Jul 28 2009
Guest blog post by Yowchuan of Meshio.com. Good piece of advice for businesses looking to build a web site.
A Typical Web Development Project
So, it’s finally time for you to look into building an online presence for your company’s website? Or it’s about time that you revamp the website after hearing from your boss that website is looking really dull for the 999th times.
I would assume that you have a budget for your web development project. I wouldn’t go into how you should come up with this budget, but a budget would give the developer and yourself a rough idea on the scale of the development. You cannot have a RM799.00 budget and ask for everything under the sun. A budget would also allow you to prioritize what features to include in your website, and what features should be implemented in the subsequent phase of your web development pipeline.
Ok, after the Management has approved with your budget, what should you do next? Naturally, the next step is to find a competent developer who can deliver the project fast, cheap and beyond expectations, as unrealistic as that might sound.
So, you post up the jobs, ask around your friends who’s in the IT business and do a search on Google for ‘Malaysia cheap and good web design companies’ or ‘cheap web designers’ or even ‘freelancers who work for free’. And after that, you shortlist 5 of them and asked each them to give you a quote. And you waited for a few days before all the quotes come in, and after looking at the figures you decided to meet with 2 of the cheapest one, and one that quoted the highest (just because you were curious why this particular designer is so different from the rest).
And after interviewing each of them, you finally nail down one company, let’s call them Super SEO Sdn Bhd, and the project begins by paying the web development company a 15% down payment. The project usually begins with Super SEO collecting all the information that you want to put up on to the web for the world to see. All the annual reports, the magazine scans and all your interviews with the newspapers. Next, you also require Super SEO to come up with a few prototypes to give you the ‘look and feel’ of the design. As a matter of fact, you don’t really know what you want, but heck, you can always change your mind, right?
And so it goes on for a few weeks, with Super SEO proposing their revised color scheme for the Nth times, while you continue to browse at your competitors’ website to see what they’ve been up to lately, and to see if there’s any cool features that you might be able to ‘steal’ from them.
If all of the above sounds familiar to you, then you’re very likely to find yourself with a website that did not bring in any positive impact in your sales. Well, at least now your company has a website, and you can include the cool URL on your name card and ironically, other than the URL, there’s really nothing inside the website that you could really shout about to your potential visitor. You begin to wonder why did you spend RM8,000 on the web development project.
My advice? Just get a domain name and have a single page with your company’s address on it. That will probably only cost you about RM150.00. Nothing to shout about either, but it’s going to have the same impact on your name card.
Hold it, now you’re saying that you are really, really serious about building your online presence and how else, other than the method explained above, can you go about it?
Who’s the Architect?
Here’s what I’ll propose, and I think this would definitely work much better than the commonly-used method illustrated earlier.
First, you must know what you want out of the website, and how the website will affect your business’s bottom line. No web developers on this planet can give you this answer, simply because they are just that- web developers. They know nuts about your business, and probably won’t be interested to listen to you brag about your rag-to-riches stories.
Contrary to what you may have been told, if you are going to build a website that works for you, the key architect of the site is none other than you and the people in your company. If it’s a revamp of your existing website, the feedbacks that you’ve gathered from previous visitors, clients and the web statistics will also be an important source of information in working out the blueprint of your web development project. You should be the person deciding the metrics you want to benchmark the website with. How many visitors are you expecting after the revamp? What keywords do you want to position your website with? Which languages do you think you should translate your site into? Which countries are most likely search about your industry and what kind of search engines do they use? Do you have a department in your company that would be able to tap into the company’s web resources and improve their service delivery?
And if you still think that your web developer is going to do all these for you, you’d better rethink your purpose of developing/revamping the website.
The Blue Print is All You Need
So, it’s really not rocket science. What I am really suggesting is that you need to first identify your web development’s need. Figure out the benchmarking metrics of your website and the conversion ratios you are hoping to accomplish. Let everyone in the company chip in and contribute in the planning phase. Get the blueprint of your project done and make changes whenever a better idea or suggestions come along. It’s 80% cheaper to change the features on the drawing board than after you’ve got your website up on the net.
It’s very tempting to hire a web developer based on their portfolio and their client base. Yes, these are important attributes which will help you determine whether they can deliver what you want, how you want it and when you want it. Yet, it’s even more important to engage a web developer who listens to your needs and can help to ensure your blueprint is realistic and achievable. An experienced web developer who can help you to come up with the final blueprint can also dramatically reduce your risk. The blueprint will usually only be a fraction of the entire project cost, but it’s also the foundation of the entire project. With this blueprint, you will have a clear idea of what to expect from the website and you can even bring around this blueprint to any web designing companies which can execute the blueprint for you, exactly the way you want it. Again, this can help to further reduce your development cost and also to ensure that you will not be ‘surprised’ with the end product.
A website is becoming one of the most important tools in an organization’s public communication strategy. You can deliver an impressive message by providing the information that your visitors are searching for with the least effort or you can be turning off potential customers with a few badly designed product purchasing forms.
Whatever it is, I would like to emphasize again my point: Your website is your business.