Website Development From The Inside
Let’s take a break from physical planning so I can give you peek behind the scenes of web development. Web development is arguably the most rapidly changing profession the world has ever known.
To place this in the proper perspective, imagine a cutting-edge web developer was somehow stranded on an island in 2005, was then rescued and brought back to civilization in 2014. To be as technically competent today as he was 2005, he would experience a dramatic learning curve involving mobile development, responsive design, social media, search engine optimization and a wealth of other disciplines.
Just think the first generation of iPhones were released in 2007. He would be oblivious to it.
Because technology evolves so quickly, web service providers’ experience levels also range dramatically from each major area of expertise (marketing, design, programming, etc). Varying levels of experience also translate to different development strategies based on their experience level. So it’s very common for a web designer to offer incredibly engaging web designs that incorporate old, outdated, search engine optimization techniques, and programming techniques that make pocket protectors blush.
So the company that hires this particular designer is ecstatic with the visual portion of their site, but when they hire an SEO firm, the SEO company has to charge additional fees to fix or add what was lacking in this designer’s understanding of search engine optimization. This of course, translates to higher costs to the business as each professional adds their adjustments to the site to make it more compatible with their discipline. Of course, they will trip over each as well. Once the SEO team adjusts the site, they may have affected a design element and the wheels on the bus go round and round. (In coming chapters, I am suggesting a much simpler workflow.)
The designer really isn’t to blame unless they explicitly claim they understand SEO and the SEO firm isn’t trying to run up the tab or make the designer look incompetent. They just need a good foundation to do their job. Note: It’s not uncommon for finger pointing to take place.
Of course, we are assuming the designer and the SEO firm both understand their perspective professions, but often this is not even the case. I’ve met designers that use outdated design techniques and seen developers that still use old coding techniques. I have an SEO firm on my radar right now and I am watching mistake after mistake they are making. In essence, some people don’t understand their own area of “expertise”!
Even with the explosion and demand for a mobile friendly website, there are countless sites being created today that do not meet this goal and are still being built only considering the viewing experience from a laptop or desktop computer. This is crazy knowing how Internet usage has exploded with mobile devices.
And if that’s not confusing enough, using “too modern” techniques can actually be bad for certain businesses. I’ve worked with certain businesses and their customers overwhelmingly use older computers and newer smart phones. Writing websites in modern coding languages can alienate the users of older computers due to incompatibility. So you guessed it, there are times when making sure your website is backwards compatible to beyond what is generally accepted is necessary.
Most businesses are unaware of this gradation of competencies from designer to designer, marketing professional to marketing professional, and from programmer to programmer. Some even think their IT guy can build a website.
In the world of web development, and print design for what that’s worth, each service provider is kind of stuck on their own island of experience and professional competency. The only difference is the development firm, agency, freelancer, or hobbyist determine their own boundaries for web development based upon a host of factors including their individual resources, points of interest, and target market. The result is a labyrinth of old, new, and intermediate techniques meshed together. it makes it almost impossible for the untrained eye to know what to do.
The same island scenario can be applied to strategic planning, marketing, and consultative services. So in essence, a developer can be using ancient techniques in aspects of design and cutting edge techniques in programming while having a elementary understanding of strategic planning. Of course, the deeper you go down the rabbit hole, the more scary it gets. If we dissect internet marketing, any given service provider could have a grasp of search engine optimization, no concept of marketing socially, a basic understanding of paid advertising, and no experience with press releases. Web developers are usually careful to conceal where they are inept and it’s not difficult given the confusing terminology and complex nature of web development.
As you can imagine, this leads to confusion and often failure for the small business. The typical small business is looking for someone to “give them a website”. They don’t realize the drastically varying degrees from developer to developer. This is also a reason variables such as price can’t be a gauge for competence. A cheap price could mean inferiority or it could be a highly optimized workflow. High costs can also be due to a higher overhead structure for one business while lower costs can be due to a frugal freelancer with low operating costs. The average small business simply has no idea, so the default position of paying more and assuming the quality is better is where many go to die a slow, costly death. I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve seen where my cost to build the site from the ground up was half the cost of an unqualified competitor. I’ve even lost projects because my price was too low.
So when you think of getting a website developed, do not think of “yes” or “no” in terms of a provider’s professional background but rather think of as each service provider as having a sliding gauge ranging from incompetence to expertise in varying web disciplines.
The last point to realize is that “no one knows everything”. Of course everyone wants to hire the person that has the highest “rating” in design, programming, internet marketing, social media, etc. The problem is that guy doesn’t exist for the small business and in most cases, doesn’t exist for the large corporation. So the final rule of thumb…
Don’t look for the perfect experience, look rather for the best fit for your business needs.
Your final balancing act will be to get the most expertise that is the most meaningful for your business needs at a price you can afford while hacking through the rain forest of deceptive marketing ploys and inadequate services.