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!

10 Web Development Tips to Better Your Website Success

The most common mistake any company or individual can make when venturing out on a new website project is to assume that design is everything. I can assure you that your website’s design on its own is not what will make you successful.

A quality and professional web development service is what will affect the success of your site and its online objectives. High standards (above industry) are developed for a reason, and that is to ensure the product and service you receive is of paramount quality and to a professional level, so that your website will function as intended and provide the right return on investment.

Too many businesses that are relying on the success of their website to help drive their business will bypass the crucial step of dealing with a professional development company based on price.

In this article I will reveal 10 tips to choose the right development company and how it will better your project’s success.

10 Tips to Choose the Right Web Development Company

  1. Track Record – Choose a company that has an established track record. Generally a web company that has more than 15+ websites that they have designed or developed in-house with case studies to show their achievements. Any qualifications or awards won will also help establish this.
  2. Methodology – Ensure your chosen company has a strong web development methodology or process. This means that when your chosen company develops your website you can track the progress of your project and ensure all key quality standards are covered.
  3. Usability – Design does play a heavy role in the development of your web project. Ensure the company you choose has strong visitor usability and user-friendly interaction knowledge. Usability is how visitors will interact with your website and how effectively they reach your end goal.
  4. Development Team – The company you choose should have an in-house development team. Don’t use a company that is going to send your project work off to another country or other out-sourced web companies. You don’t want to be chasing an invisible rabbit down a hole should things be affected by an unforeseen event.
  5. Design Team – Your web company ideally should have an in-house design team, unless you are dealing with another individual or company for design. This tip relates to tip 3, if your web company has a designer in-house this will better the success of the project as the development will mirror the design better and its objectives.
  6. SEO – Choose a web development company that has an understanding of search engine optimization. Another important factor to any web projects success is making sure the company you deal with knows about SEO and how it will affect your website.
  7. Social Media – Social media is a new form of marketing and can drive great results. Dealing with a web developer that understands this can help you drive better traffic and alternative forms of login.This tip applies to socially active websites and e-commerce based projects.
  8. Content – Content is the biggest thing that pushes your website and draws in your visitors. Content will be the main thing that will sell your services or product, the company you deal with should have good development techniques to structure content effectively.
  9. E-commerce – Choose a web development company that has e-commerce experience. E-commerce is fast becoming the biggest way to make money online, how your customers make payments is very important. Make sure you deal with a development company that can recommend and implement the best payment methods available.
  10. Support – The most important tip to date, your development company must be able to support you as a customer and provide ongoing maintenance and service. Work with a company that is going to be around a year from the time you employ them, too many customers I have met have been left in limbo because the company or individual they were dealing with has gone bust or skipped the country to leave you in the middle of nowhere.

In summary there are a number of aspects to take into consideration before making your web developer choice. I am confident this article with the above 10 tips will help you qualify the best company to deal with for your new web project.

The majority of the 10 tips should already be covered by your chosen development company, but it does not hurt you to double-check. I highly recommend you ask your chosen company questions based on my 10 tips above, this will help establish them as the right business to deal with.

All successful web projects are a result of planning and evaluating, failing to plan and evaluate your development choices could mean failure of your website.

Choose wisely and approach everything smartly, remember if you put in the leg/foot work to start with, you will reap the benefits later.

The Most Underused Component in Web Site Advertising Web

Marketing Series

Perhaps the most powerful component of any Web site sales copy is the use of testimonials. Inserted in your sales copy, unbiased words of praise from satisfied customers have the following potent effect for your prospect. Effective testimonials;

Rationalize your prospect’s buying decision GOOGLE ADSENSE Back up the claims you make for your product or service
Vouch for the benefits of your product or service.
However, despite their clout as an influential sales tool, it is amazing how many clients fail to effectively gather and use this precious commodity. Some tips for including this essential component in your future promotions.

· Whenever a great unsolicited testimonial from a customer crosses your desk, contact the customer for permission to use all or part of it in your marketing campaign. And also request a photo.

· Always include the full name, as well as address under the testimonial.

· Be proactive in soliciting testimonials from your customers. Send personal letters or notes to your customer list indicating you are updating your marketing program and would be grateful for comments about what they liked most about your product or service. Phone surveys are also an option. Elicit the reasons they purchased your product, the three features or characteristics they like most about it (and why), and the product’s strongest feature, More importantly, ask them how the product or service has most benefited them; e.g. how it saved them time, money or frustration. And of course, solicit any comments they have on what they would like to see changed.

Note a secondary benefit of such an approach; learning things about your product or service that can be improved or corrected.

· Of course, if you are not receiving testimonials from customers, find out why. The problem is most likely with your product or service. Improve that and the testimonials will come…as well as increased sales!

Sprinkled throughout your sales copy, testimonials provide a compelling reason for purchasing your product or service. A good rule of thumb is; include 1-3 testimonials for each product or service benefit. A collection of testimonials can also be included as a separate stand-alone piece of your promotional package.

Wherever you place them, make sure each testimonial adheres to the four golden rules…

Be specific

Stick with one benefit per testimonial

Make sure all claims are believable

Keep the testimonial targeted to your audience, excluding anything
irrelevant or offensive.

Copyright Alan Richardson

Planning A Website Launch: Aspects Of Web Development And Web Designing

Web Development process of a website is a series of steps which is generally completed via firms which develops websites professionally. This is both advised and followed, as web development and web designing needs a lot of technical knowledge as well as expertise for efficiency. But it doesn’t mean that you will be totally dependent on the web development firm for the whole process, you can plan ahead about the website. Get the rough designs in shape so that you are able to convey exactly what you want.

Here are a few tips to help you design your website before the actual web development.

Firstly, know what you want, a structure of website should be clear in your mind so that you can efficiently communicate the same to the web development team that is going to work on the project. This includes both design and functionality of the website. Web designing can be done with as much creativity and originality that you can possibly imagine in your mind. Original and positive ideas always click with the audience, copied ideas can be easily recognized and it will cause a negative publicity about your website. That is why you should know what you want.

Secondly, you may visit numerous websites to get an understanding of all that is possible with your designs and functionality, but this should be limited to generation of understanding on how the web works. Taking ideas from already established websites is always a bad idea. Your website should have a unique quotient, which will be the reason your customers will visit it repeatedly. Web development majorly deals with the functionality of the website and it can be used to integrate different functionality in the website. These will change the feel of the website, and this could be the unique quotient that has been mentioned above.

While making a plan on the website designing, you also need to think about the theme of the whole website. The theme should preferably be relevant to the services/product that your company is dealing. Even otherwise the theme creates an elegance and beauty in the site when efficiently produced through web designing procedures. Nothing too illustrious or dazzling will work to attract customers to visit the website repeatedly.

Also while deciding the theme to be implemented through web designing, the color combination should be considered as really important. The colors used throughout the website should not be too bright that they pinch the vision or too dull that you have to strain the eyes to read the content. Good web designing firms will always give you design portfolios to choose from and they can be a good source of selecting the theme and theme colors.

The content rules the web; you should prepare the content that will be put on the website. The content can be efficiently handled via a CMS or Content Management System, which can be developed by the firm which is doing the web development for your website. When dealing with huge amounts of content it is always advisable to get a CMS developed by the web development firm so that it is easier for you to manage the content throughout the website.

Lastly, don’t think about web development and web designing as different procedures, make your web development firm interact with you on daily basis while planning as well as development is taking place so that they understand exactly what you need and you understand exactly what is being produced for you. Get into the development process so that a clear understanding is developed in your mind about the product that is being developed for you.

Planning your website, before the actual development procedures are kick started by the web designing and web development firm, is as crucial the actual product development so get your game shoes on.

Free Web Site Advertising – What’s More Effective, PPC Ads Or Articles?

Everybody knows just how effective PPC (pay-per-click) ads are because you only pay for targeted clicks that find their way to your site and will usually end up with a very high conversion rate. And everybody knows that if you write the articles yourself and know how to use them, promotional articles can be classified as free web advertising. But can something free be more effective than PPC ads?

Most folks are sure that free web advertising can never be more effective than Pay-per-click? But let’s do the math, shall we.

Imagine for a moment a well-written SEO article done by an expert who understands how to use articles. Usually it would be capable of giving you a huge response almost immediately and will then continue to give you a steady stream of clients for years to come. Let us assume that you went overboard and paid a writer-expert $17 for the article. After you get only 1,000-targeted visitors to your site, the actual cost will be 1.7 cents per click. What would you have paid if you used PPC? 10 cents perhaps? And that’s if you are very lucky? But even that is a lot more than 1.7 cents.

There is something that you should keep in mind here. These are no curiosity clicks we are referring to here (the kind that banner ads are notorious for churning out) but highly targeted prospects that have already been pre-sold by the article before arriving at your site, so most of them are usually already interested in your product or service. The truth is that some articles get tens of thousands of hits in the course of one year. (Check out this one for instance, scroll to the bottom to see the counter. By the way this site is EzineArticles the most popular article directory in the world.) 10,000 hits would mean that a click works out at less than 0.017 cents!

Some quick math will clearly tell you that not only are promotional articles much cheaper than any PPC ads, they are also MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE.