Becoming Clueful: What You Should Know Before You Redo Your Web Site
Five tips on what businesses should expect from their web designers and developers
It Costs More and Takes Longer than You Think
"Clients seem to think that web development is like getting your car fixed in one of the quickfix garages: You agree a fixed price, bring it in, and pick it up after a certain amount of time," says Chris Heilmann, a web developer in London. "In reality, a good web product needs buy-in and dedication from both the development agency and the client."
A serious business web site isn't likely to be cheap. Nor are the experts who have spent years learning both techniques and tools. "Have an idea of how much web sites cost" before you go into the meeting, suggests Riva Portman, web designer at Star Quality Designs in Cleveland, Ohio. Portman says she has had a client ask, "'How much do I owe you? $50?' It is always unpleasant when you have to correct that in a big way."
One misconception is that designing and programming web sites is easy, and shouldn't cost very much. "I don't know how many times I've heard, 'Can you build me something quick -- it can't be that hard!' Another one is 'Once you have everything programmed, will I be able to make all the changes to it?' Sure you can, but you don't even understand how to use an FTP site, let alone any HTML programming," says Todd Richards, a freelance web developer in Omaha, Nebraska.
"When it comes to the Web, people think applications and designs can be turned around in a matter of minutes, and for little cost," says Mike Maddaloni, president of Dunkirk Systems in Chicago. He surmises that it's because of the proliferation of "free" services available on the Web. "It's similar to the desktop publishing 'movement' -- if someone had Microsoft Publisher, they thought they were a designer. And it showed!" adds Maddaloni.
Just because you can slap up a site in a few minutes with an off-the-shelf package doesn't mean it's the right solution for your business.
For Keli Etscorn-Dillon, a specialist in design, search engine optimization (SEO), and e-commerce development, the "it shouldn't be so hard" claim is especially irritating. "Nothing is hard to me; it's a matter of time it takes to do a task. I get miffed when clients, who don't know anything about what we do, tell me how hard a task is. Would you tell your doctor, "It shouldn't be that hard to put a cast on my arm"? ... I'm not sure what it is about Web design that makes people assume difficulty level/costs involved with certain tasks."
Dominick Cancilla, senior consultant at Buck Consultants, an ACS Company in Los Angeles, wishes his clients appreciated how much goes into creating an inviting, useful, efficient Web site. He says, "Good design isn't, 'Make me one that looks like Amazon.' It isn't, 'Wouldn't it be easier just to do everything in Word?' And it definitely isn't, 'But I just saw a banner ad for a company that said they could do my site for $100.'"
Sometimes, the time and expense is in your hands. Let's say you and the developer set a site completion deadline for two months from now. According to David Robinson, from sypher design in Wales, UK, it's common for clients to fail to see that, "if they miss meetings in which information for the site is shared, and I won't see them for another week, it pushes back the completion deadline a week."