Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Work With a Web Developer

Please don't hate me because my taste in TV programming sucks, but one of my guilty pleasures happens to be certain reality courtroom shows. As a matter of fact, there's some good takeaway in them for business owners. One of the most common small-claims cases I see -- next to brides unhappy with their wedding photographers -- are those involving people unhappy with their web sites. No, I've never been sued myself (knock wood), but that's not going to stop me from giving you some unsolicited pointers for staying out of court.

To avoid finding yourself at the plaintiff's table in such a case, consider the following tidbits of advice when you hire someone to build your site.

From my perspective, the cardinal rule of working with a designer/developer to create a web site is that the more you care about your site, the better the end result will be. This means you have to stay involved... while still allowing the person you've hired to do the job to do the job. When the pendulum swings too far in either direction, it's a pretty safe bet you won't get the best possible end result for your money.

First of all, your web developer knows web development and your web designer knows web design. They could be the same person, of course, but in any event, assuming you've vetted them (reviewed a portfolio, gotten references, etc.) before you hired them, they know more about how to do their jobs than you do. Get your money's worth and let them do it. This means that it's entirely unnecessary to try to come up with your own design. Certainly, state preferences and share ideas; your designer wants to know what you want. (In fact, we web designers are whores for praise, and we'll go pretty far to earn yours. For this reason if for no other, we listen pretty intently to your likes and dislikes.)

Second, skilled as he may be, your developer cannot read your mind. If you don't like the way things are shaping up, say so right away, and don't worry about hurting feelings. Professionals care much more about how happy you end up being with the site than they do about their own egos. I would MUCH rather a client say, "What's this crap?" than that he remained silent but was forever after haunted by his dislike of the layout or the way the menus worked. 

Finally, get involved and stay that way. Let your web designer know that you care how your site turns out. Supply necessary photos, videos, text, and feedback in a timely manner, which means ASAP. Just as your business has deadlines to meet, your web developer has project schedules as well. If s/he has budgeted six weeks in which to build your site, and by Week Seven you've only provided content for one page, there's a problem. The time and effort allocated to build your web site has spilled over into the space allotted for someone else's. Not good. Your site is no longer the focus of your web developer's attention, for one thing. For another, concepts you've discussed in initial meetings may be long forgotten, making for a lot of rehashing before your developer can get started again. So if you decide to put on a full-court press and finish the site from ground zero to launch in two days, you may find that that ssimply isn't possible.

So there you have it... my two cents for staying out of Judge Judy's line of fire and getting the web site of your dreams.  Til next time...

Margie Summers
SumSites Web Design & Development
704 Longview Drive
St. Charles, MO 63301