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Your Business Is More Important Than A Web Developer’s

Written by Alun John

Alun founded Marketing Tom and delivers some of its courses.

January 27, 2010

This is a theme that I have revisited a couple of times before and am sure I will return to it in the future. I have had a few meetings and telephone discussions with clients over the past month with regards their web developers and, in quite a few cases, have even observed the ‘handiwork’ of these developers by visiting client sites. One in particular has spurred me on to write this article.

Let’s start by saying that there are thousands of web developers out there who are doing superb work and I am fortunate enough to work with a few of them. They listen to their clients, excel at what they do and have a real appreciation for what is required by their clients. However, there are also quite a few out there who are the opposite and they are the ones who can and will damage your business.

It may help if I give some examples of what really irks me:

Web developers who thrust solutions on clients.

I have one client who rarely hears from their web developer throughout the year. When they ask the developer to implement something new – sometimes an SEO improvement that I have identified – the web developer questions the reasons or even dismisses it. However, they will often get calls by the developer saying that the they have come acros the ‘next big thing on the Internet’ and the site must have it!

Web developers making modifications to websites without client approval.

Yes, you did read that correctly! I have a client whose web developer makes modifications to the website – sometimes aesthetically, once or twice to do with structure and then lets the client know. This should never happen.

Web design companies who seem hell bent on screwing clients for as much money as possible.

This is another chestnut. You don’t hear from a web developer for months and then have a courtesy meeting to see how things are going. The upshot of the meeting is that you need some brand new system (which probably you don’t actually need!) and it will cost you a grand or two. And I know that it will only take the developer a couple of hours to rehash and plug this element into the client’s site. Come on, now!

Web developers who don’t understand the basics of SEO

Pretty websites that your wife and mother may like, don’t necessarily generate business. The number of attractive websites, sometimes flash often not, that I have seen which don’t have the basics of SEO in place, will go into 3 or 4 figures. We are talking here no page titles, no headers, iframes and poorly constructed html. It can be quite distressing for companies to learn that their shiny, new website that they paid thousands for is worthless on Google.

The neighbour or student who builds a website.

This happens so often. Your neighbour’s son or a student will build a website for you for next-to-nothing. Be very careful, this person may understand html, java, flash and photoshop but they probably do not understand business. It will almost certainly cost you little but the flip side is that it could cost you (in terms of brand damage and revenue) a LOT.

Web developers who do half a job.

The other day I spoke to one of my clients and they told me that their developer had instigated some work for them to make their URL’s more attractive. They had converted the URL which was something like “www.mywebsite.com/product_list_subcat.asp?Category_ID=673” to “www.mywebsite.com/iphone_3GS_black”. OK, I thought and then looked at the site. On checking I noticed that yes they had done this but they had also turned all page titles (and these were good, descriptive ones) to ones which only had “Company Name – Your Results”. Not only that but they had managed to add somehow add new sub-headings above the main page H1 headings. This error was replicated across thousands of pages of the site.

This list could go on (please feel free to add your own observations) but it needn’t be like this. I really do wish that web developers would up their game. I would like them to be better at their work, to not see customers as opportunities to make a fast buck and to understand the bascis of SEO. I would like them to have more dialogue with customers and to better understand their needs. I would hope that they wouldn’t get seduced by the latest technology and see clients as guinea pigs who will help them test it out.

So, what can a client do to overcome these problems?

  • Make sure that you clearly understand what you require your business site to do and let the developer know this.
  • Become more knowledgeable about the basics of site design and SEO. Once a developer knows that you have a grasp of some of this, they may well be less inclined to bullshit you.
  • Check out other web developers. How good do they appear? What do they client sites look like? If you like the client sites, telephone them and ask them how good the developer is. You may want to be direct and ask what is your Google ranking like, how much traffic do you get and how much money do you make.
  • Know your web design costs. Find out what is a reasonable cost for adding an email button, news module, blog or Twitter feed to a website (hint: probably not too much for a standard site).

There are a number of objectives that a website can fulfil from brand building to cost saving but one of the key metrics of a successful business website is how much money it makes you. One final point, if you’re not happy with the service you’re getting, with the fact the company may be fleecing you or the time it takes to fix the mess that they may have created, consider moving your site away from them. It’s probably a lot less painless than you can imagine!

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