Archive for April, 2009

Choosing a Web Developer

Saturday, April 18th, 2009 by Clyde A. Lettsome, PhD, PE

Over the past six months we have been receiving many calls and emails from former, current, and potential customers of another web development company. Many of these individuals, in their own words, either felt that they have been scammed or are trying to avoid being scammed by this company. Unfortunately for that web development company, this is not the type of press I am assuming they are hoping for.

We were first made aware of this company by a customer of ours. She came to us after months of frustration and hundreds of wasted dollars. Unfortunately for her, the source of much of her frustration was due to misunderstandings, interesting business practices, and being overly trusting. Because of these, she signed and had been locked into a contract that was less than desirable for her needs, to put it kindly. We tried to help as much as we could, but we were able to do very little because she was legally bound by her own signature of the contract.

Ever since the start of our business relationship with this client, we have had more and more emails and calls related to this company. And, over the pass six months, the correspondence has increased to a disturbing level. We really do not want to continue telling more and more people that there is nothing we can do to help you other than starting your project over, so I decided to develop a guide on how to plan for your web development project. Consider the following to be a pretty good step-by-step guide for anyone seeking web development services. These measures should be taken to ensure that you enter into web development contracts with your “eyes wide open”. In this blog I will tell you:

  1. what you need to do before you sign a contract,
  2. what you should expect during the execution of your contract, and
  3. what you need after the job is done.

Let’s start with what you need to do before you sign a contract.

1. Do not have your developer purchase your domain name “on your behalf” or lease it to you. Purchase your own internet domain name as soon as possible and then approach a development company with the already purchased domain name. In the case of a dispute, you do not want the brand name that you have work so hard to build being the property of another entity.

2. Seek the services of a reputable company. This does not mean a large company, and this does not mean a company that claims on their website to be at the top of some list. Ask to see past work, check with the Better Business Bureau for prior complaints, and do an internet search on all the companies you are considering.

3. Get quotes from all of them and determine what kind of working relationship you will have with each company. Seek companies that keep you involved during the development process. Remember, this is your web site that is being built. You want to find the right balance between price and accessibility.

4. Read the contract/terms of agreement that you will be agreeing to with these companies.

a. You want a contract based on a payment system tied to the developers meeting of milestones and rather than strictly meeting a web site launch date. Many inexperienced entrepreneurs are more concerned with a launch date. However, if they are more concerned with milestones, this covers everything. This ensures that the developer remain within some reasonable time frame that helps him/her to deliver on time as well as protects you from paying in full for a site that is never completed or does not meet your expectations. Remember the developer wants to be paid, and if they know they will not get paid unless they produce, they are more likely to devote a reasonable amount of time on your website throughout the length of the contract.

b. Look for contracts that do not charge you for web hosting until the site is completed. Anything less than this and you could find yourself paying for web hosting for months before the actual site is completed. If the developer takes 10 months to complete your site you would have paid for web hosting for 10 months even though you could not use it that entire time.

c. Avoid contracts where you are leasing the developed website. Once the site is complete you want all rights to the code, the pictures, and the data. Do not put yourself in a position where if the contract is terminated or if you decide you do not want to host with a company anymore that your entire web presence disappears. This is a really subtle method to keep you loyal to their company. I say, if their products and services are good, a company should never have to do this.

When you find a company that you are comfortable with, work with them closely. Good development companies will encourage customers to be a part of the design process throughout the entire process. They will insist on you providing them with lots of information at the beginning. Examples: color schemes, websites you have seen with a look a feel that you like, flow of the page, etc. This prevents rework which is time consuming and costly. It is cheaper to get it right the first time. This up front information is in addition to the data that a customer is expected to provide but it helps to personalize your web site and add your own touch to it. Our company provides customers with all of the above and more. We give customers the name, phone extension, and email address of the lead developer as well as the graphic designer. At any point, we welcome our clients’ reasonable inputs to ensure that we build a site that the customer is comfortable with at the end.

When the site is “completed” these are the items you are looking for as the proud owner of a new website.

1. Check how the website looks in the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Fire Fox, and Safari. Things may not look the same in all three because these popular browsers interpret code differently sometimes. This is not the developers fault but they should verify that the displayed website is reasonably displayed to the customer’s satisfaction.

2. Verify that all the components (example: links, shopping cart, flash, etc.) work. There should be a test period built into the contract. During this time period the developer has reserved time to verify that all components work as expected. As part of this testing period, you the customer should have the opportunity to test also.

3. You want the username and passwords of all accounts. These are the keys to your new web presence. Get them.

4. There must be some agreement on reasonable fixes after you sign off. Remember the developers are humans and they most likely will be some errors. In addition, there may have been errors you made in the data you provided or there may have been errors made in the transfer of information. Make sure you come to some agreement on this before you sign the doted line stating the site meets your reasonable expectations. We offer 30 days fix guarantee that we spell out in our standard contracts so there is no question that we stand behind our work.

If you follow this guide you will avoid many of the pit falls we have heard before. Good luck with your web development and if you have any questions please free to contact us at info@calabrix.com.

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