One thing I see often in my field is a person who works in the IT field taking advantage of another less-technical person's ignorance in technology, so I want to share with you five things to consider when starting your next web project that will help protect you and clear up some of the most common pitfalls when working with a web developer.
So you hired an IT person to build and maintain your website. They quoted you the cost of two rack servers, $1000.00+ a month to maintain the site, the cost of hosting an ecommerce site, and numerous SaaS licenses like Adobe Stock, Dropbox for Teams. Months go by... you have a website. Where are the analytic reports? Where are the marketing emails? Where are your updates! The IT person you hired has become unreachable, in fact you only know he's alive because your check keeps getting deposited.
You decide to hire me to help you. After doing a thorough technical review I discover that the two servers you paid for aren't being used to host the website. That you didn't need the SaaS licenses, and analytics reporting has never been setup- your product marketing emails haven't been sent regularly and the two that were sent are poor quality. You obtain one of the servers you purchased only to find that the memory and hot swap hard drives have all been removed- essentially leaving you with an empty, scratched up case.
Sound like a nightmare? It has been for this client. Fortunately, I was able to help her regain control of her website and domains and get her back on track with analytics reporting and email marketing.
I see this way too often in my field, someone taking advantage of another less-technical person's ignorance of technology, so I wanted to share with you 5 things to consider when starting your next web project that will help protect you and clear up some of the most common pitfalls when working with a web developer.
1 - Find your own host - hosting companies are a dime a dozen these days, but not all are the same. Most web designers re-sell services from another company. This isn’t really an issue until you and said web designer no longer work together or things fall apart. Then you are looking at days to weeks and a good chunk of cash to get your site, which in the meantime has gone down, moved to another host. If you begin with your own hosting company and give access to your web designer, you can avoid this costly and frustrating situation.
2 - Own your own domain names Clearly one of the biggest problems I’ve also ran into is that a client has hired a web designer to build their site, which entails not only hosting setup, but the domain name registration. You pay them to register the domain and they do… in their name. Which means that if they wanted to, they can keep the name if you decide to leave. Make sure when you start a project, register your own domains through a company like godaddy, or name.com. This will save you a ton of issues upfront.
3 - Custom Code vs Open Source Not all sites are the same. Every site should be implemented in the best framework that can offer it the most security and features without blowing your budget. Make sure the software you build the site on isn’t proprietary and expensive to find a developer, should you need to change. We specialize in Wordpress and Expression Engine CMS which are two of the most popular systems on the Internet today. It would be easy to find another developer should you need to do so.
4 - Have a contract I shouldn’t have to say too much about this, but I have to because it's normally the biggest problem I encounter when a client is having issues.... just have a contract. Gone are the days of a simple handshake and a few words. You need a detailed contract which spells out in black and white what you can expect and what your designer/ developer can expect. If you don’t have a contract, you’re leaving your project up to the understandings of a conversation; this often leads to major issues as the project progresses- if it does at all. The contract should cover ownership, confidentiality, detailed functionality (e.g. not just a blog, but a blog with a photo gallery ability that auto resizes images for you if that's what you need), restitution if the project isn’t delivered on time, what happens if the budget runs out after development.
5 - Third Party Consultant If you're really clueless about web technologies or don't have time to hash things out with your developer, hire someone for a few hours that can consult with you and be your advocate. They can speak the tech language and insure you are getting what you paid for. I do this all the time for clients in blocks of three hours.
I hope you found this article in time and have put these 5 things to consider before starting your next web project in place so that you can minimize problems and help have a successful project; after all it's your business and nobody knows your business like you do. Take responsibility.