Most business owners are now recognizing the importance of a web presence. Even if it’s merely launching a social media profile, or claiming a listing in an online directory, those who once held out for this “web thing” to fade are dipping their toes into internet marketing. Ideally, a business should always have a “home base” online—that is, its own website. But this growing need for just about everyone to have a web presence means there are also a ton of website companies vying for your business. The results? Well, they vary. And we’ve witnessed some horror stories. Have you been burned by a web developer?

How to Have a Bad Web Development Experience

A website is only as effective as the development process that goes into it. There needs to be significant homework for both parties (the business client and the developer), and everyone needs to be on the same page. And there are ways to practically guarantee the project will get derailed.

  • Get hung up on design. Many individuals and even companies that sell website services come from a design background—and one that was based in print, and later on a pixel-perfect one-screen size layout. They promise you a pretty site with wow-factor visual impact, and work from an “if you build it, they will come” philosophy. Unfortunately, if you go down this path, with a design-first focus, many of the factors that truly determine the success of a website can get swallowed up in colors, fonts, layouts, multimedia, and so on… and your budget will take a huge hit. That’s not to say you can’t have an attractive website, but putting design considerations first in this web era can sink the ship.
  • Have too many decision-makers. You’ve heard the adage about “too many cooks”? Choose the web decision-making team carefully. Efficiency translates to money. And there needs to be a balance between pet interests and meeting goals. To ensure a nightmare of a process, give everyone who wants input to have their say.
  • Don’t set any goals. If your primary web development goal is to get it done, you’re in trouble. If you don’t go into the project with real business goals, you’re likely to waste a lot of money. And to ensure you’ll be paying for a site rebuild soon, go ahead and hire a developer who also doesn’t ask (or care) about your goals.
  • Don’t ask your customers questions. Who is the website for? If your answer is the CEO or another executive, you are on target to fail when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers and encouraging them to do business with you.
  • Don’t take ownership of any of the website assets. You probably know the mail carrier better than you know this web designer you just hired. But go ahead and give them—unsupervised—the keys to your web server, social media accounts, online directory listings, and your credit card number to purchase resources for the website. They know what they’re doing, so it will probably work out great for you.
  • Ignore SEO and best practices. If the person paying the bill for the website is happy, who cares about this SEO thing? Or why not just wait until the site is done and then look for another company to “add that on.” Waiting to consider best practices until after the money is spent is dangerous.

How to Have a Good Web Development Experience

Knowledge has always been power—and it’s your key to building a successful site and having a positive experience in the process. It also avoids rebuilding a site that was just launched but fell into one of the above traps. As developers who build on the foundation of best practices, client goals, SEO, and protecting information and customer ownership, we’ve rebuilt sites after clients have had terrible experiences with their previous developers. Here’s how to get it right the first time.

  • Define your goals. The first question isn’t “what should the website look like?” It’s “what should the website do?” Your site has a purpose, and your goals are what the site should generate for your company (e.g., sales or leads), and what action you want visitors to take (e.g., buy or contact you).
  • Know your audience. How many types of prospects (personas) does your company have? Whether your business is B2B and you have both suppliers and end users as targets, or you run an ecommerce shop that sells to both soccer moms and college students, you need to outline your customer base to craft the right kind of experience that will encourage conversions.
  • Make usability the priority. A “pretty” site that is impossible to navigate will never achieve your business goals. And a site that looks great on a desktop but falls apart on mobile could lose you 60-70% of website visitors. More people browse and buy on mobile now than ever before (in just about every category), so while an appealing visual experience is still valuable, your site has to be flexible enough to let visitors take the desired action no matter what device they use to access your site. And sometimes too much visual clutter does more harm than good.
  • Build based on SEO and best practices. SEO doesn’t start after the site is done. It should be of first consideration, from site platform, to hosting, to all the features and code that will be added, to security, and more. It’s not an “extra,” but a foundation.
  • Maintain a vested interest in your website assets. You’ve hired a professional web developer for their expertise, so it’s unlikely you’ll be maintaining your site on your own after it’s launched. However, at every stage and with every resource that goes toward the site, someone in your company needs to have the keys. You should have any access you request: the server, email accounts, annually-renewable add-ons, etc. Any developer that refuses you access to the site you own once it’s on a server you paid for should be cut loose.

You don’t have to have a terrible experience building (or rebuilding) a company website. Hire a pro who understands that a site isn’t just eye candy about your company, but a critical part of your business and marketing efforts. Give us a call to get started (or started again) with your site build!