How to avoid getting ripped off on website development

Every so often, I’ll come across someone who had bright eyed dreams about launching a website as part of their business plan, only to have those dreams go down in flames because someone they trusted with their hard earned money failed to deliver the desired website on time, if at all. The average losses they suffered in terms of websites that were half done or poorly done has been about $400-900. How could this happen?

The problem comes into play due in part to greed on behalf of the website developer, and lack of knowledge on the part of the customer. Usually, the potential customer asks friends for referrals to web developers or they post on the various social media sites looking for someone. Without doing much research, they pick a developer who sounds convincing and seems “technical.” The developer charges anywhere from $250 to over $1,000+ to do the whole website without providing a lot of details about what’s all involved. They usually pressure customers to pay the entire amount up front. A few customers try to negotiate a lower fee or pay half as a deposit, promising to pay the other half when the site is complete.

Regardless of what price is negotiated, the outcome is often the same: The developer starts on the site, putting up a web page or two, adding some photos and text, and few social media links here and there, and then poof! They vanish. The customer tries calling, but no answer or the number is disconnected. Hundreds of their hard earned dollars gone and they’re ready to sue.

But wait. Is there anything you could have done differently to avoid losing so much money?

Yes! The first step is to make sure you have a reasonable business plan to go along with your website. Surprisingly, most website customers downplay this step, thinking all they have to do is upload a few photos and a contact page with an about page explaining what they offer, and that’s it. No! Your website is a reflection of the business processes you want your customers to be able to do using your website.

For instance, if you are a hair stylist, you may want customers to book appointments, look up and select various hair styles, order hair, manage the way they pay you, allow customer reviews, etc. By not outlining these features up front, you increase the likelihood of misunderstandings between yourself and your website developer. This, then, leads to you feeling like the website is not complete, and the developer might get frustrated and walk off. This is not to say that there are no bad website developers (there are), but in this specific scenario, failure to describe the features of your website along business processes will increase the likelihood of misunderstanding.

Second, research potential website developers. Remember you get what you pay for, so if someone is offering to do your site for a ridiculously low amount (like under $100 total for a full website), chances are it might be a bait and switch scam. Three to five years’ experience should be minimum for the best quality service, although that’s not to say anyone with less experience would be that bad. But it takes some years to get into a rhythm in website development. My company, Samsona Software, has been around since 1993, so I know something about longevity and consistent customer service.

Finally, know that there is a difference between a website designer and a developer. Designers are usually focused on creating web pages and making them look good from a visual appeal standpoint. Website developers go deeper than that:

  1. Hooking up your pages to databases
  2. Integrating with cloud computing platforms such as AWS and Azure
  3. Integrating with eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce
  4. Implementing microservices to harness the power of various business features unique to your industry. This latter one is part of my offering to my larger business customers.

If you get a chance, try an initial consultation first before seeking help building your website. I can help with that, or anyone with serious experience in this space can do an initial consultation to help you get to where you want your business dreams to take you.

About the Author

John Conley is a technology and digital transformation consultant for Samsona Software Co, Inc., based in Dallas, TX. His service offering is focused on enterprise and solution architecture, as well as small business solutions. Feel free to contact him for your business technology needs.

A Simple Technology Game Plan for Entrepreneurs

You have a vision of providing a unique product or service to the world, but that pesky little thing called technology is just standing in the way like a big bouncer at a trendy, popular nightclub. If you could do it yourself, you would do it in a heartbeat, but there’s only so much available time, especially if you have a day job working for someone else. You finally decide you need help from a trusted, reliable and affordable technology partner, but even the process of finding someone is not as straightforward as you wish.

Here’s a simple approach for finding help.

The very first thing you want to do is describe what problem you are trying to solve. In other words, what is so special about your product or service that will solve a problem for the target audience? If you don’t have this articulated up front, then coming up with a technology game plan will be useless. Every entrepreneur is trying to solve a problem that certain segments of the population are dealing with, and of course, entrepreneurs want to be financially rewarded for the solution. Identifying the problem translates into the mission statement of your business plan. You describe the problem in a plain English document called a Problem Statement. The question that is the basis for your Problem Statement is, “What problem am I trying to solve with my idea?” The statement does not have to be anything fancy. Just remember the problem should be written from the perspective of your potential customer (also called “Voice of the Customer” in popular business process methodologies). The problem statement from the Customer’s view might be as simple as one sentence that says something like, “I  have a problem keeping track of how many calories I eat and how many steps I need to walk to burn those calories each day.”

Once you describe the problem you’re trying to solve, it’s time to state what you think the solution to the problem is. If your product or service is the solution, then describe how it addresses the problem. So continuing with our Problem Statement, the Solution Statement might say something like, “As a Potential Customer, I  want a mobile app for my smartphone that tells me how many steps I need to walk in order to burn the calories associated with the food I ate each day. I want to be able to enter each food item as part of the solution.”

That’s it. Once you have the Problem and Vision for the Solution documented, you can then search for a Technology Partner to help you make your vision a reality. Having a website is a key tool for every entrepreneur who needs to market the vision to the public. You can view a video I created earlier this year for to help with the website process.

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