I’ve seen a lot of pretty bad websites out there, especially in the “local business” realm. It got me to thinking how so many have probably been burned and received some chop shop type solution for these websites. But at the end of the day, we really only get what we pay for.
Why individual web developers don’t always meet small business owner’s expectations
The fact is that it takes time and talent to build WORLD-CLASS websites or applications. And most likely the best of the best talents are already working in (or running) the top agencies, creating the best apps, or seeking out venture capital money for their own startups. The designs and products that come from these type of agencies are usually the result of a strong team. Hardly ever will you find a single person behind a great website or app design that inspires people to build something similar.
SO, as a small business owner or someone with a very limited budget you need to realize and consider that it takes really one of a few options to get the type of site built that you are looking for. As mentioned in the previous paragraph – money, budget, or resources will determine quality and how fast you get off the ground with a web development project. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a good friend in the business.
Sometimes just knowing the right type of person to hire, and how to manage your web project, can go a long way. Ultimately your communication is going to be the key to success and with a little patience or taking the time to talk and work through hurdles it will get you to the next level.
When a freelancer is looking for work sometimes they will often agree to projects because they are confident with what their skill level is – but they may not be as good at communicating that it will take more team members to complete all that is being asked from, and sometimes small business owners or managers simply don’t know how it’s done.
I’ve come to realize that a lot of small business owners will think that things are “easy” simply because they don’t understand what goes into a web development process, or because they have seen things like commercials for free websites, or one click themes, etc.
Unfortunately some side effects from this type of miscommunication can be that it takes longer to get things done, small budgets don’t go as far as you would like them to, or projects just flat out don’t get done.
This can result in frustration. Usually from both parties.
I think in the end what really matters is that both the client and contractor are flexible and can communicate a solution to easing any frustrations or web development road blocks that occur. This includes discussing the need for more funds, bringing more help on board, etc. Often times the best and most creative developers and designers are the worst verbal communicators or may just have introverted personalities. Therefore you can’t always expect them to take charge of this area.
Project Management for Web Projects
As the business owner or entrepreneur that wants to develop a “kick-ass” website, YOU should either be the head project manager, or be HIRING someone that knows at least the basics of project management. If neither of you can do this then the results will most likely be sub-par. Who wants that?
Keep in mind that website development can be modular. It’s AGILE. This means that you can complete it in phases, and these phases can often take more than one person to complete the job.
DON’T EXPECT IT ALL TO BE DONE BY ONE OR TWO PEOPLE.
Think about it. A typical website or app development process may loosely go something like this…
3. Design, Branding
5. Coding HTML Markup
6. Programming – database, cms integration, etc.
8. Bug fixes
9. User and Beta Testing
10. Pre-Launch, Marketing
11. Feedback, Optimization
12. Launch, Marketing
14. Post-Launch, Marketing
15. Feature updates
16. Customer Support
17. etc. etc.
Unfortunately most people try to tackle everything at once or skip all over the place and burn up time and energy in the process.
Because of this point, I just want to give you a few tips on project management. The first is that if you decide that YOU are going to be the project manager, you should best know what you are doing and have a basic understanding of web technologies, or take some time to learn so that you can communicate things properly and fill the right spots on your team.
Now your particular website may not need everything listed above right out of the gates. But, at some point you will need to consider those if you really want your site to be successful. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Each area has it’s own set of tasks, costs, and road-blocks associated with it.
Slow down a little bit and take some time to complete step 2. The rest will fall into place as it comes together.
And even if you are a project manager, you should truly try to let go a little bit and find the right person for each phase of the job. Sometimes it’s best that you let the people that you hire for the job actually DO THEIR JOB and instead of letting it be known that you are “in charge” you should communicate with the contractor, web developer, designer, etc. what your goals are and how they should evolve. Sometimes they may be able to help you build a team or get the job done right. When you just give vague orders and leave it up to the person you hire to “just get it done”, then it is a recipe for disaster.
As someone who is personally kind of an introvert and who can express ideas well through writing or visual representation, I’ve also found that I sometimes get frustrated with people on the opposite end of the spectrum – the Type A sales person type personalities. Usually this happens with those that seem to like to do all the talking, but never listen. The attitude typically seems to be work faster, get it done, I just want to see results.
However, continual feedback from a sales department is very important if ultimately they will be using your website as a sales tool. But, without a clear project management process they can cause frustration for developers and creatives who typically work better when given positive reinforcement, feedback, and CLEAR direction for a project.
Back to why a team matters.
First of all if your website goal is beyond just a simple marketing website then it may require skill-sets that you will rarely find in a single person. Even if they do possess some of all the skills, once you scale your business or website it will be important to bring others on board to refine your project.
For example you may originally have hired a front end coder that has some decent design skills. They may create a very decent website workflow for you and a wireframe for your site that works well, however their conversion design skills may be just “average”.
At this point you may want to either consider spending some time working with them personally on improving the design (e.g. colors, layout, call to actions, etc.) or you may want to hire a designer that ONLY does direct response design to act as a temporary consultant that will work with your fronted developer to improve things such as the color scheme, placement of call to actions, font-styles, etc.
Some of these are design skills that can be learned from experience, but don’t always expect that just because a developer may be able to create a pixel perfect layout using CSS and HTML from a mockup, that they can also design beautiful high converting artwork.
On the flip side don’t expect someone like a graphic designer to know how to perform tasks such as programming or server administration. As in many cases you can sometimes find people that are the exception but this is not usually the case.
My point is that you just need to be aware of these things.
So, then who typically does what?
Designers – Design. Plan. Improve.
Frontend Developers – Code layouts, set up wireframes, funnels, update website marketing content.
Programers – Code functionality. Database.
Marketing – Generate interest and users. Market research.
Project Manager – Keep everyone on the same page.
Web master – Optimization. Server Admin. A little of all.
In conclusion, I just want to make it clear that sometimes you can find people that exhibit a range of these skills but please just be aware that your best results will come from a well planned and well managed project that has an open and active line of communication.
If you hire a single person for the overall web development job, you should at least find out if they have the resources to get your project rolling in the right direction.
But you never know, you may just find those unique individuals that may be able to help across multiple skill sets – just don’t be surprised when they won’t work for minimum wage 🙂
Either step up, take charge and learn some of these skills yourself – or learn how to manage multiple team players and come up with the budget it takes to get it done.
Planning + Talent + Communication + Time = Great Results.
I could write about this topic for days but please let me know your comments below.