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.

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