Why do I need a web developer?

October 31, 2013

Buy cheap, buy twice..

When I decided to set up Fluid Web Development I did so based on two simple truths. Firstly I like building websites and secondly I’m very good at it.

Now that alone is not enough to guarantee untold riches and FTSE 100 status but I thought it was a good starting point. So after a number of marketing, networking and small business seminars I was confident I had all the tools required to wow the business world with my long-awaited solo debut.

I’m still learning the role of a sole-trader of course but the most surprising question I have been asked is; “do people actually pay you to design websites?”. When I enquire why they ask me that, they firstly say “oh no offense”; then generally go on to offer one of the two reasons I cover in this blog.

My friend, neighbour, son, cousin, etc. can do it for me

Well websites are very popular, over 10 million with the .co.uk extension alone and counting at the time of writing. So in stands to reason that many people will claim to be a website developer.

In fact here’s some code for free

<H1>Hello World!</H1>If you want to visit the BBC click <a target = "_blank" href="http:\\www.bbc.co.uk">here</a>

It’s standard old school HTML and I’m sure many developers started off with this immortal line, I know I did. But does knowing that make you a web developer? Well of course it doesn’t and therein lies the problem. It’s very easy to purchase a domain name, set up hosting and use your free code snippet. But it’s still not enough to make you a web developer. You know thinking about it I can’t think of any other profession where it’s so easy to claim to be a member. Yet somebody always knows somebody who can “do their site”.

Now I’m no stranger to the Dulux colour chart, but would you pay me to decorate your office? Oh and I have a lovely chicken pasta signature dish, so how’s about I cater for your next meeting with a potential client? I suspect the answer to both questions is a resounding no!

So why would you let somebody develop what may well be the first contact with your business for potentially thousands of new customers, simply because they dabble in websites? Would you let your window cleaner do your bookkeeping or perhaps Bob from down the local could design your advertising materials because he won an under 7’s art competition 40 years ago, has a colour printer and will do it for a bit of beer money? Yet some people still choose the cheap and cheerful route. I dare say some people are happy with the results but here are some tales I have had customers tell me already.

  • “I can’t update my website content”, amazed at how often I hear this. Basically the site was created a few years back when easy to use maintenance tools were not so readily available and they had to go back to the developer for every update, new picture, etc. One customer found their security licence for credit card payments had expired but the site was still open for business and accepting credit card payments. Turns out her friend had forgotten the license was due to expire and having changed his email address wasn’t receiving the reminders from SIS.
  • “I had a site but now it doesn’t work”, again quite a common tale. A friend did the site a few years ago, has moved away, no contract in place, so communication is none existent and now the hosting contract has expired and the URL doesn’t go anywhere.
  • “I’m on the internet and that’s what counts”. Sure having a website is expected of most businesses in today’s world. But you have to consider that 86% of the UK population use the Internet. Can you think if any other marketing medium with such a far-reaching range ability? So if your website doesn’t portray accurate, professional and well laid our information about your business then that’s a lot of people who will most likely move on to another site.

It’s easy to create your site via a DIY bundle (as advertised on TV)

Very true and if you’re IT savvy it probably is easy to do with somebody like Weeberly for instance. But if you’re not a proficient IT user it may be a problem.

My first customer was an old friend who had just started working as a self-employed builder. When he set up his business bank account he was advised to go with a popular website design hosting package. He signed up for a 24 months, minimum term, paid over the odds for a .co.uk address and the DIY application to manage his site was terrible. After spending two weeks working on his website with very little progress he asked me to take a look.

The problem that transpired was two-fold. The package only had a limited number of templates to choose from. The wiz-bang ones were part of the premium package and any attempts at true customisation were unachievable. A live feed to a tradesmen rating website could not be created. I called and spoke to several people who could not help. I wrote the code to show how easily it could be done but no code allowed in the base template so we couldn’t do it.

There were also issues in the small print about the maximum number of pages allowed under that particular deal, expensive purchase options for simple add-on’s, etc. The net result was my friend ended up with a site he has paid over the odds for, finds it difficult to maintain and is not satisfied with the limitations imposed on his site.

Another issue with this option is why do it yourself in the first place. OK it sounds cheaper but something’s should not be done on the cheap. An old friend had a wonderful saying; “buy cheap buy twice”.

  • The choice of templates are often limited so eventually many sites look the same. The templates are also limited with regards to functionality.
  • The small print can be misleading and unclear. If you have a bandwidth of 20mb would that be enough, do you need to pay for an SIS licence?
  • Does your site rank highly in Google searches and if not do you know how to ensure it does.

I have a Hays manual for my Ford Focus, I know The PSI pressure for my tyres, what kind of oil to use and where to top up the screen wash. Never been past page 20, never had to and I never will. I’m not a mechanic and those jobs are for mechanics. Some things are best left to the experts.

I’ll wind up by sharing a conversation I recently had with a skeptical lady at a networking event. When she pointed out she had created her own website I used my tablet to Google it but I couldn’t find it. Then I asked for her URL and loaded it. It rendered terribly on my Galaxy Touch and looked poorly constructed in general if I’m honest. So I asked if she ever dinned out and of course she did. So I probed further and asked was it perhaps because she couldn’t cook. Well of course she could and wondered what point I was trying to make. So I offered the suggestion that she, like I, dined out because even though we could both cook, a good restaurant would have a better choice of dishes, all the ingredients required, save us doing the work and their chef would do a better job than we could.

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