Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 3

Obligatory recap from previous post

Ok, if you’ve read this far then you have decided that you need to hire someone. You have probably figured out from part 1 & part 2 that you have an idea for a website that you need some help with. You have even created a simple bulleted list of the things you want your website to do. You need to stop here and congratulate yourself because a lot of people spend a stupid amount of money with web developers before they get to this point. It’s not the web developer’s fault; they build what they think you want. If you don’t have a real clear picture of what you want, they try to interpret what you tell them; and that’s where things go wrong.

We have talked about three different “sizes” of websites. Using your budget as a measure is an imperfect guide but it is one that everyone can understand. We talked about small, medium and complex websites. There is a fourth level to consider, a complex web application.

A Complex Web Application

Complex web applications are more than just simple brochure sites, blogs or even simple shopping carts. Web applications, in many cases, blaze new trails and create something totally new. Since they can’t be fit easily into an existing pattern, they are more expensive to build. As a rule of thumb, when your budget (not your actual spending – what you think it’s going to cost) goes past ten thousand dollars, you need to step back and think for a moment. Hopefully, this moment comes before you have contacted a developer and you are still figuring out what you want and what you can afford.

At this point, you may want to consider working with a professional to do the “discovery phase” of your project before trying to find a developer to build your application to give your project the best chance of success. Paying someone to sit down with you and plan out your site before you contact a developer can actually save you money in the long run.

If you hire a consultant to help you get the project going, make sure you understand what you can expect and what you are getting for your money. Having someone other than your developer scope the project is a good idea. Your consultant should have no hope of bidding on the project once it is scoped so they can focus their energies on figuring out exactly what you need to have built.

When the project is scoped out, they should turn over to you a packet of documents that describes your web application in details. It is important to understand that this is not a technical document; your developer will create that. This document is what is known as a “Functional Specification”. It describes everything in plain English. Once you have selected a developer, they will take this document and create a technical specification.

  • All technical aspects should be covered in enough detail so that your developer can understand them.
  • All features should be explained.
  • Every screen should have a wire-frame representation

If you ask them about it, many developers will include this process in your price if you let them. However, having someone work with you separate from your developer means that they will pay a lot more attention to you during the process and once finished, you can “shop” your document around to find the best developer for your project.

Many times, a website is not the embodiment of a project. Restaurants that put up a website aren’t in the web business, but they recognize the importance of having one. Even if your website isn’t the focus of your idea, executing on it properly is important so that the whole project is a success.

There is a lot you can do to minimize the cost of a website, much of it explained in “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo:How to get the website you want“. In the end though, don’t be surprised if you find you do need help. Once you have decided you need help envisioning your dream, find the best you can afford to work with. The money you invest in executing your idea properly should pay for itself handily.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

Buy amazon kindle
softcover adobe pdf

Do I really need to hire someone to build my website? Part 1

Times are tough, money is tight, and everyone is looking to do more with less. The Internet is full of people who promise that they can build your website. Should you hire them? Do you even need them?

Obligatory history lesson

In the early days of the Internet – back when the term Webmaster was more than an ironic joke hipsters put on their resume – the answer was always “yes, of course you do”. HTML was scary, the insanity that is CSS had yet to be invented but JavaScript was around to help push developers over the edge. While anyone with a copy of “Hotdog Editor” or “Homesite” could hang out their shingle as a web designer, getting it right was difficult. It was only natural to hire someone to build your website for you, even if it was your niece or nephew.

The rise of dynamic languages took the tools of programming from the hands of the trained few and put them in the hands of the curious many.Then a revolution happened. Languages like PHP brought programming to the masses. The rise of dynamic languages took the tools of programming from the hands of the trained few and put them in the hands of the curious many. Programs started popping up – both commercial and open source – with the promise that anyone could put up a website. Sadly, this promise sounded good in theory but failed in practice.

Those that stuck with it – those that built their website and maybe a few more – started realizing that a lot of websites were the same thing over and over again. They started building out platforms to solve these common problems. Systems like were born. They still weren’t exactly easy to install and get running, but they were a lot easier than before.

Why the history lesson was important

Flash forward to today, platforms like Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and many others, have entire ecosystems built around them. Building a website today can be as easy as clicking a few buttons and answer a few questions. Very quickly you can deploy a website, customized functionality and be ready to start entering you content, entering products, or building the part of your website that makes it special. In many cases you have to ask yourself, “if you have to spend money, isn’t it better invested in design and content, two areas that have yet to be commoditized?”

The answer to that, as well as the original question is a big fat “it depends”. Whether or not you need help depends on how complex your website will be. If you haven’t done your due diligence yet, even you don’t know the answer to that question. Let’s look at a simple exercise you can do to help decide if you need to hire someone or not.

We will divide web projects into four groups. The first of these we will be discussing in this post.

A Simple Website

This task will take you between thirty and sixty minutes. Don’t attempt it if you don’t have the time, wait until you do have the time to complete it and think about the results.

Sit down with a sheet of paper and list bullet points of everything that your website needs to do. Use more paper if you need it. Don’t get too technical, most things can be described in one or two sentences.

Once you have a complete list of everything you want your website to do, go to WordPress.com and register. Setup a dummy blog just for testing.

Look at the functions available for you to use. Look at the themes available for you to install. Review your list point-by-point and see how many bullet points you can tick off just using the tools at hand on WordPress.com. Can you get your website up and running using only WordPress.com? If you can see all the features you need, and can find a theme you like, you don’t need to hire someone.

WordPress.com is a powerful platform and a lot of people use it because it does what they need. If it does what you need then congratulations, you won’t have to spend much at all to get up and going and while you probably don’t need to hire someone to build your website, you may want to anyhow.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

Buy amazon kindle
softcover adobe pdf

“So who is the goat?”

I was having coffee with my friend Bill Seaver recently and extolling the virtues of “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo” when he asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.

“So, in this scenario, who is the goat?”

Honestly, I didn’t have a good answer. I mean I knew the title was perfect for the book once I heard myself say it out-loud. I knew it worked because the definition of a goat rodeo is a perfect definition for a lot of web projects. That having been said, I really hadn’t spent the time to define the roles. I had to sit, sip my coffee and think for a moment.

The answer is of course, there doesn’t have to be a goat. The potential goats in your website project are all the people and processes that revolve around it. Yes, your webdesigner is a possible goat in your goat rodeo, so is your developer, the person in charge of hosting your website and your domain registrar as well as your SEO person and content strategist.

All of them are potential goats because they are all players in your website project. They are only goats though, if your project actually turns into a goat rodeo. That is what “Avoiding a Goat Rodeo” is all about. It teaches you how to think about your project, how to plan your project and how to communicate your project so that your project does not become a Goat Rodeo.

 

 

Want more helpful advice?

Are you looking for more helpful advice? Check out our book, Avoiding a Goat Rodeo. It was written to help non-programmers understand website development. It shows you how to get the website you want.

Buy amazon kindle
softcover adobe pdf

How to launch a successful website

A lot of business people I talk to do not understand what it takes to launch a successful website. In reality, it only takes one thing, planning. Planning is the secret sauce that makes for a successful web project. This isn’t a secret, but it is often overlooked when starting a project. So real quick, let me lay out for you what needs to happen for your launch to be successful.
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