Let The Games Begin – Finding a Good Web Design Company
In the web development world, I meet all kinds of people. I’ve had great relationships with respected professionals and I’ve also experienced some odd issues as well. The world of web development can be technical and when different providers offer assorted services, making everything play nice doesn’t always go smoothly. Tempers can flare, accusations can be made, and private conversations made in an attempt to protect or persuade the client.
I’ve seen this more in 2013 than ever before.
Meet Adam: As I am writing this book, stories that you can benefit from are pouring in my daily life. This week I met Adam. Adam is an apparent well meaning person that owns an apparent large firm in the Midwest. To understand how Adam popped on my radar, I need to give you a little background.
In 2013, one of my long-term and dear clients decided to sell her small business to a friend. She really didn’t need the money, her partner was ready to move on, and she had someone interested in taking over her small business. All the ingredients were in place for her to pass the business baton, so that’s exactly what she did. I was sad to see them moving on, given I have experienced a great relationship over the years.
During the sale, their latest web project was put on hold, but shortly after the acquisition, it was picked up again by the new owner. In about a month, her new site was published. I had a few meetings over the next 6 months or so with the new owner and everything seemed smooth minus the workload was greatly reduced. A meeting with my accounting showed the bill for the business under the new owner was running significantly behind. It was obvious the transition wasn’t going smooth and I figured the doors would be closing soon for this business. In essence, the new owner placed the business on autopilot and was flying it into a mountain.
Enter Adam. Adam is a good Samaritan that wanted to offer his services to help his friend save some money. So he’s offering his services for free. Getting their bill caught up apparently sent a minor shock wave and somehow Adam decided to help her. The new owner was extremely nice and I was actually happy the new owner had connections with such a competent resource that could offer free services while pulling her out of a possible tailspin.
So after talking with Adam and offering a humble bow to his accomplishments (which was more of a concession out of respect for my client) I provided the files along with a polite gesture where I said, “if you see anything based upon your expertise and want to offer suggestions, we welcome the critique.” This was a superbly dumb move on my part.
As a one time bouncer at a night club, I became intimately knowledgeable of the male ego and its shortcomings. The ego comes in many flavors ranging from brains to brawn. I was about to discover Adam takes the male ego to an all new level.
Adam was in a realm I’ve not experienced. His arrogance was a bit overwhelming. I figured he was young, but it was still a bit more than I was prepared for. He proceeded to tell me not only the nuances he suggested I change with our established production methods, but also proceeded to “educate” me on how I should change my business model as well. He even made some pretty offensive assumptions as to why I have certain items setup in the way that I did. In other words, he was opinionated, young, conceited, and overly anal about stuff, that well, just didn’t matter or was not his business.
So I bit my tongue listening to his background and his view on my business. But this train wreck of a conversation did help realize something that I can pass on to you:
- Web development is not just avoiding the cheap, ineffective solutions, but it’s also avoiding the overly anal, knit-picking services that can run up your tab literally thousands of dollars as it gags on every gnat.
- Certain people can be conceited to their views. This leads to a direction driven by arrogance rather than experience. When a business needs to be collaborative and inject their knowledge about their business, it can be stiffled & misdirected by this type of mentality.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in getting the best product out, but this should be balanced with reason. To waste unneeded hours and client’s money on trivial issues that will not impact their ROI was something I haven’t previously considered when writing this book.
But to display a sense of arrogance where the business feels uncomfortable offering their critical collaborative effort is just plain deadly.
Sure, I could see large corporations with a staff wanting every piece of code commented perfectly and systematically with hours and hours spent on minor issues. The small business hardly has the resources on such exercises in futility.
I worked with a company in Greenville and the CIO wanted the code heavily commented and following a high standard. I was proud of the work, but it also tripled the time in the project. So imagine your business is a car driving down the road. On one side of the road are all the cheap inadequate services and on the other side of the road are the overly critical services that will waste tons of your time and possibly misdirect your business.
As a business, you will have a hard time gauging which “ditch” you are drifting toward. You will not know when a line should or should not be crossed. In your mind, you want everything perfect, but the truth is there are no perfect websites. I think of a famous SEO expert pointing out there are no perfect strategies, the strategy just has to be better in relation to your competitors. Even the most diligently watched plug-in or theme can always be improved upon.
I recommend looking at the quotes you receive. If you see similar expertise across the board, the higher quotes could be based on bloated overhead, but also due to anal retentive tendencies. You will not only pay more for unneeded, mind-numbingly slow development, but you could also pay for it out the nose every time you need an update.
Adam reminds me of an OCD city worker at a roadside construction site working with tweezers to fit every piece of gravel in its perfect spot. He is more than happy get paid for fanatic detail and criticizes the people working with shovels and a reasonable process. Believe it or not, this is a pretty common sentiment, especially in the development community, to ostracize practicality. Again, for large corporations that can afford to “build roads with tweezers” its fine, but my guess is you are not that position. Ultimatley, I find this attribute more identified with a person’s character than their technical expertise.
If one of your applicants offers a fair price and seems grounded to the real world (not too nerdy, not too artsy), this may be your best bet. Ask the developer questions to get a feel for them. Of course, every designer will say their work is absolutely perfect, so read between the lines. Good business owners usually have a knack for separating the wheat from the chaff.
Your final choice for approval should be an American-based freelance organization with professional certifications that relate to design, development, & marketing. Your choice should have 10+ years (5+ is acceptable) in actual real world experience. Do not choose a CAREER freelancer, and look for someone that understands both marketing and design from a print and web perspective ideally. A recommendation indicates a positive experience only. Do not hire developers that are overly anal about their development or too loose. And lastly, this freelancer should understand your geographic service area and preferably live within your region. The next chapter will focus on getting consistent proposals so you can compare “apples to apples”.