Avoiding the Pitfalls of Web Site Development

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Because I have helped develop a couple of Web sites – one large in scale and the other pretty small – I have a sense of how frustrating and confusing Web site development can be. Not only are you working with another "language," but the variables are unlimited and the costs can be, too. Web developers can charge anywhere from $500 to hundreds of thousands of dollars to build your Web site. Use these ideas to make your next Web site development project run smoothly.

The key to Web site development is planning. Basically, your plan of action should include the following steps:

  • Research your target market (the clients you want to attract) and put your findings on paper
  • Perform a thorough search for Web site developers – get to know their backgrounds and collect bids
  • Make the deal and put it in writing

Research your target market. Web sites are more than just a brochure online. They are a chance for you to actually market to your target client. Web developers are not psychic. They need for you to tell them what you want them to accomplish with your web site. They can then expand on those ideas and actually help with the marketing end. This is one of the characteristics you will want to find in your Web developer. If the developer talks more about cool graphics and less about strategy, it's time to look elsewhere. Once you know “who” you want to reach, then you need to write down a few things about your firm so the developer can get a “feel” for your company. Put all this information on paper and include it in your company's sales or marketing kit. This is what you will give prospective developers so they can give you a bid on your Web site.

Perform a thorough search for Web site developers. You may want to ask others for referrals when it comes to finding a Web developer. Or, if you surf, you might contact companies that have a Web site that appeals to you and functions properly. When you ask referral sources about Web developers, keep these questions in mind: Did they stick to the original budget? Did they perform work in a timely manner? Did they understand the underlying marketing importance? What was their working style – casual, formal? Did they walk through the Web site with you from beginning to end? Are they happy with the site they have? Remember, too, that Web developers are usually programmers and Web designers are usually creatives. You want to ensure that whichever one you use also has the talent of the other. It doesn't make sense for a site to look beautiful, but be programmed so only the top 5% of computer users can see it the way it was intended. Once you make a list of the developers you actually want to meet, ask these same questions of them. When you narrow down your choices to a few developers, ask them to make a bid in writing. Keep in mind that all bids are not created equal.

Make the deal and put it in writing. When it comes to Web site development, you get what you pay for (usually) and what you put in writing. Ensure that the important things to you are on paper. How long will it take to develop and what date will it be completed? How much are you going to pay? What do you get for the money you are paying? Most reputable Web site developers have their own contract form. If you want to add items that don't appear on the contract, just add an addendum or attachment. If the company balks at your requirement of “putting it in writing” go elsewhere – all you are doing is putting the terms that you have agreed upon on paper. And, last but not least, make sure both of you sign and date the contract. It's not valid unless that's done.

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