hard to be as impartial as possible in making recommendations to our clients. Our recommendations are based on investigating and using more than 20 platforms over 10 years, including both open source and proprietary systems for more than 350 smaller business clients.
So when we make a recommendation, it comes from a place of strong experience with similar businesses.
Unfortunately though, this impartial and ‘agnostic’ approach is not common within the industry, and certainly not to those starting out. For example, nine times out of 10, open source platform WordPress is simply assumed to be the platform of choice. However, in our experience it suits only around one in 10 clients as there is usually a more suitable platform for the requirements and budget of the business client.
I wonder how many platforms the nephew assessed in arriving at their recommendation?
There are no friends in business
It’s amazing how many clients return to us after their experience with their family member or friend. Not only do we find ourselves salvaging what may well be a near disaster, but the client has the unpleasant task of salvaging the relationship from a similar state.
I’ve always found the old chestnut of ‘no friends in business’ kind of harsh. But when it comes to many business activities, it is often the harsh reality.
Better to pay a little more and keep your relationships intact, than create a nightmare in both working and after hours.
Of course, the nephew in question may well be a reliable and experienced web professional. And if all of the above was genuinely taken into consideration and our estimate was still inferior, I heartily congratulate and salute them.
And I certainly don’t want to be seen as having a cheap shot at those carving out a career for themselves. We all have to start somewhere and what better experience than working on a real-life website project.
But with the number of people coming out of high school or an online course calling themselves a web professional, it’s important to understand what you are truly receiving for your hard-earned investment.
The best advice I can offer is to treat them like any other supplier and if they still come out on top, by all means go with them.
Just be sure to keep business and pleasure separate in the process.
Craig Reardon is a writer, educator and operator of independent web services firm for SMEs, The E Team.